International Writers Magazine; Woman's Day
Post-Womens Day Thought
were piled up on my office table. I started clearing them one by
one. It was Monday evening. Saturday was Women's Day. So we could
not have our regular 'lunch out' in Britannia, an old Iranian hotel,
which used to claim it brought berries from Iran. And so there was
no mutton berry pulav this time.
No one can say that
the media forgot Womens Day. Almost the same news items appeared
in every paper, nothing new this year also
. It has been like this
for the past few years. The number of advertisements on cosmetic items,
fitness centres and hair cutting saloons has increased
did not waste time to find out where they offered discounts for haircuts.
There were a large number of photographs highlighting the celebrations.
In Delhi, some scavenger women from Malwa were given five-star dinner
on the eve of the Womens Day. However, I could not guess why they
were all standing and surprisingly all were in sarees of the same colour.
I got slightly irritated with the authorities. As if they wanted to
identify these women only as scavengers! Soon a book might be published
on them: The Princesses of Malwa.
The next one was, of course, somewhat better. A photo of the smiling
all-women crew of Air India: they had flown all the way from Chennai
to Colombo without a single man in the crew. I just remembered a stale
news item: gaining weight may affect flying jobs. The Hindu gave the
picture of a woman driving two cows along a road. The caption was, appropriately
enough, "Long Road to Emancipation". Good, I liked it. At
least it was different. But inside there were pictures of Manmohan Singh,
our Prime Minister, surrounded by a womens delegation which had
called on him to remind him of the Womens Bill, and of Lok Sabha
Speaker Somnath Chatterjee giving sweets to Renuka Chaudhury, Minister
for Women and Child Welfare.
There was an ILO report pointing out that most women were working for
low wages. It noted more women were now working globally but with little
social protection and less basic rights and voice at work. It also pointed
to the inequality in education in some regions, while womens education
was globally improving.
Statistics and figures
..they do their work, and submit reports
but who cares? Only in the academic plain they will be analysed and
discussed. But at the time of the implementation, the real issue will
be covered up with blankets loaded by the political parties. Analysts,
academics or statisticians will not have time to watch the implementation
process. They do not bother much about how their advice has been adopted
by policy-makers and what impediments they face when a policy is implemented.
By the time of implementation these academics and analysts would be
hidden behind the fat books of more statistical data, figures and graphs.
They speak only once in a while, they appear on the scene once in a
while. Otherwise, they all will be busy chewing new facts like rats.
I came back to papers. As usual there was also news about some awards:
Award of Excellence, Peterson Award, Golden Ovary Award, a new award
by Godfrey Phillips Bravery, the Guild of Women Achievers and Meow 104.8
FM. They all will hunt nationwide for real life stories of women and
present awards to five of the most courageous of them on March 23. How
hectic would be this hunt? Before March 23, they have to finalise it,
they have to document real life stories. I dont believe in such
awards, how can you judge that one woman is more courageous than the
other? How can you measure courage? A seemingly timid woman may display
admirable fortitude in a totally helpless condition when she has no
other alternative. Precisely, it all depends on the situation. And what
are these real life stories? Are all life stories not real? Whose life
I know I must remove the glasses of the critic. (You are here to read
news, not to criticize it). Suddenly, I am taken aback by a news item
which appeared in the Deccan Herald of March 9. The report was
about a girl who had disguised herself as a boy for a job. It happened
in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. On the Women's Day, Sreesanth
met with an accident while riding a bike. Then he was bundled into an
auto rickshaw and taken to a hospital where the doctor asked him to
take off his shirt for a detailed check up. But he was not ready to
do that. The doctor got suspicious and finally his shirt was removed
by a nurse. The truth came out: Sreesant was not Sreesanth but Sree;
he was not he but she. She had been forced to
change her identity because of her bitter experience in job hunting.
There is a big bias against women, she argues, in the job market. Yes,
we cannot ignore the truth. Women laborers are paid lower wages than
their male counterparts. I remembered the ILO report. If a girl like
Sree had to disguise herself as a boy (Sreesanth), it was not a crime
but an adventurous, really courageous, feat. Godfrey Phillips may please
take note of this. Can you deny that she is brave? Can you give her
an award for bravery?
solomon March 13th 2008
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