Women, hold on
There is much to rejoice in the achievements of Indian women, and this Women’s Day should be a time for the celebration of our many victories
As a woman, it's easy to slip into cynicism when we speak or write on the topic of 'women' in India. For most of our male peers, women in India and the world seem to be faring much better today than in the last half-century. While that may be true, are we really to be content with "much better"; why can't we want to desire it all? Greater safety, equal pay, larger participation of women in workforce, more access to financing should one turn entrepreneur, and respect for our choices. It's also important to point out to those male peers who feel that there is nothing left for women to struggle against, let me tell you that we are only a small percentage of privileged women who fall into that rosy group. The average woman is still struggling to shatter the patriarchy that has seeped too far into our social ecosystem. The man's need, whether sexual or vocational, still assumes paramount importance. The men who put their women first are still quite like mythical creatures; they are also very much in high demand and short supply.
So, while I want to speak of the challenges that still face us, I would also like to shirk that cynicism that has set in when I hear of rapists being asked to marry their victims or the questioning of the legitimacy of marital rape. With International Women's Day right around the corner, I want to reminisce our numerous victories since last year. I want to celebrate the country's first woman airline and alcohol companies' CEOs. From all-women managed luxury residences to all-women operated restaurants to Uttarakhand's all-women commando force to the Indian scientist behind NASA's Perseverance Rover — Indian ladies have much to rejoice in the year gone by.
We have overcome odds and stood up to bullies and intimidators. I celebrate Priya Ramani and Rebecca John for fighting the good fight against a ridiculous and baseless criminal defamation case thrust on Ramani for speaking up for the greater good in the #MeToo movement. I commemorate the numerous women farmers who have stood shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts to voice their demands. These battles were exacting, taking a toll on lives and livelihoods, but our Indian women have shown exemplary courage. Challenges will continue; women like Rhea Chakraborty will be vilified, they will be incarcerated like Disha Ravi and Nodeep Kaur, but they will not be silenced. I celebrate that noise that they have created through their resilience.
Women entrepreneurs, especially in the MSME (Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises) segment, continue to suffer the aftermath of the pandemic which has also pushed more women out of jobs. A report by Bain & Company states that 73 per cent of women entrepreneurs have been negatively impacted by the Covid-19, with 21 per cent having their revenues completely depleted. But let us also take solace in the fact that Indian women have stormed the senior management of companies. 39 per cent of Indian women are part of the top level of company management, better than the global average of 31 per cent. According to the Women in Business 2021 report by the accounting firm, Grant Thornton, 98 per cent of Indian companies have at least one lady boss as compared to 90 per cent globally.
When my food delivery partner or cab driver is a woman, I know that more women are participating in the gig economy. Pune-based GigIndia said in a news report that while 12 per cent of their 500 gig workers were women in April last year, the number has inflated five times or 120 per cent within six months with almost 47 per cent women in their workforce. While we need definitely need more funding for women-led businesses and more women on the factory floor, we must revel in this achievement that has been a long time coming.
Women are gradually owning their identity in the world of entertainment too. We see strong female characters that are not deterred by obstacles. They speak of sexual liberty, don path-breaking roles, break stereotypes on screen and off it. Women-led production companies are launching with a promise to promote empowering content. 'Four More Shots Please', 'Pushpavalli', 'Sir', 'Aarya' — so many different kinds of films and web series and all have strong women characters in common.
As I started by saying, it is easy to slip into cynicism in a country like ours where every day there is disheartening news for women. Rapes, gangrapes, violence against women will all be downers. But when we look at what we have achieved and what we are slated to clinch, we must look at the future with hope and that we are standing that much closer to our goals today.
The writer is an author and media entrepreneur. Views expressed are personal