Across the world, women are facing problems, just because they are women. As part of Worldpulse's campaign, I am glad to have the opportunity to share a story on the 5th annual international day of the girl child!
I am Pooja S. Varde, from India. Growing up in a land of a vast cultural diversity has been a ride for me, similar to all the girls and women of India. My life has been a fairly good one and I am indebted to my parents for that. In a country which provides a mixed experience for women, I was provided with an open and broad minded set of parents and families. I was born and brought up in Mumbai, raised to be allowed to voice my opinions and given the freedom to shape my destiny, which I am thankful for!
Although India is, without a doubt, racing forward at a lightning fast speed towards becoming a developed country, it still has a long path to pave - especially in the development and safety of its women.
Living amongst Indian women, I see powerful yet sensitive women aroumd me- a lethal combination! They are powerful, nowhere shorter than any other woman in any developed country! They have a voice to be heard, beautiful and touching stories to be told - they only need to be given a chance to - which I surely received!
While I see powerful women around me, even today, as we celebrate the festival of Navratri which is a celebration of the womanly deities and the spirit and essence of womanhood, sadly I hear about many girl children still being killed in the remote parts of India! I feel that everything that each killed girl child could have achieved, dies along with her. This situation turns to be even more shocking when I hear that women themselves initiate this and decide to do so. There are many reasons to why this is still being done. The causes ranging from dowry issues, security and safety issues, partial or complete lack of gender equality, lack of respect for women and of course, the never-ending hope for a male child. All these issues are enough to throttle girl children at their very birth and to significantly disturb the gender ratio of some parts of India.
I was raised by my parents to be able to state my feelings clearly and without any hesitation, despite growing up in a society that stated just the opposite. There were instances when I could witness girls around me, dropping their education because she had brothers whose education and dreams were given more priority due to beliefs which arose from a partially buried male chauvinistic society. I witnessed their dreams and aspirations being crushed to fulfill their brother's destinies. It made me question the society and the root of this bias.
I also noticed that women were not given the respect they deserved inspite of doing everything they could to earn it. Be it rural or urban India, women were faced with this problem and they sometimes still do! I came across a statement online which labeled India as the 'Land of rapes’ enough to be a shameful statement to its citizens! This very lack of respect for women is the reason for the crimes women have to face in India or live in fear of.
I am fortunate enough to have been born and raised in an urban area in India! I had a stable childhood where I went to a convent girls school. I grew amidst the best teachers who encouraged us to take pride in being girls and in being a young woman! A place where we were encouraged to follow our dreams without any limits and restrictions. Despite all this, my biggest trial was to maintain this encouragement after I left school till date, after coming out into the society which had mixed views about women.
In spite of this, I have had a chance to make a career, thanks to a supporting and loving family. But I would like to point out another issue here. We, as women in India, have certain restrictions when it comes to going out into the world and rising freely in the society - Even if it is to follow our careers and passions. I am sure that millions of Indian women agree with me and cannot set out to make their mark in this world without being worried about their safety every single day - worried whether they will come home, unscathed and unharmed, to their equally worried families!
Although a significant progress is taking place in the development and safety of women in India since I was young, this development is still in its fragmented stage. India still has to take a gigantic leap in order to achieve total development and safety of its women.
I speak on behalf of all Indian women when I say that my vision for Indian girls and women is to have their voices and problems heard, to feel ensured about their safety and security and have equal respect and opportunities as Indian boys do. To achieve this, many laws have to be reframed, new ones have to be made and they have to be strictly followed through. An effort is also to be made by parents with male children, to instill respect for women in their boys from a young age.
Indian women still haven't lost hope! We celebrate each new law made in favor of its women. We wish to see the day when each Indian girl child and woman will be able to carve a better and brighter future for herself and where her wishes and dreams are taken seriously!