Are you going to make it just another day, or are you gearing up to bring about equilibrium? Every year, the world gears up to celebrate the International Women’s Day, with great zeal and enthusiasm, but what happens thereafter? It is quite apt to quote here, “Achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls is the unfinished business of our time, and the greatest human rights challenge in our world.”— UN Secretary-General, António Guterres
And, we definitely have a lot of unfinished tasks to be laid. All are born free and equal, is not just a belief that is meant to stay mum in the text books and after rigorous debates. Let’s face it. In reality, practicing it in our day to day lives is even difficult. What makes it so difficult and problematic? Well, it’s all in our mind.
The patriarchy system of the society always positions women after men, and considered weaker. Women are often seen as someone who needs to be protected, and whose parents’ main goal is to collected sufficient money for her wedding while she’s growing up; then get her a groom; then get her wedded as soon as she reaches the marriageable age; and then expect her to bring a baby boy to the world. Look here, even the question of bringing a baby girl in to the world raises dubious eyebrows.
In case you’re not agreeing to this, why don’t you take a look at the situation where often a girl’s brother, father or an elderly male person will be asked to escort her. She will be asked to not to stay late outside or wear anything that is fashionable and according to her likeness, as all of this may incite someone’s sexuality and provoke him to lay hands on her security. Before, we begin this discussion; we need to first absorb the essence of Intn’l Women’s Day.
International Women's Day (IWD) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. IWD has been observed on March 8, every year since the early 1900's - a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialized world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies. This day is observed as a collective day of global celebration and a call for gender parity. No single government, NGO, charity, corporation, academic institution, women's network or media hub is solely responsible for International Women's Day. Many organizations declare an annual IWD theme that supports their specific agenda or cause, and some of these are adopted more widely with relevance than others. IWD is all about unity, celebration, reflection, advocacy and action - whatever that looks like globally at a local level
It is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities. It is also an opportunity to consider how to accelerate the 2030 Agenda, building momentum for the effective implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, especially goal number 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls; and number 4: Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning.
Some key targets of the 2030 Agenda:
- By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and Goal-4 effective learning outcomes.
- By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and preprimary education so that they are ready for primary education.
- End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.
- Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.
- Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.
Let this day be an opportunity to transform this momentum into action, to empower women in all settings, rural and urban, and celebrate the activists who are working relentlessly to claim women’s rights and realize their full potential. This year’s theme is #BalanceforBetter. This theme questions you, how would call for a more gender-balanced world. Constructive partnerships and collaborations are most welcome, without any delay and doubt.
Take a hand lens in your hand to identify how can you balance it, when the mere birth of a girl child yet raises question-marked faces? Yes, as the studies state, in 2011, India’s child sex ratio was at 914 girls (1000 boys), which is the lowest since the country’s Independence with Haryana’s a child sex ratio 834 girls to 1000 boys, far worse than the national average. According to 2001 Census, in Punjab, the sex ratio (zero-six age group) declined from 875 to 793 (-82 points), in Haryana the decrease was from 879 to 820 (-59 points); in Himachal Pradesh this decrease was from 951 to 897 (-54 points); in Gujarat, it was from 928 to 878 (-50 points); in Chandigarh the reduction was from 899 to 845 (-54 points); and in Delhi from 915 to 865 (-50 points).
Don’t they have the right to be born in the first place? Doesn’t this balance need to strike? In the country, where Goddesses are revered for their power and justice, their humanly incarnations (girls or women) are not allowed to exist. Though times are changing now, yet a lot of societies across our country and globe need to give it a meticulous look.
Dr. Rita Bakshi, Senior Gynaecologist and Founder, International Fertility Centre for Human Rights Day 2018, talked about three measures to stop female infanticide and feticide. “a) Making the people get over their societal notions, grave thoughts and stereotypical mentality of seeing the girl child as a burden. b) The sex determination and the involvement of the doctors should be completely done away with from the root level, which is usually in return of hefty payments. c) The government should deliver incentives and monetary remunerations to families that have more than one girl child.” Let the goddess be welcomed to your family the way you welcome a baby boy.
Our first take on women’s rights to stay healthy. We asked Dr. Parinita Kaur, Consultant, Internal Medicine, Aakash Healthcare - Super Specialty Hospital, about general yet important medical symptoms women should not ignore. She said, “General weakness is the most common symptom we encounter. It could mean anything from a nutritional deficiency to chronic infections, anemia, cardiac disease, malignancy to even psychological disorders like Depression. Other common symptoms and signs to watch out for are prolonged fever, menstrual irregularities, post-menopausal or post coital bleeding, new onset headaches, any swelling or lumps on the body, etc.”
Did you know? High blood glucose or blood sugar can also be indicative of diabetes. CVD accounts for the major deaths in people who have diabetes. Here goes the clue: if it is left undiagnosed and untreated, it can put you at increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Next is the balance in the approach towards their survival. Sadly though, this is still a practice across the world that when it comes to food and nutrition, a boy is preferred first. The girl may or may not get proper diet that can boost her immunity and chances of survival. Improper diet not only leads to the unhealthy growth of the body, but also leads to stress. Stress is one of the major causes of heart risks, especially in women. Fast paced life has some benefits and many demerits as well. We spend nearly one-third of our time working in the office, home or somewhere else. Working tirelessly, causes exhaustion and stress. Ms. Pritika Singh, CEO and Planning and Strategy, Director of Prayag Hospital, talked about how stress impacts a woman's health. “According to many studies women differ from men not only in their emotional responses to stress, but also in their physical and mental health, particularly their acute and chronic stress may take a greater toll. Women may face many problems due to stress that includes irregular periods, acne breakouts, hair loss, poor digestion, depression, insomnia, weight gain, and many more.” On these lines, Dr. Ranjana Sharma, Senior Consultant, Obstetrician & Gynecologist, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi, said that if stress in pregnant women can lead to the birth of an abnormal child or cause problems in delivery.
Further, moving on to the facility of providing safe toilets. Do you recall the “lota party” from the movie, “Toilet”? Move your eyeballs on these WHO statistics, you’ll be surprised.
- With 626 million people in India, who practice open defecation, India has more than twice the number of the next 18 countries combined;
- It accounts for 90 per cent of the 692 million people in South Asia who practice open defecation;
- It accounts for 59 per cent of the 1.1 billion people in the world who practice open defecation
Another study reveals:
- India has 17% of the world’s population, but accounts for 60% of all people in the world without sanitation
- 10% of urban India defecates in the open – these are majorly people who have migrated to towns in search of better earning opportunities, but have failed to find a home and live in slums.
- In the slums of Mumbai, 81 to 234 people share one toilet
- Rural folk in India have more number of TVs and cell phones than the number of toilets!
Despite the fact that open defecation has declined by 31 percent since 1990, approximately 300 million females (women and girls) in India still have no other choice left with them than defecating in the open areas. Every morning, they struggle to deal with the nature’s call as they squat with a mug of water in a field while keeping a watch for the evil-minded people. In case you aren’t aware, health and sanitation have been considered as part of Article 21 on various occasions by the courts in India.
Of 17 Sustainable Development Goals, 6th Goal is focused on “Clean Water & Sanitation,” and underlines that 2.4 billion people worldwide don’t have access to basic sanitation services like toilets or latrines. Dr. Bakshi threw some light on the issues faced by women due to unavailability of toilets or open defecation. “This aggravates the problem as men, then, take it as an opportunity and often force themselves on these innocent lives. The dirty and contaminated surroundings expose them to several diseases. It is also a host to urinary infections, which can be really treacherous for women.”
She further added about having women-friendly toilets. “The women friendly toilets must be easily accessed and afforded by women (in cases where maintenance charges are required). It must have a provision of a women care taker and restrict loitering of men around it as this eventually leads to increased rapes and malpractices in and around the toilet. Along with this, it must cater to menstrual hygiene management with access to sanitary pads, clean water and hygienic toilets for prevention from various threats of diseases.”
Apt and true! Don’t women need to have a balance of hygiene with good health? Are all the privileges meant only for men? Now moving on to the menstruation problem, which in itself is a painful biological system for women, and then to top it, we have to fight the taboos. Dr. Bakshi talked about fighting Menstruation Taboos. “A developing country like India, the inconsideration, insensitivity and callous intent towards menstruation still conquers the society which is why there is still a large women population that is outliving yet persevering in the shackles of the menstruation taboos.
There are several magnanimous personalities with exalted thoughts that are working relentlessly for fighting menstruation prohibitions in the country, enlightening the lives of the young children at school level with hopes for their brighter future and developing an acceptance towards these natural processes. However, the situation is changing, but traditions like refraining one from going to the temple, kitchen and touching various objects still exists.
Menstruation is a natural process that is inevitable in any woman’s life, a process that helps in inception of offspring. But this essential life process needs a change of perception to embrace the bliss of womanhood.” On these lines, Ms. Vrutika Dawda, Director, IdeateLabs said, “Numerous women in the country are still oblivious about menstrual hygiene and do not have access to toilets during their periods, let alone sanitary products. This forces girls to drop out of school and women to skip opportunities to work or pursue further education. Perhaps, this is one of the prime reasons for a decline in female participation in the labour force. However, I believe it is high time we build awareness around sanitation, menstrual hygiene and women’s reproductive health with the help of powerful media like the ever-evolving digital platforms.”
Taking this discussion forward, we asked Dr. Bakshi about the disadvantages of the use of unhygienic clothes, as a lot of women also don’t use sanitary napkins during their menstruation days.
Apart from this, another issue goes on parallel to these issues, i.e. education. Education fuels empowerment. Once a girl child is educated, not only she can keep herself aware of her rights, and prospects of having a better future, but also help her family economically as well. The belief of a woman not being a bread earner would gradually get erased soon. However, before even a girl realizes the value of this breaking-the-stereotype move and settles things for better, parents have to take a call. Parents must understand that girls even share equal rights for being educated. Let the balance be maintained in terms of rendering support for both the genders to avail education.
However, none of it will make any sense if gender parity is not exercised in the recruitment and preference to the talent. How can we forget about #MeToo campaign? #MeToo is not just a social and social media movement, it is a part of our life and the world we are putting up in and it will continue to be so until women choose to shut the door for the predators and open the door for themselves.
#MeToo is a thumb down to the womanizers; eve teasers; (partly) sexists, even to those who try to barter some happiness with intimate, sexual, or physical benefits; and also to those who care least about the dignity of a woman and try to harass or assault her. In fact, it is a thumb down to those who consider women inferior, weaker and as an object of pleasure, in a nutshell.
All these negative incidents that are happening around the world with women can be termed as the impotent elements that contribute nothing to an ideal world that is normally fed with all good-better-best things or systems. And sadly, the singularity of this campaign, “Me” has claimers in plural; hence, #WeToo. Let the talents balance the requirements of the recruiter or employer. Let a woman not be perceived as an object of pleasure.
This International Women’s Day, let us come together to bring on that equilibrium, which can balance the factors that can consequently lead to progress. Lets #BalanceforBetter. Happy Women’s Day!