Indian women in cities are comparatively more empowered and aware about their rights than their counterparts in villages but gender equality is still a far cry. Women rarely take decisions and need to participate in politics and public life. Their safety remains a concern and Indian men need to behave. These are some of the views shared by foreign women who have made Punjab their home to study or pursue a career of their choice.
Safe to hang out
Shukriya Sadat, 22, Afghanistan
Bachelor in business administration Sri Guru Gobind Singh Khalsa College, Sec 26, Chandigarh I’ve been in Chanidgarh for a year now. This is the safest place for women in terms of hanging out. The city has so many opportunities and girls have the freedom to do what they wish to. They are very independent. I have friends who earn by giving tuitions and content writing online, which is not possible in my country.
Equal roles for women
Awista, 23, Afghanistan
Bachelor in economics (honours) MCM DAV College for Women, Sec 36, Chandigarh I’ve been in the city for three years now and it is a pleasure to see how people here respect women and women are considered to be no less than men. They are playing equal roles while in our country, it is not that easy to step out of the house after Class 8 or 9. I made the right choice by choosing Chandigarh for my studies.
Women relatively lucky
Khatera Ahmed Zayi, 22, Afghanistan
Bachelor in arts, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Khalsa College, Sec 26, Chandigarh I strongly believe that the women of the city are relatively lucky as compared to women in Afghanistan. Girls can go out freely, they can drive; they can complete their education as parents here are so willing to get their daughters educated as much as possible. There is no alternative for us but to go back to our country.
Love is free
Nilofer Kamal, 19, Afghanistan
Bachelor in arts, Sri Guru Gobind Singh College, Sec 26, Chandigarh I wish to go back to my country but my aim is to implement at least some percentage of status shared by Indian women, in my country. I want to contribute to the overall development of Afghani women where they could all be independent. Another thing to envy is that girls are free to choose their life partner here which is next to impossible in my country.
Safety a concern
Aminath Iasha Hussain, 23, Maldives
BSc (nutrition and dietetics), Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana I have been in India since July 2014 but I still remember the concern of my relatives and friends when I announced my decision to study here. The worst is when elderly men stare at us. Some even pass comments in Punjabi that foreigners don’t understand. Now we’ve got used to such men and ignore them. But I have had pleasant experiences too.
Indian men just stare!
Thitaree, 19, Thailand
Bachelors in business studies, Lovely Professional University (LPU), Jalandhar I came to Jalandhar two months ago but I’m still not comfortable talking to Indian men. They stare continuously. I find it unfair that there are restrictions for girls like they have to be back home before 6pm. In Thailand, I could be out till 9pm and no one would say anything to me. Perhaps it’s because safety is an issue here that parents put such restrictions.
Lizeth Herrera, 43, Mexico
Social worker, wife of deputy British high commissioner David Lelliot I have been in India for a year. I have observed that in bigger cities women seem to be leading in their chosen fields but in small towns, the government and non-government organisations works for their upliftment. In Mexico, participation of women in all sectors is quite high. I feel, in the years to come, India will make progress towards improving status and safety of women.
Crime against women high
Sonam, 23, Bhutan
Bachelor in physiotherapy, LPU, Jalandhar I have been in Jalandhar for four years now. It’s been a learning experience. I’m familiar with the culture of Punjab. Bhutan is also a conservative country but not like India. Women there feel safe and free as compared to this country. The crime against women is the reason behind these restrictions.
Feel shy talking to boys
Zohal, 25, Afghanistan
Foundation English course at LPU, Jalandhar India is far more advanced than Afghanistan. I came to Jalandhar four months ago. I don’t have to cover my head with a dupatta here. In my country, girls are not allowed to study and there are restrictions if they want to work. People say Indian girls are bound by strict rules but they should see our plight in Afghanistan. I feel shy talking to boys. The culture back home has made me an introvert.
Nengilang’et G Kivuyo, 26, Tanzania
BSc (nutrition and dietetics), PAU, Ludhiana What worries me the most about the status of women in India is that there is no equality between men and women. India is a male-dominated society, while there is gender parity in Tanzania. A woman can take decisions like men be it at home or in an organisation. Why can’t it be the same in India? It’s a developing country like mine. Many of my Indian friends have shared examples of how women, especially in villages, have no idea about their rights or empowerment. It is really sad.
Haven’t made friends
Puja Kamaker, 18, Bangladesh
Bachelor in business administration, LPU, Jalandhar I’ve been in Jalandhar for two months. I’ve noticed wearing western clothes is a big deal here. Back in Bangladesh, I’m free to wear what I like and feel comfortable in. I don’t like men staring at me here. Somehow I haven’t made many Indians friends yet.
(Compiled by: Ifrah Mufti, Rameshinder Singh Sandhu and Aakanksha Bhardwaj)