Joined: 27 September 2005
It's lack of choice that makes women disempowered: Shabana
New Delhi, Mar 12: What empowers a woman is not the money or career but a freedom to exercise her choice, that's how the women achievers feel. Economic independence is important but if a woman cannot spend her money the way she wants to, how relevant this independence is?
"Earning money minus the freedom to spend it is not empowerment. How about maids who come and work at our homes. They earn but are they free to spend what they earn. We certainly can't call them empowered," asserted Shabana Azmi.
She found a grave supporter in actress-politician Smriti Irani who believes that to be empowered it is not essential to be working. "Its not just a choice about spending money but about choosing a way of life. How a woman wants to live her life, what she wants to do. No matter if it is about buying a saree or choosing a career."
"Women's empowerment is not merely a buzzword but the true index of country's development. It is as important an issue as national GDP," said Azmi who felt that women were "different" and it is this difference that needed to be celebrated.
The women achievers, participating at a discussion on "Women's Empowerment" here on March 12, agreed that it's illiteracy that is responsible for the plight of women, but it is not the only cause.
"If education reinforces gender divide, how long can it help," quips Azmi. "Women need recognition, support, motivation and opportunities to move forward as much as they need education," is how Gursharan Kaur, wife of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, put it.
"Had lack of education been the only cause, we would not have seen female foeticide practiced at alarming rates in the upper middle class families of south Mumbai. I guess, those people are not illiterates. Many educated women still face violence, in one or the other form, at their home." According to Azmi, "It's the mindset that makes all the difference. We need to change our thinking."
Talking on the same lines, Sapna Gupta, who started an air-hostess academy with three students in 1997 and now has 25 branches all over India, said that denying the girl child a chance to learn and grow is the biggest injustice against women.
"Kiran Majumdar Shaw was denied a loan by a bank just because no one at that time knew about biotechnology and they can't believe a woman to do good in a lesser-known area. Such mental roadblocks need to go if we want to emancipate women," said Gupta.
"It's the struggle of childhood and youth that makes (a) woman so goal-oriented. She has to fight for everything and it is still true of majority of girls who are discriminated against their brothers," said Irani who felt that a woman is her best judge and competition.
Citing survey reports, she said that a woman made a better manager and an effective leader, "because she has the capacity and capability to nurture, remember and forgive."
"Women are, no doubt, effective leaders but I think it negates the impact when they try to impersonate or mimic men. The true effective change would be when women do it without compromising on their feminity," opined Azmi.
To which Irani added on a funny note, "But they should learn one thing from men and that is abstaining from introspection. I think it's this tendency of (a) woman that makes her vulnerable at times."
Giving political undertones to the 'Cause of Women's Emancipation', former J&K CM Farooq Abdullah called for at least 50 per cent reservation for women in political units. "Women need fair representation everywhere. Its not a matter of competition but of equality," he said.
"Just like charity begins at home, we have to start making change from our home and society. We need to work together to make this world a better place for women," Irani said.
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