Getting forced into undesired choice!- 8 May 2013

Everybody felt shocked at Nandita’s decision. She had topped the exam results, and was considered the most suitable candidate to start a terrific career in finance. Yet, Nandita had other ideas. Much before she took the all-India competitive examination, Nandita had discussed with her parents something which she or her parents never revealed to anyone. The moment the results were out and she emerged on top, Nandita chose to get married. She was barely 21 and opted to make a family rather than a lucrative career in finance. Her parents hunted for the right boy for the good-looking Nandita and the girl got married in less than a year’s time.

Friends got a shock when they received the invitation card for the wedding. Many of them could not take the thing easily, and rushed to Nandita’s place. “Why did you do this? Did you not know that a great career awaited you?”, they asked rather indignantly. Nandita smiled. “I do not have to say much, friends. All I can say is that I chose my career — at home, in my own home. And I took the competitive examination only to prove a point that I did not run away; I made my choice consciously”. The friends were simply speechless.
Nandita made her choice. But, in our society, there are countless women who get forced into making choices they never wanted to make. Countless- lakhs of women are made to opt to housewives even though they are qualified to pursue challenging careers. This is because, in our society, a very large percentage of people still think only traditionally, giving women a second-fiddle status in the scheme of things.
Of course, the number of women at workplaces is growing every passing year. Of course, women are breaking into newer economic activities. They have entered almost every field of human endeavour — from mining to space sciences and exploration. Yet, the society has not been able to break the shackles of traditional thought. That is why, a huge percentage of Indian women are still not able to utilise the fullest potential to be useful to the larger society. For, a very big number of women still get forced into accepting the fate of being only housewives.
Let me hasten to add here that there is nothing wrong in being a housewife. For, by any standard, being a housewife is much harder than being a career woman. Managing the home is much harder than managing an office or a business organisation. And that is why many women use their workplaces as an escape from the rigorous work at home.
The point to make here is simple, however: Some women, again in good number, may decide to be housewives, which is fine. But if there are women who get forced into being housewives, then something is amiss in our society.
And now is the time for us to examine if we, as a society, are able to facilitate women to pursue their choices, or whether we are forcing them stay at home perforce!
In global comparison, the Indian woman lags behind the world in terms of opportunities to use potential to the fullest.
The Global Gender Gap Report 2011 of the World Economic Forum ranked India at 113, which was ranked 98 five years earlier. In a study covering 135 countries, 113rd rank is quite lowly, to say the least. This study was based on parameters like economic participation and opportunity, education attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.
It is very unfortunate that we should have such a low ranking in global comparison on such a vital issue. These figures indicate a social trend — of not treating women as equal partners in every walk of life. This pinches. This hurts deep in the heart. For, if the Indian society has to make it to the top of the world ladder, then it can only ill-afford to ignore the component of women in its growth agenda.

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