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The ‘Choices’ Women Make…

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By ROLI S

When the present condition of the world has led to the beginning of women empowerment, celebrating Women’s Day is somewhat a nuisance and unimportant, many argue. This leads me to think whether we only celebrate Women’s Day because women have been oppressed throughout history and need a day to remind themselves of their value? Is Women’s Day then not a celebration of women who are doing exemplary work in their particular fields? Therefore, the day becomes somewhat questionable. Why a Women’s Day? Because those women who are empowered do not want it to become a day that symbolises ‘pity’ towards women. To bring a balance to these conflicting ideas and notions is a delicate issue all Women’s Day celebrations should aim for. What it can become is a reminder that even though we have come a long way and women have better living conditions, there is more to achieve. It can become a source of hope for change and inspiration for people to thrive and to achieve the goal of equality. Nothing, ultimately, is fully black or white. How can it be when even in many educated and well to do families in our country, girls are raised to not have wit, to have no sense of humour, to not laugh loudly, to not dance unabashedly, to only be quiet and sweet, and to be offended by everything! Girls are raised to not be ‘people’, but be ‘girls’. In the same country the Indian Army is now welcoming women soldiers in combat operations! Now, do you get what I mean when I say the goals of women equality are not fully black and white? That is why, on this Women’s Day I want to celebrate not just the women but the ‘choices’ the women make for themselves. Because everything is a choice, even for women, these days. So, if a woman makes a choice to give up her career for the sake of her family, it remains her choice. Whether a woman should get married or not, at what age she should tie the nuptial knot and most importantly whether she would become a career-oriented woman or a home maker, the decision on all the choices in life must be made by the woman herself. Most people think a beautiful woman doesn’t have to work as hard to get what she wants. Oh! But have you ever seen those fisher women walking gracefully with those baskets on their heads, those village belles walking cheerfully with layers of water pots on their heads? Mary Kom, when she flashes those punches, and Geeta Phogat showcases those wrestling moves, not only speak for themselves, they also speak for the ‘choices’ they and their family members made for them. Ultimately it all boils down to the choices one makes. It has less to do what region, community or class one comes from and more to do with the choices that one makes. So, if a beautiful woman still has to work twice as hard to be seen for who she is, it is because, unfortunately, there are still men out there who can’t see past her beauty! If you ask me personally, whenever women achievers are being celebrated and talked about, my heart always goes out to those women who keep making brave and different choices in their lives but who never make it to a talk show circuit, who have not written a best-selling novel (even though their lives are worth writing about), and who don’t run successful companies. Don’t get me wrong—I have infinite admiration and respect for those women. But they get plenty of that from everyone else. So, I want to celebrate the ‘choice’ of the woman who is sitting next to me on a plane, the one who has just signed divorce papers and thinking how she would bring up her child in the best possible way as a single parent; I want to laud the woman who accepts a salary cheque which does not do justice to her talent, contribution and qualification just because she is a woman; I also want to rejoice the choice of that woman who silently and faithfully supports men folk of the household not necessarily financially but with her strong presence. We need an International Women’s Day till we have an equal number of women in leadership positions, women earning the same as men for the same work, and women across the world having the same rights as men. Because, until that happens, some women who make brave choices will continue to get erased a little at a time; and some all at once. Maybe some will continue to reappear but every woman who will appear will continue to wrestle with the forces that made her disappear in the first place. She will struggle with the forces to tell her story. The struggle to tell her own story will be her rebellion. She will continue to make brave choices and continue to prove herself because, after all, as Maya Angelou has rightly said, “I’m a woman, Phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, That’s me. Phenomenal Woman.” (Roli S is an Educator, Teacher-Trainer, Author and School Reviewer based in Mumbai)