Is it Independence Day for India’s Working Women?

” Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Melody Beattie

Wondering how far have we evolved the last 70 years after the real independence from the tyranny of British rule? The period of 70 years between then and now is not long if you think about though. Even then, our society has evolved but has the status and expectations of women? That’s the real question.

To put in context, women were pushed into subservient household roles without their necessary consent and as the lure of independence gave hope, women took part in freedom movements. Whether with violence or nonviolence, women of India graciously played their given roles and have seen so much during those days.

In the developing times of today, women continue to deal with paradoxical positions of that a homemaker albeit with people who are ready to help, share responsibilities, and encourage the working woman to juggle all her responsibilities. So it makes us wonder is it independence day for India’s working women yet?

Two sides of the same coin

There is much to celebrate and to mourn if you think about it. We can celebrate the overall increase in literacy rates from a mere 12 percent from the British rule to a whopping 90.2 percent in 2005 in the country.

We can stand proud to see more women entering the workplace, and thriving in important roles at younger ages too. Women have entered the army in important positions, we are pilots, we are entrepreneurs and drivers of successful companies. ISRO’s launch 104 satellites in one go had crucial contribution from 8 women, now fondly called as the “Rocket Women” of India. Sure, women hold only 7.7 percent of board seats and just 2.7 percent of board chairs but we’ve come a long way from the times when women were not allowed to work or considered equal before the independence.

You cannot deny the practices of female infanticides, honour killings, rapes, and the lack of sanitary health conditions in India. There are two sides to every story and the evolution of Indian women has these two sides too. One side showing great promise and the other, great fear and trepidation. We are a developing country still, we have a long way to go but the pace at which improvements are taking place need a boost, don’t you think?

A different reality

The freedom movements and the new constitution set up 70 years ago, gave women equal rights as human beings. Women could vote and were given legal rights such as freedom and opportunity just as the men of our country had going for them.

Did you know? The sex ratio now is one of the highest India has ever seen. This is a clue of how society, its norms, and notions towards women is showing promise now.

During those times, women had no say in their marriages. Women didn’t even meet their husbands until the wedding day! Haven’t we come a long, long way since those times? We have, and we have much to celebrate because just look around you. Most people you know in your community, workplace or friends’ circle, women are making their own decisions about marriage. Women are now looking beyond to find partnership by choice! This was unthinkable before India achieved its freedom. We have much to celebrate about.

In the social, economic and political conditions of those times, women assumed the role of housewives without question. Now, it is truly an independence day for India’s working women because now you have a choice! In some promising cases, husbands and family members now encourage the women in the family to pursue their aspirations too.

As a mother-in-law, you can support your daughter-in-law and empower her to follow her dreams to be an enterprising woman. As teachers, sisters, friends or mothers, you are in a unique position where you can support women in your circle and empower them. At the workplace, as a Manager, you can motivate other women in your team, encourage their development, show empathy, and create a positive work culture of accountability and trust. You also have the power to teach your sons, brothers, students to treat women with respect and share responsibilities.

I want to add that I definitely consider myself to be fortunate to have parents who have treated me equal to my brother and encouraged me to be independent and make my own decisions. Also thankful to my husband, who has always encouraged me to be myself and extending helpful hand whenever I needed.

The liberated working woman

Women can start businesses or work from home if they so desire. Women in the IT working with compassionate overseas clients work flexible hours or from home to also successfully play the role as mothers and homemakers.

Haven’t we come a long way since the times when working women were considered as rebels and looked down upon? Now parents are proud to send their daughters to urban cities and even other countries to study or work. We have much to celebrate now.

Working women like you and me now have extended help. Supportive parents and in-laws are there for you and your little child, without question. Liberated working women like nanny’s, maids, cooks, stay at home helpers, and daycares are all there for the Indian working woman who goes to the office or travels for business. Not assuming a mere subservient role like before the independence times, the working woman is now the house manager.

We have come a long, long way and we have a long way to go still. And so, take a moment to be grateful for all the great things Indian women have already achieved and go from there.

Recently, in a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court of India ruled the instant divorce practice of triple talaq among Muslims as “void”, “illegal” and “unconstitutional”. Going by the famous one liner by Neil Armstrong, I would say that this is one small step by the Supreme Court, but a giant step for independence of Indian women. Wouldn’t you agree?

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