Women Empowerment: The power must come from within

March 8, 2021 5:40 AM

Tapping into these inner strengths is not easy. It takes tremendous courage and conviction to challenge outdated and unfair societal practices and conditioning. But, it can be done if women form their own support groups to find strength in numbers.

The younger generation is uniquely poised to amplify the efforts of the past generations. (Representative image)The younger generation is uniquely poised to amplify the efforts of the past generations. (Representative image)

By Valli Arunachalam

From my marathon journey for boardroom parity in my family’s business, I know the road is lonely and riddled with challenges such as withstanding criticism and being ostracised. But with courage, passion, determination, resilience and patience, I march on. Such is the story of challenges that women face.

On International Women’s Day, I recognise that India has more than 50% of its population below the age of 25, and a staggering 325 million Indian women under the age of 25. I recognise the enormous contributions that these young women can make to their country, if only they had a fair chance. This momentous day, presents us with an opportunity to renew our commitment to work together to empower ourselves and our next generation of young Indian women

I am inspired by the remarkable women who have shown by their examples that there is a way. From Kiram Mazumdar Shaw, chairman and CEO of Biocon, to Geetha Manjunath, founder and CEO of technology start-up Niramai, to Supriya Paul, director & co-founder of Josh Talks (an ecosystem designed for inspiring and empowering India’s youth), Indian women are blazing an indelible trail in India’s economic and social landscape.

At the grassroots level, I am amazed by how women from all strata of society have exhibited enormous strength of character in the face of adversity. From the rural women who walk miles to fetch potable water and firewood at the crack of dawn for their families to the urban women who juggle everyday household demands, childcare, elder-care, and careers, their actions reflect their innate management & organisational skills and resourcefulness.

Tapping into these inner strengths is not easy. It takes tremendous courage and conviction to challenge outdated and unfair societal practices and conditioning. But, it can be done if women form their own support groups to find strength in numbers.

The younger generation is uniquely poised to amplify the efforts of the past generations. They are more removed from age-old societal oppression and have better and more widespread access to education and opportunities.

Recent developments give hope for Indian women. The Sebi regulation mandated at least one independent woman director in the top 1,000 listed companies by April 1, 2020. Last year, the Supreme Court has ruled that all daughters have the same rights as sons in Hindu ancestral property. These are important milestones in the journey for women’s equality.

We need to build on this momentum and continue to push for positive change and create a sustainable environment where women can continue to flourish. The opportunities are vast and varied – from starting cottage industries and providing employment and skills to rural women – to cutting edge technology start-ups and breaking the boardroom glass ceilings. How high women want to climb involves choice and courage. By joining forces women can create a valuable network of resources that all women can tap into to achieve self-reliance and to take charge of their own destiny.

The choice is ours, we can take the initiative to help ourselves, or wait to be helped. On International Women’s Day, let us commit to reach out to the power within us, to form our own support groups, to seek help and give help through them, and to rise up together to realize our individual and collective aspirations. In the words of Mother Teresa, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples”.

(The writer is Karta of MV Murugappan HUF and the elder daughter of late MV Murugappan, former chairman of the Murugappa group)

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