“Teach a man and you teach an individual. Teach a woman and you teach a generation.”
Women’s education and empowerment can have a ripple effect on all aspects of societal development. Discrimination against women helps no one. Not even the men. Unfortunately, the reality is that even though our Constitution has granted men and women equal rights, gender disparity thrives, albeit mostly on stereotypical notions and regressive attitudes.
Education is the key
Having spent a lifetime in the education sector, I can vouch that it is only through mission education that one can usher in a breath of fresh air in the claustrophobic atmosphere of gender disparity.
Interventions at higher education level can have a deep impact. Developing courses in sensitising the youth will can make a lot of difference. Even a street theatre (nukkad natak) can hit home otherwise complex ideas of liberation and equal opportunities.
Nothing succeeds like success
Documentation of success stories can counter the myth that women are not suitable for certain kinds of jobs. The aplomb with which many women police officers or women taxi drivers have succeeded can inspire other women not only in these professions, but in any field of work.
Also, actions by governments, media, organisations, individuals or self-initiatives by women can make a lot of difference.
Women at workplace
Companies employing women must ensure sensitisation activities. Flexi timings, working from home wherever feasible, career breaks for women can be helpful.
The role of parliamentarians, politicians as well as political parties can be effective for making gender parity a centre-stage issue. Equally effective can be the role of celebrities, film and sports stars, bureaucrats, industrialists and thought leaders.
Women need to be helped by HR departments or leadership to acquire the skills and mentorship that could catalyse their advancement to senior positions. Companies with more women in top management and board positions better reflect the profiles of their customers and employees.
There are a lot of well-educated and skilled women who are not willing to work full time out of their own choice, but are ready to work part-time or work from home. Such women ought to get the opportunities.
Entrepreneurship by women should be given a fillip as it encourages other women. They also require an enabling environment of access to loans.
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Faith in women’s potential
The availability of day-care and child-care facilities as well as support from family, kith and kin are some ways that can ensure a work life and economic independence for women, especially after matrimony and motherhood.
Last but not the least, men need to be more sensitive. They need to change the mindset—in terms of bringing up their daughters, inheritance attitude towards women and social acceptance of women as equal partners.
Women need to stop short-changing themselves. Often they do it because they do not believe in their own potential. Gender parity needs to come down from the high pedestal—where it is put up as an ideal—and manifest itself in the day-to-day life.
The author, Sushma Paul Berlia is president, Apeejay Stya & Svrán Group, and chairperson, Apeejay Education Society. Views are personal