“Why this sudden awakening?”- 29 January 2014

The stand taken by Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi about enhancing the level of empowerment of women is obviously out of electoral compulsion. He seems to have realised all of a sudden that Indian women need to be empowered and that his party must pick up the issue. When elections are round the corner, such spurts do come to fore.

However, women’s empowerment is beyond all such spurts and political parties can play only a limited role in this matter. For, as experience shows all over the world, the woman is the one who should wake up to her own potential. Once that happens, the woman — any woman — becomes unstoppable in her own growth and progress.
This does not mean that political parties have no role to play. For, a greater representation to women in democratic institutions is a major Indian issue, and the political parties will have to come to terms with the reality that at least so far, not much has been achieved in this regard.
Yet, I have always insisted that women’s empowerment is not an issue of somebody’s mercy on the womenfolk. In my belief, women’s empowerment is a matter of their spiritual awakening and of taking control of their own lives, rather than waiting for some largesse. The story of M.C. Mary Kom, which I highlighted in the last edition of ‘Persona’, stresses this point very well. Of course, Mary Kom is not the only one woman in that league. For, countless women the world over have taken charge of their lives and guided their own destinies in a desired direction to make a mark for themselves.
I would like to stress again that the most important trait of such women is their resolve to help themselves. They do not wait for somebody showering upon them some freebies so that they start living well. On the contrary, for such women, living a life of only material well being is never the goal of life.
When Dr. Manda Deshpande decided to follow her heart and marry Dr. Prakash Amte years ago and follow him into the dense jungles of Gadchiroli, she took charge of her life and made a mark for herself. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with her husband, Dr. Manda Amte has become a very genuine celebrity who did not seek celebrity status but devoted herself to serve her chosen goal.
This is real empowerment, and this is what most women do not understand. And that is exactly why, they indulge in excuse-mongering so that they have an alibi for not working hard enough to mould their life in the chosen manner. In fact, they choose not to choose the correct path of life, and they look for chances to blame the society that it does not offer good enough opportunities to rise above the mundane.
There are countless Manda Amtes in every nook and corner of the world. They fight the same menaces and the same negative tendencies, but ensure that they don’t get bogged down by circumstances. This spirit is the real symbolism of women’s empowerment, and nothing else.
May the political parties have their own takes on what women’s empowerment should be like, but more critical in this regard is the women’s resolve which forms the core as well as shell of their real empowerment. If this resolve is complete and unwavering, then at least for that particular woman, empowerment is not the big issue.
Of course, I do not suggest that the society has no role to play. For, the society must play a positive role in ensuring that its women get enough freedom to grow and glow. They must treat their women as their equal in all ways. Yet, the point here is simple: Women’s resolve to take charge their own life is the crux of the matter.

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