Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Women's Day : Some Thoughts !

Women’s Day : 2017 – 8th March

Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50

From being a demand for equal rights of women factory workers to aspiring for an equal planet, International Women’s Day has come a long way. Even though the day comes today with commercial packages like discount on hair treatment to buy one get one free offers, the day remains as a quest for a world free of discrimination.

International Women’s Day is an opportunity when we share stories of discrimination, stories of achievement, stories of movements across the globe with one single objective – to look forward to a world that celebrates womanhood.

Building on the theme of Planet 50-50, the UN theme this year is ‘Women in the Changing World of Work’.

It is a very significant theme as it covers all the aspects that rule a society today – it talks about economic, social and political rights of Women. It talks about the need to recognise the contribution of women to the work force across the world. It recognises the need to acknowledge the economic significance of women. For a change, it sees women beyond the role of domestic responsibilities.

Yes, it is a changing world of work. It is world where young girls are being sent for education with the hope that they would choose a career for themselves. It is world where women can aspire to lead their organisation. It is a world where a woman can choose to have a bank account to save her hard earned income.
But is this significant enough to believe that the world has become nearly equal ?
A report mentioned in Wall Street Journal states that ‘Women are still underrepresented at every corporate level and hold less than 30% of roles in senior management.’ Which means that the world is ready to accept women as workers in corporate sectors but not ready enough to accept women in  the position of a leader.

And obviously, this discrimination is not just rampant in the urban corporate sector. A study by FAO has pointed out that women comprise an average 43 percent of the agricultural labour force of developing countries. The female share of the agricultural labour force ranges from about 20 percent in the Americas to almost 50 percent in East and Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. However, irrespective of the immense contribution that women provide towards land and land based activities their right over land, land produce, land ownership, land tenure, decision-making is extremely limited. Another study titled “Gender and Land Statistics” by FAO gave an introduction to the Gender and Land Rights Database (GLRD) looking at the distribution of agricultural holders by sex. It was revealed that in India, the percentage of land holding by female ranges between 10-19%. Also, it was observed that in case of Joint or Solo ownership in South Asian countries the ratio of male to female land ownership is at 27:10 and 52.2:8.5 in India and Bangladesh, respectively.

Which again points out to the fact that women seldom have a right over the land that they nurture. The world is ready to take in their sweat, their soiled fingers, their bent backs but is never ready to accept their role as land owners.

A major reason behind such discrimination is the politics of economy. A share in productivity and prosperity would immediately attach a social significance. With right and control comes power and the world is not ready to accept that! The history of mankind points out to the fact that with power comes the right to subjugate and hence the reluctance to handover women that power. The moment a woman assumes the power to lead men under her, the power to sell her own produce, the power to decide on her income, she weakens the forces that keep her suppressed. Then she goes against the social norms of an unequal world.

The society at large is ready to give women some rights – bit by bit – but not every right. Yes, you can go to office but you must remember to make the dishes when you are back home. Yes, ofcourse you can earn as an agricultural labourer but then you must be ready to hand over your income to your husband for his drinking and gambling – he is a man and he needs his share of ‘stressbusters’. And if you are a mother, it is you who has to tie the child to your back and work in the field – even though it may be physically challenging for you!

And if you dare violate, there are tools available to put you ‘back in track’. They would mock you, share obscene jokes in your presence and let out sexual remarks till you give up your job! If you dare ask for your share of land or property, they would not hesitate to brand you as a ‘witch’ and socially ostracise you! And they know that inspite of all this you would certainly hide the blue-black marks on your body and report to your work the next day! You would still choose to ignore the uncomfortable touch of your boss for the sake of your children back home!

An equal world is the one which, inspite and despite social norms and customs, offers women the equal chance to flourish – to sign land related documents, to decide on the price of agricultural produce, to come home late due to work pressure (and not be compelled to follow it up with yet another round of domestic chores). An equal world guarantees that a woman construction labourer would not be dragged by her supervisor to raped and re-raped in lieu of yet another day’s wages and the safety to a woman call centre worker to be back home safe in the middle of the night – without being afraid of beastly predators. That day the world would certainly be equal when the world would perceive the rape of a sex worker as a crime and not overlook sexual advances by a male colleague as ‘just a small, friendly banter’.

And that day we really do not need to designate and observe a separate day for women, when the world would perceive ‘Equality’ as a need and not a choice. Till then – long live Women’s Day and the quest for an equal world….
SWADHINA, 34 C Bondel Road,  Kolkata-700019, India

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