Ever since we were born, we have faced discrimination at least once at some point in time. We are celebrating International Women’s Day today, and all we can think of is discrimination against women in almost all spheres, at least in our own country India.
The day a baby is born, everyone is eager to know the sex of the baby, so that they can predict the future of the child and family. Then, in the naming ceremony, the gifts that come are binary, with certain things for boys and certain others for girls. The discrimination starts right from there. Then, more restrictions are put on a woman’s life. Parents are more concerned about her marriage 10 years later than about her career.
After school, more so in rural areas, girls are not sent to study at a University, or are sent for part-time low-wage jobs that are close by. In cities, even though one is able to study and work, options are limited for women than for men. She should look at colleges with a minimal fee, with least distance from their home, colleges that do not require her to stay in a hostel or from where she can reach home early.
She cannot choose a college that is politically-charged or observes strikes. So, private colleges with a strict schedule are preferred. She can’t go out on weekends, especially in certain modern clothes, or can’t stay back in college. She can’t spend too much on trips or eat-outs… The list is endless.
Coming to the choice of courses, science is considered to be the best, and fit for boys who can crack the JEE exam and get into an IIT college. We won’t allow our daughters to write certain exams as we don’t want to send her far. So, we won’t allow her to take science. She can probably take arts, often claimed as a stream for the least smart, and those who can mug up.
If she is so interested in science, let her take biology or maths, and try for medicine if she wishes to. They may not allow her to go for an entrance or drop many years for NEET. If she fails in her first attempt, families often say that they will marry her off or ask her to go for a parallel college.
Coming to choosing jobs, especially in the STEM category, people like to take shortcuts. A woman is not supposed to work in a factory that requires physical work. Her workplace should be an office, most often prefer a desk job, an IT job, or a work from home. Allowing her to go for a job far away is a rare occasion.
At the age of 23-25 years, she must be ready to get married (sometimes leave the job too), even if she’s not ready. It doesn’t matter if she has to compromise her career for it. After that, the husband’s family dictates her life. She is often forced to stay within four walls of the house. Often, the job will be a 9-5 one, or people have the answer – the job of a teacher.
Taking care of her children is supposed to be a bigger priority for her, as her husband working elsewhere may not be there, or the company may not give him paternity leave. So ultimately, a woman is (unwillingly) ready to leave her small job too, and spend the rest of her life as a homemaker.
This is the situation many of the women in India go through. At least one woman would have faced at least one of these discriminatory choices in her lifetime. In olden days, the eldest kid used to stay at home without being able to attend school, in order to look after the younger siblings. Many a times, we can see that a lot of women who had an exemplary academic life did not even attend a single job interview after school/college.
Why is it that at the end of the day, it is always the woman who has to compromise? Everyone knows how important the role of a father in the development of the child is. But half of our fathers don’t give their children as much time as mothers do. Some parents may not even have seen their son’s/daughter’s school too. Is earning a lot of money the end of our life? Aren’t we supposed to grow beyond the 9-5 job culture, not caring about a child’s future, and only caring about marriage and how society will judge you?
We have made a tremendous progress since Independence. We may rarely know a girl who had to discontinue her education in school or college based on family matters or just because her marriage was approaching. We may also be shocked to know if a girl is not able to choose the subject of her choice, because she is a girl and not because of her marks.
There are girls excelling in all academic courses, coming at par with boys, even in science, engineering or cracking entrance exams. But the stigma around her choices is still at question, especially her leaving her job for family, marriage and having to look after her kids. Dowry is still an unclosed chapter, and people still find joy in giving and taking it due to societal pressure, traditions, etc.
So, what should we do? The only request I have is to stop differentiating the life of boys and girls. Allow both of them to pursue whatever they want to, and let them become whoever they want to become. Stop putting hurdles into their lives, and stop putting the burden of your dreams on to them. Let them have their own dreams and let them pursue them in their way. Be there to support and encourage them. Last but not least, don’t accept that you’re wrong to your parents for having your own dreams. They have a lot of faith in you, and always have their confidence in you that you will triumph over the challenges you face.