Skewed reality: A clarion call on Women's Day

Urmila Chanam
Posted March 5, 2021 from India
Skewed reality of women in India calls for honesty in accepting there is a big problem. (1/1)

The countdown to Women's Day has begun and very soon we will be swarmed with a narrative celebrating women achievers. There will be rank holders, pilots, civil servants, athletes, CEOs of companies, actors, artists, activists, authors and entrepreneurs making us believe “all is well”. The reports will often mention the economic strata of the girl or woman’s family, even father and mother’s occupation (“autorickshaw driver’s daughter cracks UPSC exams”) but seldom will we see any mention of the different layers of barriers and social evils, not just poverty, that impact girls in India from the time they are conceived. This trend appears to be a subtle form of denial that our society lives with when it comes to women’s status, human rights and welfare or an attempt to misguide us from the real issues.

In many parts of India, pregnancies carrying a girl child are being terminated, either medically or using unsafe traditional practices exposing the mother to grave risk because son preference is the unsaid secret of our families, sons the perfect insurance and social security for old age and daughters, a burden. Many girl babies are exposed to deliberate attempt to withdraw care with a motive to eliminate them after birth. Any investment in their nutrition, clothing, education, care and marriage are seen as waste of resources because women’s income and unpaid care work goes to their -in laws and husband after marriage. Skewed sex ratio, importing brides, trafficking and rising crime rates against girls and women are not isolate issues. Did you know one of the public health crises in India is rampant anaemia among girls and women, one of the underlying factors being lack of nutrition?

In agriculture- based communities, girls are burdened with domestic chores, caring for younger siblings and other economic activities and never go to school or drop out early due to which education and skills acquisition among girls are severely compromised and ensure the cycle of poverty and vulnerability continues. Those who do receive education experience control over choice of subjects they can pursue or the kind of professions they can get into. Control on mobility, social interactions, dress code, length of hair, interests and hobbies, work timings, and relationships are part and parcel of girl’s lives. Menstruating girls and women are deemed as polluting, kept at arm’s length and in many communities, made to live in isolated huts outside the house or at the village periphery or in cattle sheds in the worst living conditions. Millions of girls and women are forced to defecate in the open and manage their menstruation in the open due to lack of toilets or banishing menstruators from using them. The largest number of child brides live in India. The way dowry is demanded and given may have changed over time after stricter legislations but these social evils are still thriving. It takes only practice of autonomy by a girl in terms of marriage and relationship to turn love for a daughter to hate and gives her family, mostly the male members, a sense of duty and ability to kill daughter(s) in the name of keeping “family honour”.

Domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment and acid attack have instilled a sense of fear among girls and women and their families. Women’s diminished access to sexual and reproductive health related information and facilities is one of the reasons for high maternal mortality rates in India. Working women carry “double burden” of working both in office and at home. Laws and policies designed for the welfare of working women like maternity leave and anti- sexual harassment at workplace instead of serving as benefits are becoming reasons for employers to shy away from employing women. This when pay parity and glass ceiling already exist and women contribute just 24% to the labour force in India, one of the lowest in the world. Women are lagging behind in terms of financial and digital literacy and access to services.

The fact is people cannot fathom there are so many issues that alter women’s lives in India adversely. It’s not ignorance always, rather its unwillingness to know because if they learn the entirety of it, they will be forced to take a stance, help and do something about it. Feigning ignorance is also a decision and comes from the same psychology of mute spectators and passive companions when crimes against women take place. That’s why it becomes all the more important to ask ourselves which is more important- celebrating few women achievers or stock taking of women’s status on development indicators? Which will be more beneficial in improving the status of girls and women- drawing the spotlight on few success stories or on the problems that affect the mass?

(The author is a journalist and social entrepreneur in the field of women empowerment, women’s health, menstrual hygiene management and digital literacy.)

Ps: The article was originally published on Deccan Herald, a leading English newspaper in Karnataka, India. The link to the article as given below.

https://www.deccanherald.com/sunday-herald/sunday-herald-articulations/s...

 

This story was submitted in response to #HerStoryMakesHistory.

Comments 14

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Jill Langhus
Mar 06
Mar 06

Hello Dear, Urmila,

How are you, dear? Thanks for sharing your post and increasing awareness on all these challenges in your lovely country. It's quite overwhelming. I agree that a lot of people choose to turn a blind eye, and that it doesn't help. It seems that's quite often the way a lot of undesirable challenges. Perhaps the tide will turn soon. XX

Urmila Chanam
Mar 17
Mar 17

Dearest sister Jill,
When the problems are way too many, I think it overwhelms everybody and we don't know how to begin, where to begin. I am happy atleast women in India are speaking about the problems and World Pulse is a great opportunity for us. Thanks for reading my story sister, it means a lot to me.
Love and hugs,
Urmila Chanam,
India

Jill Langhus
Mar 19
Mar 19

Hello, Urmila:-)

Yes! That is great news. You're very welcome, dear.

I hope you and your family are safe and well.

XX

Anne Dupont
Mar 09
Mar 09

Dear Urmila--thank you for being so clear on the challenges in India and elsewhere around the globe. For all of the progress we have made, there is still a lot to be done. You are a wonderful leader and writer and I hope your efforts continue to help lift up other voices in India and around the globe to fight these discriminatory practices and build awareness and a call to action. I am with you. Hugs, Anne

Urmila Chanam
Mar 17
Mar 17

Dearest Anne Dupont,
I am honoured to read your comment and touched by your words of understanding, concern and committment. I got the opportunity to write in my own column in Deccan Herald, one of the leading English newspapers in Karnataka state where I live last October and its called " Half the sky". From its name you will get an idea about what I dedicate this space to- women issues from women's perspective. I hope authorities and decision makers pay heed and work on improving laws and policies for girls and women. Thanks a lot once again sister for reading my story.
Love and prayers,
Urmila Chanam,
India

Beth Lacey
Mar 10
Mar 10

Thank you for sharing this article here, my lovely sister. I hope you got a lo of pick up from the Deccan Herald. Many people need to see your words.

Urmila Chanam
Mar 17
Mar 17

Dearest sister Beth,
I have begun writing on Deccan Herald only recently, from October 2020 and am so thankful for the opportunity to connect to thousands of people as the newspaper has a huge subscription and readership. Sharing on World Pulse takes the story to a global audience further. I hope that decision makers will be reached and also those who can make a difference. I will soon share my next story based on sisters who educated each other. Thanks sister for reading <3
Love and hugs,
Urmila Chanam

Millynairi
Mar 10
Mar 10

Dear Urmla,
Every time I read your stories on what you are doing I get alot of encouragement. You are just a blessing!

Urmila Chanam
Mar 17
Mar 17

Dearest sister Millynairi,
Its been quite sometime since we interacted with each other so you can imagine how happy I feel right now to read your comment. So thank you. We can only try as much and share about our efforts in the hope that something will ignite in the hearts and minds of the reader or listner and pave way for positive change in the way girls and women experience life. Love you xoxo

Love and hugs,
Urmila Chanam

Dear Urmila,

Hello, Namaste and Assalaam Alaikum peace and blessings,

Congratulations on writing for the Deccan Herald.

I'd love to talk with you one day about fair trade producer groups and social enterprises who are working in India to alleviate many of the issues you have mentioned in your article.

The World Fair Trade Organization supports opportunities for disadvantaged small producers, fair trade practices, fair wages, decent working conditions, accountability and transparency, gender equity and freedom of association, no child labour or forced labour, capacity building and respecting the environment.

Take care and stay safe!
Peace and blessings
Sabeena

Urmila Chanam
Mar 17
Mar 17

Dearest Sabeena,
Thank you for highlighting the social approach of fair trade producer groups as I was not aware of them. There are many initiatives which are doing exemplary work but the size of the evil calls for much more than what exists on the ground.
Much love and regards,
Urmila Chanam

Much love,
Urmila Chanam

Upalparna Dey
Mar 16
Mar 16

Such an eye opener. Way to go ahead. May there be more power to our voices.

Urmila Chanam
Mar 17
Mar 17

Dearest Upalparna Dey,
Happy to connect with you on World Pulse and hope we will interact more as we both are from India. More women should come forward and talk about their stories. Thanks for reading :)
Love and regards,
Urmila Chanam