India is ranked 125 of 159 countries in the Gender Inequality Index (GII).
Gender discrimination against female children is pervasive across the world. It is predominant in India. Irrespective of caste, creed, religion and social status, the overall status of a woman is lower than a man and therefore a male child is preferred.
A male child is considered a blessing and his birth is celebrated.
Every girl child faces gender discrimination at home. Evidence shows, she is usually given less food and healthcare than her brother.
This is my story. My fight against gender discrimination at home.
We are a family of 4 sisters and one brother.
My father was always very unhappy because he had 4 daughters and only one son. As a child, I would always hear him telling mom, that he will have to give lot of dowry to get us married.
Whether it was food, clothes, my brother always got the best. For both mom and dad, the center of their life was my brother.
I always wondered, why my brother got this special treatment.
I asked mom and she always said “You are a girl, you will get married and leave us some day. Your brother will be with us and take care of us when we grow old” He will perform our last rites after we die and give us Moksha”
As for my dad, a woman was an inferior being. He would never let go, any opportunity of humiliating my mom. Whenever there was a temper outburst, he would fling the food served to him. My mom would quietly clear the mess. The mental agony was too much for her and she eventually suffered from clinical depression for decades.
We, sisters, went through humiliation at all times. Many a times, at lunchtime, I would hear him complain “I have to work 24*7 to feed your stomachs”. He hardly ever spoke to his daughters. Mom took us to the doctors, whenever anyone of us fell ill. Whenever my brother fell ill, dad would take him to the doctors.
With this conditioning, I developed , a constant feeling of guilt, for being a burden on my parents. Not knowing how to fight this, every night, I would cry myself to sleep. I never asked for any food, clothes, toys from my parents. I would accept whatever was given to me, with a feeling of immense gratitude.
When I was in Class X, one day my mom told me “Never depend on a man financially. Earn your own bread. Pay for your clothes, Buy your own house. I am illiterate. I have to depend on your father for my food, shelter and clothing. I have no choice, but to tolerate the atrocities because I have five of you to look after. Marriage is not important
Mom’s words remained with me. I resolved, I would earn my livelihood, pay for my education, clothes.
When I reached Class XII, I began teaching kids in spare time, . I paid for my education, bought my clothes. Most of my needs were met from the tuition fees that I received every month.
There was no looking back, I financed my own education. Went on to join a corporate as an executive.
Through sheer hard work and grit, I grew in my career. I bought a house of my own.
Today, as I look back, there is a sense of achievement. A sense of pride for being a woman
I am happy to have lived by my tenets.
“I will never compromise on – my self-respect, dignity and values.”
My message to all women –
- Have a voice. Speak up
- Never compromise your respect and dignity at all times.
- Have a growth mindset. Turn every adversity into an opportunity.
I now look forward to working with women organisations helping them to lead independent lives