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Saturday, Nov 16, 2019

Women’s Day should be all about creating an equal order

International Women’s Day should be spent on truly empowering and encouraging men and women to create a more equal society. Let us work towards an age where a ‘Women’s Day’ reminder is not required.

columns Updated: Mar 11, 2019 08:53 IST
Neela Kaushik
Neela Kaushik
Our govt is busy passing laws on sanitary napkins and surrogacy. In a country with 49% women, passing a Women’s Reservation Bill may have been a great way to celebrate the day, says Neela Kaushik.
Our govt is busy passing laws on sanitary napkins and surrogacy. In a country with 49% women, passing a Women’s Reservation Bill may have been a great way to celebrate the day, says Neela Kaushik. (Arvind Yadav/HT File )
         

“Happy Women’s Day, ma’am,” said Avinash, as I walked into my office.

“No need to wish,” I said almost immediately. Something took over me. I took a moment and explained to him that this day is a reminder that we have a lot more work to do and how we have to work towards building a world where ‘Women’s Day’ is not required. He was insistent and I was in a hurry to get into my first meeting. “But ma’am, we are celebrating and honouring women today and even then you are not happy. And there is no harm in saying, Happy Women’s Day”.

I felt caught in between the meeting to which I was getting late and a stubborn Avinash who didn’t want to understand what I was saying but just wanted me to be happy because there is a day dedicated for people of my gender. But I couldn’t leave him thinking that all was happy and hunky-dory. I told him how some of the international days are declared to serve as reminders for the pending work. For example, there is ‘Iron Deficiency Day’ too.

The rest of the day, I noticed, that many wishes were exchanged on social media and over the phone, while a few more were exchanged personally as well.

When things like this happen, an internal dialogue commences.

“How can I be congratulated for being born as a woman? I didn’t have much of a say in that,” I asked myself. My internal voice in an effort to calm me down said, “Relax! They are celebrating the journey that has happened so far. We have indeed come a long way. It was first celebrated to commemorate women gaining suffrage.”

“And we are yet to see a decent representation in the government,” I retorted.

I have been recently following this fabulous group of women, called ‘Shakti’, asking the Election Commission to intervene and pressure political parties to give 50% Lok Sabha tickets to women. We still have a government dominated by men passing laws on sanitary napkins and surrogacy. In a country with 49% women, passing a Women’s Reservation Bill may have been a great way to celebrate the day.

Anyway, it was lunchtime and I went to the neighbourhood mall. There were discounts everywhere. Although it struck me how these commercial establishments were using this day to promote themselves, I decided to ignore it. A good way of celebrating this day could have been setting up a breastfeeding room, a diaper-changing space or anything that can make a woman’s experience better at the mall.

As I l walked back to work, I passed by an office building. It was hard not to notice the day’s itinerary put on a tall standee. They were hosting a fashion show, massages and games. So that is what Women’s Day has come down to? My internal voice jumped out and said, “Why don’t you see the positive side in it? They feel women are overworked. They deserve some pampering and me-time”.

The activities planned were definitely great fun! But the whole idea of Women’s Day gets diluted in fun and relaxation. Shouldn’t offices and corporates be conducting drives to interview moms on breaks who wish to get back to work? Women entrepreneurs find it difficult to connect or network and get corporate orders. Why not invite women entrepreneurs to set up stalls at the office? Or why not organise an event that will support and enable women to become leaders?

International Women’s Day should be spent on truly empowering and encouraging men and women to create a more equal society. Let us work towards an age where a ‘Women’s Day’ reminder is not required.

(An advocate of women’s rights, Neela Kaushik started a Facebook community called Gurgaon Moms to create a local support network for mothers in the city. Today, it has more than 25,000 members.)