Women, go to work, please!

It was this article that got me thinking. And maybe it’ll get you thinking, too.

And if you don’t read the entire article, you can read just the first two lines.

LAKSHMI, the goddess of wealth and fortune, is the closest thing Hinduism has to an economic deity. How poorly her earthly sisters in present-day India are faring. 

Not that I was unaware of the scenario, but this mainly reaffirms what the reality is. This time, with real-life examples and figures to support the claim.

Ironic, very ironic. In the land where the ardently worshipped deities of wealth, education and power are all female, India is losing out a major chunk of its talent only because so many women are at home. A loss that converts into economic deprivation in terms of becoming a significant contributor to the nation’s poverty by a staggering 27%

Whats even more ironic that the only reason isn’t just the lack of education, it’s also the never-ending social pressures that collectively surmount to keep women actively out of the workforce. In-laws demanding the their daughters-in-law stay at home despite their education and desire to earn. Organizations that don’t support working mothers forcing women with children to quit their jobs and take a hiatus, which very often means that they don’t get back to work at all. Women entrepreneurs struggling to keep their ventures afloat, with collectively only around 2% of total venture capital financing going to women.

Of course there have been game changers within the society, in terms of women among the likes of Indra Nooyi, Kiran Majumdar Shaw and Chanda Kocchar, who have risen up the corporate ladder as well as gone to create successful companies of their own. And business models that supported women employment. AMUL and Lijjat Papad. And little proliferations of self-employed women with regard to the good old Tupperware and Amway aunties, the waxing ladies, the tuition teachers and the neigbourhood ladies with their pickle and tiffin businesses. Yet, the number of women who collectively remain unemployed still outnumber them.

Growing up, I was fortunate to be born to parents who viewed education and having a career equally important for both sons and daughters. Which meant that I never thought of myself not having a full-time job, ever. Yet again, that does not mean that I am biased towards stay-at-home moms. The point I’m trying to make, is that not every woman has to have a full-time job. There are women who stay out of active employment out of choice. But that doesn’t mean that the women at the other end of the spectrum, that is women who want to work, should be held back in any form. It is the birthright of every single woman, to have access to education, economic freedom and empowerment. So that when they fo genuinely want to go out and make a living, they are not are obstructed by  financial, physical or social barriers. From more education opportunities,  self-employment and work-from-home options, to child-friendly workplaces, maternity benefits, more microfincnace options and venture capital funding. We need them all.

Maybe this could be a wake-up call, and our mantra for the years to come: Sending more women to work. Hopefully our daughters and granddaughters, shall look at boardrooms and corner office aspirations as normal, instead of glass ceiling achievements, like our generation does. And we will have a fuller, richer economy, that thrives from the collective effort of both men and women.

(The article cited appeared in The Economist : Why India needs its women to work. https://www.economist.com/leaders/2018/07/05/why-india-needs-women-to-work)

The World Seems Unsafe Tonight

Ma, my tears go unnoticed
My cries, unheard
My dignity, hurt
I’m sorry you brought me into a world
That doesn’t even pretend to care
Ma, can I climb into
Your womb for a while?
The world seems rather unsafe tonight
I’m tired, Ma. I’m tired
Of fighting,
Of struggling,
Of begging the world
To for once, be kind
Please let me climb into
You womb, just for a little while
The world seems just so unsafe tonight
I feel like I’m being punished
For a mistake I never made
I flee like a wounded animal
Only to find a spot that’s safe
But alas they find and hunt me
However hard I try
Ma, I promise I’ll only
Stay in your womb for a while
But please do let me
The world seems
Very unsafe tonight
(On account of India being declared the most unsafe country in the world for women)

What I’d like this Women’s Day.

“So, what would you like this Women’s Day?”, he asked me.

And here’s what I told him.

I’d like….

1. A world that’s more ‘woman-friendly’ – safer, cleaner and more conducive to women being ‘out there’ rather than staying in indoors. Less crime, rape, abuse and violence against women.

2. A country where women are seen an a potent force, and equal contributors to the financial, social and economic well-being and advancement of the nation.

3. A legal system where women are empowered enough to stand up for their own rights as well as others, and fight for them when needed. On their own.

4. More workplaces that allow, encourage and support women excellence, viewing women as strong components of their organization.

5. More corporations and companies where women occupy core positions, as Chairwomen, CEOs, mentors, leaders, guides….the list goes on. The world needs more women leaders.

6. Governments that empower the women in their economies, particularly the underprivileged ones – through education, financial and social security and equal rights.

7.A society that doesn’t judge a woman by what she wears, does, eats, drinks and does for a living. And yes, what time she comes home

8. Families that encourage their girls to hold their own amidst their male counterparts. Even more families that teach their boys to behave with the girls. Lessons learnt in childhood go a long way.

9. More ‘good’ men – ones who love, respect, honor, support and encourage us. Because we know not all men are bad, and we can use more good ones.

10. More strong women – because if we don’t build each other up, who else will?

Too much to ask?

She Thought, and so she did.

She was a rebel, always had been,

A woman of her own mind, a free spirit,

For within the depths of her heart & soul,

Lay many dreams nurtured & kindled.

She believed she could bring change,

She knew she’d tread her own path

And within the realms of the physical world,

She believed that she’d find her own place.

The world laughed when she told them of her dreams,

Reminded her of her vices,

Discouraged, Exploited, even humiliated her.

But alas, they failed miserably

For within her softness, lay nerves of steel.

Every wall they created, she climbed over

Every glass ceiling they made, she broke away

To them she never spoke a word,

But with all she did, nor could they.

She stood above them all,

An example, an inspiration, a story of all her wins,

And when someone asked her where she found the strength,

She smiled and said ‘It comes from within’.

They’ll come and tell you’ll never do it

They’ll try to break you all apart

But the one thing that always must stay lit, ‘

Is the flame of hope, within the heart.”