Tuesday, March 9, 2010

All in the name of women empowerment...

If you ask me, what I think about the women's reservation bill passed in the Indian parliament today...three simple words describe my state of mind..."I feel insulted"...period...

Oh yeah...you are most welcome to shout out abuses at me for not supporting the cause of women in India...but the fact remains, I feel insulted...

Blame it all on having being born into a privileged family, where I have never been discriminated against because of my gender...a life in which, I have been taught to value and cherish education and the power of choice...I agree that I may just be missing the point...I may just be ignorant of how 'reservations' for different sections has helped the Indian society progress in the past...maybe some of you could throw more light on that...perhaps the bill is really a beacon all set to light the path for empowering Indian women in politics and other arenas...I really haven't bothered to understand the nitty /gritty details of the bill...and I absolutely realize that my opinion is clouded by my relatively privileged upbringing...but the fact remains that as a woman, I feel insulted...not empowered, now that it's been offcially stamped that women are the weaker sex in the country of my birth...

Personally I feel the need for reservations for any section of the society, gender based or otherwise, spells the failure of a system and the society, at large to faciliate the progress and development of that specific section of people...rarely, if at all, does it empower the system and its people...

So far, in life, whatever major decisions I have taken, are the outcomes of choices that I have made...what I want to study, where I want to live, whom I want to marry, what I want to do with life in general...and whatever I have achieved or not achieved, in life, is because of my merits and demerits and the choices that I have made...not because of favors and disfavors that have been meted out to me...what makes me feel empowered is being given those life choices and being held accountable for them...

What Indian women need is the power that comes with education , the opportunity of making educated choices and being given the respect for a choice that's been consciously made...'respect for a choice that's been consciously made' is particularly important here...

Given the choice between pursuing extraordinary career options and being a housewife, if a woman chooses the latter...She should be respected for it, not stereotyped...

Given a choice between pursuing extraordinary career options and being a housewife, if a woman chooses the former...She should be respected for it, not reprimanded for being over ambitious...

Given a choice between studying the arts and sciences, if a woman chooses the latter...She should be respected for it and allowed to do so on her merit...

Given a choice between studying the arts and sciences, if a woman chooses the former...She should be respected for it and not looked down upon based on some preconceived, stereotypical notion of lack of merit...

Given a choice between bearing and rearing a child out of wedlock and letting go, if a woman chooses the former...she should be respected for her courage to singlehandedly bring up a child, not accused of irresponsibilty without being given a chance to prove otherwise...

Any self respecting person, be it a man or a woman, will tell you that there is no greater inspiration, motivation and feeling of euphoria than that which is achieved based on one's merit, intelligence, smartness and hardwork...that's an indisputable fact...any person who has reached the pinnacle of success in an arena of work or society, and has been favored by some form of reservation to do so, can never feel or be equal to someone who has done so solely on merit...be it a man or a woman...there is nothing more to it...so where does the illusion of 'empowerment' really come from ??!!! I don't have an answer...perhaps you do?

23 comments:

Anup said...

Hi Priyanka,
I can see why you feel bad about the women's reservation bill. But India is a very complicated and actually a very poor country and whether you like it or not, you do not represent a majority of Indian women. A majority of Indian women live in a situation where they cannot demand equal rights, where their rights are abused, where they have to suffer many hardships because of our age-old customs and rituals. Giving reservations to women in the parliament and law making instruments gives an opportunity for the voices of oppressed women to be heard in the decision making process of the country.

I am not saying that I totally support the bill. I do not know if this magic number of 33% is right. I do not know if this system if implemented will not suffer from corruption and fraud like a lot of other schemes do. But this is just a point of view for you to consider.

regards,
Anup

Priyanka Rajkhowa said...

Hey Anup,

Thanks yaar for sharing your thoughts on this issue and yes I hear you...the point you make is absolutely valid...the oppressed women and the less privileged among us need their voices to be heard...and perhaps the 33% reservation for women in parliament and law making instruments is a starting point...but that's a big 'PERHAPS'...because like you said, there is really no guarantee that the magic number and bill would work or that the right people will get relevant positions to give a voice to the needs of the lesser privileged and oppressed women...The bigger question that bothers me , I guess, is where do we really draw the line as far as reservations are concerned...there will always be lesser privileged sections of society, no matter how developed India gets, given the kind of diversity the country nurtures...there has be an alternative to reservations...that can't be the only mechanism of trying to alleviate the problems of the minority and lesser privileged sections of society...social, economic, gender and n other disparities, will always exist in a country having a population of the magnitude that India has...so where really are we going to draw the line as far as "reservations" for different sections of society is concerned...that's the question that continues to bother and worry me...but yep, I do see the validity of the point you make...

Thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts...

Rush said...

I couldn't agree with you more! Very well said.

It's high time we came out of the "reservation" concept in general. I do think that a lot needs to be done for those thousands of women who suffer oppression, but there has to be a better way than the blanket %. There has to be a more targeted approach to benefit the right people.

Neha said...

Well written Priyanka! I am divided on this one though....I completely agree that the whole reservation system should be done with and is insulting to women since we are working everyday to move away from the stereotype of the weaker sex...But in a country like India where a lot of women do not have the proper tools such as a support system or proper education it is sometimes necessary to force these restrictions to atleast make some avenue open to them and even then these reservations are not safe from corruption and exploitation.

I do agree with u completely that education is where the key is...I dont think it fair that an uneducated person make decisions for others on a large scale whether man or woman..and we can see what that has done if we look at some of our old politicians who lack the education to govern...Today u, me and indian born women like us all over the world have the power to make decisions for ourselves bcoz we are educated enough to not let anyone dictate..we care a damn abt sociteal pressures cause we know we can survive and live well on our own and without the support of others as a matter of speaking. Education is what will provide the power to choose to uneducated women in India and finally they can make a place for themselves without the need for quotas and reservations.

SBora said...

its funny but i can totally envision you with an insulted look on your face!
i have to admit I am torn on this one. i agree with some of the comments you have already received...yes we are the previledged lot and therefore this may be hard for us to digest but you did hit the nail on the head by linking empowerment to education. it is indeed the only solution as far as i am concerned. having said that education itself is a struggle for many indians ......thus making it challenging

Priyanka Rajkhowa said...

@Rush,Neha,Rimjhim ba:
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this...

@Rush:
I agree completely that we need to get away with this reservation thingie...and there needs to be alternative to empower oppressed sections of society...but I really don't know what that alternative is...I think R2 brought up a good point about there being a fine nuance between "reservation for representation" in a democracy and "reservation for college seats/jobs" etc...whatever it is, like you said, either way...we need more targeted approaches for dealing with the issues of the oppressed sections of the society...reservations can never be the final, absolute solution...

@Neha and Rimjhim ba : Amen to you guys...you've perhaps hit the nail on the head when you say that despite everything and being torn on this issue, the bill may pave the way for actually ensuring that oppressed sections of women in India have access to education opportunities and are provided the power of making the life choices I mention...perhaps that representation in law enforcing structures is the need of the hour...which the bill may pave the path for...either way, am keeping my fingers crossed...

Riya said...

What do you mean by "country of birth"? Is that all you feel for India? Just a place where you were born and nothing more? When you were born into such a privelaged family and feel so strongly about the happenings there why did you need to leave "your country of birth" and let yourself be treated like a second class citizen in USA?Please be in the country, contribute to its betterment and then discuss these issues.

Neha said...

@Riya - and why are u so upset if we discuss the issues in India. I am assuming you live in India so u don’t ever discuss issues that happen in the US since u are not a resident of here? Any person whether Indian or not has the right to discuss whatever they choose about whatever country.

As far as living here and calling India our country of birth well it is so why shouldn’t we call it that. Most of us have moved away from India not bcoz we are bad citizens but in search of better education opportunities. In a place like India where even 99% doesnt get you admission in a college you sometimes need to go to the US/Australia to get a better education or maybe our parents made the decision of moving here. Just because we dont live in India doesnt give u the right to judge us as Indians. Watch 3 idiots which was a superhit in India and it will show you the reality of education in India.

I am an Indian born american citizen and am not treated as a second class citizen anywhere,not in India or America so please if u are treated that way sorry abt that but do not generalize for the rest of us. I am sure in today's date I do more for India than you do even though you probably live there. I support a number of charities there and also plan to adopt a baby girl in a few years from India. So do not judge people and say things like you dont live here what are u doing for your country. Well then you dont live in the states so dont talk how we are treated here. and if by any chance you do live in the US please go back to India so that you can stop being treated like a second class citizen.

SBora said...

woah...chints..riya is pissed about something else...she has issues, ignore her and thank you Neha for your retort!

@ riya: please be constructive not deameaning/rude when you criticize...that is the least you can when you are leaving a comment on a blog.

Priyanka Rajkhowa said...

@Riya: Hmmm...I was just waiting for one of these stinging "Stop writing about issues in India sitting in the US " kinda comments...you did it for me...so thanks!! I frankly have an opinion, often strong opinions about everything under the sun and am not scared to express them, no matter what of the world I live in...

And as far as what I do for my "country of birth" living here in the US as opposed to what I would do if I went back to India,all the while clamoring out loud about my inherent sense of patriotism for people to hear, Neha has hit the nail on the head on this one...

Given my capabilities, I do much more living and working here,whether you like and accept it or not, than what I perhaps would have been capable of doing actually fending for myself back in India... that's a fact !!

It's better to have a cause and work towards furthering that cause in India, even if it's while you stay abroad, rather than go back to India without a clue of how you are going to help/benefit the country...

The cause I feel passionately about is the "Education of the Indian girl child"...I do my bit from here, though you may consider it trivial...perhaps a decade from now, I will have a lot more to tell you about it when the two girls I am trying my best to educate in India, albeit from the US, make something useful of their lives...I'll let their lives speak for themselves and address your cynicism...

@Neha : Thanks so much for your support babez...you've absolutely hit the nail on the head on this one...I couldn't have said it better :-)

@Rimjhim ba: Thanks as usual for all your support :-)

GNSD said...

Beautifuly worded... I agree.. when we tal k abotu empowerment of women, deep down, it tells us that we are weak. Which is not true!
Bull's eye when you say: "there is no greater inspiration, motivation and feeling of euphoria than that which is achieved based on one's merit, intelligence, smartness and hardwork"

No i dont have the answer.. I am as confused and hurt as you are!

GNSD said...

@Priyanka.... Woooh.. I just read all the comments and debates on this.
I can see where Riya is coming from!
To the naked eye, in a lot of cases it does seem like we are sitting on the sidelines, and are escaping reality and having comfortable lives outside of India.
However, being in the inner circle: "Of Indians living in Us",. if you will... no one does realise the day to day life we have, the struggles, the sacrifices and the work we have to put in to make a better tomorrow for our kids, to take what our parents gave us and take it a step further.
No body likes not being around their families, their native country and in the environment who made you who you are! Like you and Neha said: We are here to improve. ANd in a lot of ways, may be we do more grass root work from here than we would from India. We will donate to countless charities, we will help education of people we know need help. We will spread the word and in a lot of cases, we will change the perception of the west: We are no a country of Snake Charmers! I am sure you have had that as well!

Its been harped enough. My brother recently moved back to India after living for a decade outside.. just because, he is now in a place to make the knowledgeable choice of using his expertise gained in the West, to do better back home! India is not just a country of birth, we are who we are, because of it.
Just because you dont live with you mother for example, doesnt make you love it any lesser.. Riya, Right?

Riya said...

Just look at your attitude,arrogance personified, you are "too capable" to live and work in India? It would have been more apt had you said that you are too incapable to make it big in India!!And what exactly are you doing in US?Doing some sad job which a majority of Americans don't want to do.How many people know you/respect you?You get educated in India using tax payer's money and then instead of serving the nation, becoming an entrepreneur, creating jobs for others, you fly off to US to do some mundane job and think you have achieved!You come across as an extremely selfish and greedy person.While that might be your nature, just don't give your expert opinion on matters you have no idea about! See the ground reality in India and then talk about the bill.When reputed leaders like Brinda Karat, Azim Premji have welcomed the move, who are you to be ashamed of it?

And you need not be in US to support two children! As for the person who asked me not to be rude, having an alternate opinion is not being rude, when you write on an open forum, you should be willing to take the bouquets and brick bats, you cannot except every one to sing your praises.

And the other important thing is that you have used that post to eulogise yourself more than lending any logical argument to the case!

And for that "Indian American" who says that she/he is never discriminated, try doing something that is coveted by the Ameicans and see what is discrimination then.How many Indian Americans have made it in US as actors, musicians, painters?

And do you have any idea about what US is doing in Iraq? IT is just another means of neo colonisation/neo imperialism, cheap labour from third world countries/citizens.Go and see socialist countries like France, Germany etc to understand world issues from a broader perspective, till then keep your myopic views to yourself!

When Japan was bombed, Japanese didn't abandon their country en masse and run to US.They toiled hard to make it big on their own soil!

Priyanka Rajkhowa said...

@Garima : Thanks girl for sharing your perspective :-)

@Riya : Your personal analysis of of my nature and personality and those of fellow commenters is irrelevant to the post and none of our business...so suit yourself and rejoice in your cynicism!

Whether you like it or not, I do have a bunch of regular readers and some infrequent readers, who drop by the blog , read and share their thoughts to provide their perspective and clarity to the issue being discussed or the question posed...some of them agree with what I have to say...a lot of them disagree with what I have to say...but their comments and thoughts are informative enough to add value to the blog post...rarely, do they drag discussions to the extent where their comment ceases to be relevant to the context of the post...unfortunatley you have just taken the discussion to the point of irrelavence with your follow up comment...

Again, whether you like it or not, I shall continue having opinions on issues, big and small, and expressing them through this blog...

I may have said this to you before, but in case I haven't , I am saying it now...why waste precious moments of your dear life dropping by my blog, reading, posting comments and coming back with follow up comments, given the conclusion you have already reached about the blog, its contents and its author...had I been in your place, I would really find better things to do !!

Neha said...

Good for you Priyanka! stand up to ignorance...:-)

Riya - my dear I love the name u have given me "Indian American" cause thats truly what I am. Though you are right I do feel discriminated aganist right now and the discriminator is none other than YOU! You are a true Indian we are not, you are a patriot we are not, You are so educated about world affairs and we are not. sounds like your tone doesnt it??? So thats why you feel like there is so much discrimination cause you are an advocate of it and are doing it to perfect strangers.

And tsk tsk darling not following your own advice...we cant opine on India cause we dont live there according to you but u can talk abt the US and the rest of the world. A little hypocritical of you there.

Well as for my mundane job of a cpa in the largest satellite communications companies of the world with 10 americans working for me what can I say...its a sad existence...(please dont miss the sarcasm its specially for you)...

I will not be commenting on your rants anymore but I will ask you to remember never to judge another girl until you have walked a mile in her heels or in your case kolhapuri chapals since you are a true blood Indian..Get some sunshine girl it might cheer you up. This is you on a blog wonder what a joy you are in person!

GNSD said...

@ Priyanka... The comments and the debates on the comments are definitely worth another blog! :-D Cant wait personally!
@ All.. The debate is more about perspective and more about choices. It is no longer about the Women's empowermenet, the reservation and the key issue raised by Priyanka.. your opinions on that issue.. not challenging one's patriotisms, beliefs or lifestyle choices!

NetworkedBlogs said...

Payal Kochar:

ok seriously.... you write tooooooo well!! I have the same feelings as you but have never been able to convey them in this manner. You go girl!!

Tue at 8:31pm
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Ravi Prakash:

I will have to disagree with this one.

I also feel this there is a nuanced difference between reservation for "representation" vs reservation for "jobs/college seats". In a representative democracy, ensuring that all sections of society are adequately represented is an important goal. A Man, however more qualified, may not have the same understanding, passion or sympathy for a Women cause (any more than a Bihari will have for a Asamese cause and hence you "reserve" Asami seats for Asamese).

My dad often tells me of the impact the 50% reservation for women in Panchayat seats (he has very close rural ties becuase of his work and family) - more empowerment, less domestic abuse, more active panchayats, less criminalization and in general rise in confidence levels, education level and achievement level of women.... See More
Affirmative actions, however flawed, have proven to be much more successful tools for social progress than idealistic notions of improving education/opportunities.

Wed at 9:49am
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Preetam Rajkhowa:

These are the i things i tried to place before you all throughout...
well expressed !!!!

Wed at 10:15am
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Dipanjan Das:

I have to also sort of disagree on this one as a whole. The idealist in me agrees with the fact that education has and always will be the key to bringing about any sustainable socio-economic change. The realist says that in a country where myriads of women are shunned into a perpetual existence deprivation and discrimination within the confines of ... See Morethe 4 walls of the kitchen or merely used as a baby producing machine (and that too only if it is a boy, more sorrow on you if it happens to be a girl), education in itself is not going to be enough to bring about that change. I am not saying that this the best solution. I have never been a believer of the "ends justify means" philosophy. But for once, I do think that given the challenges and the circumstances this may be most efficient way of bringing about that change.
I hope that some day when that women MP visits her far flung rural village in India with her posse of IAS, IPS officers at her beck and call, the media dying to capture her every move and the men-folk of the village licking her boots, some young girl who has never dreamt of going to school, some pregnant mother who is haunted everyday because she is petrified at the prospect of giving birth to a girl child, some family who has spend sleepless nights thinking about how to arrange for their daughter’s dowry and wondering why they did not abort her when she was born will look at the MP and perhaps say “Well, you know what, it not that bad to be a woman after all…. “

Wed at 1:56pm

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NetworkedBlogs said...

Priyanka Rajkhowa:

Ok folks...thanks for dropping by, reading and sharing your thoughts on this ...all the perspectives have definitely helped clear my head after the initial state of absolute fury I was in :-)...

Payal ...thanks for your support girl !

I guess most people are torn on this issue...Anup, Neha, Rimjhim ba and Rush have also expressed some interesting thoughts on the same in the blog in response to the post...... See More... See More
It would take a lot to make me favor reservations of any form...but R2 what you say about there being a fine nuance between "reservation for representation" and "reservation for "jobs/seats" etc...does make a lot of sense and may just be the missing link I have been searching for...I am still iffy though about whether what has worked at the grassroot level panchayats will have the same effect in the often 'elitist' Indian parliament...and whether there will actually be representation for the oppressed women without feeling the need for further sub reservations...and then where do we really draw the line...let's just hope for the best...

D...yessss...as usual, you are the grounding factor in my life
:-)...head is cleared...so not to worry about further arguments on this across the dinner table ;-)

Wed at 5:08pm
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Enisha Sarin:

There are choices only where there are opportunities. Where there is a historical lack of opportunities for some people, the state needs to provide an extra fillip in the name of affirmative action or reservation in order to promote the interests of these people.
There can be loopholes in reservation policy. But my best example of how reservation... See More ought to work is in Bahaven Saikia's autobiography where he writes about how belonging to an exteremely poor and lower caste family, he took advantage of scholarships reserved for scheduled caste in order to study in the best educational institutes. And then when he was well established, he no longer took advantage of these opportunities for his kids because they no longer needed that fillip. And we had a great film maker thanks to this.

Yesterday at 11:35am
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Lakshmi said...

I like your post. However I belive it takes a lot to reverse the amount of social conditioning that has been done in society, not just India. A child's life is affected by the outlook that is fostered around her/him. So if the society for several years has fostered some notions about women, where they are just caregivers always; it will indeed take some push to reverse that. It is not a man's world for some, those with education and exposure. But efforts are to be done to influence/help others too. To push them out of their cocoon. I am not aware of the details of the bill, but in general it will help force women to come out more.

Priyanka Rajkhowa said...

@lakshmi : Thanks so much for dropping by and sharing your thoughts on this one. I hear
you...what you have said and most of the others seem to echo your thoughts on this makes a lot of sense and has provided the clarity on the issue I was seeking...
Really like the way you have put it...that women who have been conditioned to behave and be treated in a specific way need an extra push to get out of their cocoon and get the required
exposure to education and opportunities to reach a position
where they can make informed life choices...makes a lot
of sense indeed...so thanks for sharing your perspective .

Subhadra said...

Hei Priyanka,
I am pretty late in reading this post. Reservation is one topic on which I will debate for and against depending upon my mood. India has a very complex political scenario and I believe till we actually see the other side of the spectrum, we really do not fully understand what can work and what cannot.
I have just finished exams and results are expected soon. I have to fail a girl in my class, as she came into my class with KG level knowledge and she has grown 2 grade levels and have reached 2nd grade, no where near 4th. But her father is now threatening me telling he will stop her studies if she fails. Of course, you or I cannot imagine such a thing happening to us, even if we failed 2 times in the same class. Here her future is totally upon her father's hands who doesn't know how to treat women other than as something inferior. He has already beaten her up and her mom when she has failed earlier. But if her mother was educated and knew that she has a right to her own decisions, my kid wouldn't have ended up in this situation. But may be when more women come into politics, though mostly they will be used for playing proxy politics, at least a few of them will make a difference to women in the long run. Though it is a big "may be"....

Priyanka Rajkhowa said...

@Subhs: I hear you...and thanks so much for shring your insights on this issue from first hand experience with the kids you are teaching!

Anonymous said...

Priyanka,

It might be a rather old blog to comment on, but the issue remains pertinent, so here are my two cents. The topic of reservation for the marginalized in India is not as simplistic as it seems. Historical discrimination that spanned over centuries cannot be done away in mere 60 years or so. Besides, the 'privileged' only display their ignorance and arrogance by talking in the way they have done on this blog comments. You talk about making choices; Naila Kabeer who works on gender and development in post-colonial countries says that "choices imply the presence of alternatives" The word choice itself is highly contested for its connotations of privilege. Some of us are giving away the best years of our lives in teaching and researching institutional discrimination and know slightly better than what has been said.