International Women’s Day 2017: Is India Being Bold To Bring About A Positive Change?

International Women's Day-2017

International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8 every year to recognise the stellar role a woman plays, even challenging the males, in her own right as a professional, an entrepreneur, a politician or whatever else she might want to be.

International Women’s Day 2016 pledged for parity for women by challenging conscious and unconscious bias, committing towards helping women and girls to achieve their ambitions, and giving equal value to both men and women for the contributions that they make.

However, according to the World Economic forum, the gender gap that has been created over the ages will not be erased before 2186. IWD hopes to be the catalyst to hasten the process of removing this gap. The IWD theme this year is “Will you #BeBoldForChange”, where the world is being challenged to collectively step up and take ground-breaking steps that will bring about a positive change for the women across the world.

People across the world are being requested to take bold, pragmatic actions in their own spheres of influence to help accelerate the process of gender parity and thus, help unleash the limitless potential of the women which will help build and improve the economies across the world.

Women in India in Ancient Times

Contrary to what people believe, since time immemorial, the women in India have been venerated as the Goddess Shakti. In fact, in ancient India women enjoyed a very dignified and esteemed position and participated in all outdoor activities and high avenues of learning without any restrictions or prejudice against them.

There were no prescribed positions exclusively earmarked for men. It was only the advent of the Mughals in India that saw the decline of position of the women in the society. And this decline was further accelerated because of political instability, migration of population and an economic depression extending over a period of three centuries.

Women’s movement in India, to re-establish the position of women in the society started as early as the 1900s, when women participated actively in the nationalist movement.

Lakshmi Bai, Rani Jhansi, Rani of Ramgarh, Rani of Taci and Begum Hazart of Lucknow are just a few names of the many women who dared to hold the banner of revolt against the British. Prominent women like Sarojini Naidu, Hansa Mehta, Durgabai, Renuka Ray and Malti Chowdhry were active members while the Indian Constitution was being framed. Article 14 of the constitution accords equality for both genders.

These women helped towards social reconstruction, economic development and political awakening post-independence.

Auvaiyar, Annie Besant (first woman president of Indian national Congress), Nevedita, Vijayalakshmi Pandit (first Indian woman president of UN General Assembly), Mother Teresa, Sarojini Naidu, Indira Gandhi (only the second woman Prime Minister in the world), Kalpana Chawla, Indra Nooyi, Pratibha Patil (first woman President of India), the list of women who have shone in the fields of politics, academics, social reforms, etc., is indeed endless. Their contribution to society in whole and to women in particular is invaluable.

The Modern Women of India

India has led the world in ratifying UN conventions and international covenants like the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Beijing Platform for Action.

The era of 21st century has seen the women of India step out of their conventional role of just being home-makers. Today, women in India are tapping into their own potential and emerging as victors in every field.

Here are a few highlights of how the women in India are flying high, successful in everything that they choose to do:

  • Gone are the days when women performed only the duties of flight attendants in aeroplanes. Today, women are also performing duties of being a pilot, and in celebration of Women’s Day, 2017, Air India flew into the Guinness Book of World Records with an all-women crew in an around-the-world flight on February 27, 2017.
  • Women have been the most enthusiastic participants of PM Modi’s Swachch Bharat Abhiyaan. News such as 105-year old Kunwar Bai of Chattisgarh campaigning till her entire village was equipped with toilets is indeed heartening.
  • Women are shining in the IT industry, too. Of the 3.9 million employees in the IT-BPM industry, 34% is the Pink Force.
  • India will soon have its very first league for women in cricket. Following the pattern of the women’s Big Bash League (BBL) in Australia, Women’s Cricket League (WCL) will be launched on March 8, coinciding with International Women’s Day. The WCL is an earnest endeavour to provide equal opportunities as well as acknowledgment to the women cricketers in India.
  • The Karnataka Police is setting up 120-member all-women anti-riot squad who will be proficient not only in computer technology but also martial arts.
  • Creating history, the first batch of three female pilots was inducted in the Indian Air Force fighter squadron in 2016. Avani Chaturvedi, Bhawana Kanth and Mohana Singh were formally commissioned by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.
  • In 2016, the Indian Navy announced that lady officers of the IN are now eligible for permanent commission and would henceforth be allowed to serve on warships.
  • In the Summer Olympics, 2016, at Rio women were the greatest achievers for India. We had P.V.Sidhu bring in the silver medal for India in Women’s BAdminton and Sakshi Malik winning a bronze in wrestling. Summer Paralympics, 2016 saw Deepa Malik win the silver medal in shot put.
  • Last but not the least, in the recent successful launch of 104 satellites in the PSLV-C37/Cartosat2 Series satellite mission, a world record breaking number, by the ISRO in February, 2017, the team had 8 rocket women. These women scientists were the core members of the team which saw the successful launch of the satellites.
  • Women of India are indeed breaking the stereotypes and emerging as victors in every sphere of life.

India is Being Bold To Empower Women

There is no doubt about the fact that India joins the other developed nations in the fore in their fight for equal rights for women. Ahead of International Women’s Day Facebook has launched #SheMeansBusiness and #SheLeadsTech programmes to help harness the untapped potential of women entrepreneurs in India. The aim is to inspire women across the country to take the leap and help towards the economy of India. The programme will provide tools, mentorship and resources to women-founded/co-founded start-ups for a year.

News such as Amitabh Bachchan announcing that both his daughter Shweta Nanda and son Abhishek Bachchan will have equal rights over his property on his demise will inspire the removal of prejudice against women, for even though laws state that daughters have equal rights to property, the tradition of bequeathing wealth only to the son still continues in India. The move By Amitabh Bachchan towards gender equality indeed holds a lot of relevance in India.

Other stars are also pitching in to sow the seeds of the right ideas in the minds of the public of India. Aamir Khan, in an advertisement portrays the success of his business as the efforts of his daughters with the shop name ending with ‘& Daughters’ instead of ‘& Sons’.

International Women’s Day Celebrations 2017

Aishwarya R Dhanush, UN Women’s Advocate for Gender Equality and Women Empowerment in India will be performing the classical dance form, Bharatnatyam, at the Women’s Day event organised by Permanent Mission of India to UN.

Michelle Obama has rightly said, “There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.” Empowering the women in any society will only help in contributing towards the progress of the nation for they will be the architects of the society.