Women Empowerment or, Women with Double Burden: Let’s Re-think the concept of Empowerment

Roksana Hoque
Posted October 24, 2017 from Bangladesh

Its 5th April, 2016. Anami just started her job after finishing her Bachelor of Law. She is sitting in her desk in front of her computer. A flower vase and a showpiece is placed at two sides of her two hands. Suddenly, she received a phone call and hear both of her parents died in car crash. Suddenly, the show piece and flower vase fall with the air stream and break down into small pieces like Anami break from her inside. On 1st May, 2017, she gets married with her college sweetheart, already pre-selected by her parents.

Now, Ms. Anami (anonymous name) is 27 years old young women. She worked in a multi-national company as legal advisor. Her in laws are living with her along with her sister in law and brother in law. Her brother in law is studying and sister in law is doing job in a bank. Her daily routine goes like this- early wake up, preparing tiffin for child, husband, brother and sister in law and her-self and preparing breakfast for her in laws. Each of them have different choices of tiffin and breakfast She goes to office at 8.00 am after dropping her child at school. In her office she has to deal with lots of complex issues each day, which make her anxious and stressed every day. In office, each day is a challenge for her with her clients and boss. She came back from her office at 6.30 pm every day. Just immediately after changing her clothes, she goes to kitchen for preparing dinner and take preparation for next day’s tiffin and breakfast. She has one female assistant to help her in the kitchen and household work. When she serves the food at night, each of her family members criticize about her cooked food and its taste instead of praising her effort. Her mother in law used to say her daughter is earning, giving lots of effort at office and become anxious and her son is studying hard. So, they need tasty food at the end of the day. Her husband used to complain about her household decoration, taking care of her child and encourage her for leaving her job. Her brother in law blamed her for her job, though he is junior to Anami. But, none of the family members asked her how she felt after coming from office and she is taking care of herself, having her food or, not. They are just taking the continuous service. This is the everyday scenario of millions of women of developing world particularly Asia and Africa.

We are empowering women by providing them education and engaging them in income generating activities. But, is it working to change their status in the family? Our society is deeply rooted in patriarchal system Patriarchy is not allowing women for going outside of their home for education, and job. Even, if she is working for financial soundness of her family and to utilize her knowledge and skill for betterment of the society, how society perceive this? Is this adding extra value to her family effort or, giving her double burden of family work and office work? What about her mental health status, from the challenge she face in both areas at home and office, which keep her in constant pressure and doubtful situation, lead to anxiety, depression and bipolar mood disorder. For real empowerment, society need to create a support network through which an empowered office going or, studying women can be encouraged both form her office and home.

Let’s reflect on the case study. If we look back to the case study, we can see and feel a invisible power dynamic in both family and office system. Anami’s husband, in laws and his family members dominating her directly and giving her a sense of irresponsibility towards her family, child always due to her employment status. At the same time, her boss is insisting her with his visible power hierarchy. But, there is no one who can stand with Anami to give her transformative power through which she can change the situation. Though, she is a qualified lawyer and good earning member of her family, which empower her to talk, but, still, she is unable to feel herself empowered due to devaluation of her office work considering traditional social norms, culture and practice.

It is strongly perceived by our society that bridegroom’s parents invest for their son, and make him qualified by spending money and they are superior than bride’s family and can demand anything from bride’s family. Sometimes, this system looks like buying bridegroom from the market with high amount of money and gifts. Bride without gifts and family like Anami suffers a lot in their in laws house. Sometimes, they have to die for expensive gifts like car and duplex flat. Bridegroom’s parents perceive bride’s family as low in the relationship status from the very beginning. That’s why we can see its dominating aftermath from generation to generation, country to country

As reader, can we think for a minute, how we can help Anami to overcome her situation with our collective effort of our around us and transform these forms of power (visible, invisible, shadow) into trans formative power and became feminist leaders?

Comments 3

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Jill Langhus
Oct 25, 2017
Oct 25, 2017

Hi there Roksana:-) Welcome to World Pulse! Thanks for sharing your story about empowerment and Anami's story. I agree that having women in the workplace is a double-edged sword. I think that all women and girls should have the same opportunities as men/boys, but unfortunately it doesn't seem to work like that, anywhere that I know of in the world, and like you said it's worse in Asia and Africa. I just feel like women are expected to do even more now, but perfectly, and seem to get be getting judged even more. I agree that there needs to be a support network but whole paradigms need to shift. Parents need to be teaching their daughters and sons that they have equal opportunities and not continue to socialize boys in a more privileged manner. Do you know Anami?

maeann
Oct 26, 2017
Oct 26, 2017

Dear Roksana. Welcome to World Pulse.  Thank you for having time to share the story of Anami.  These things are so unfair that some women do not receive equal rights in education and opportunities.  That is why we need to stand and share our voices to be heard and World Pulse is a one-way tool in gathering women in power and in unity.

Roksana Hoque
Mar 11, 2018
Mar 11, 2018

Thanks to all of you for your nice comments............