From kitchen to the board-room,from mountain to the moon – women have conquered all spaces! Leading the way and asserting her choices she marches on ward with great resolute, firm and determination in a male-dominated world to carve out her own identity, undeterred and unfettered to reach the pinnacles of glory.
But her path towards progress and success has not been one joy ride so far.And that’s primarily because of the dichotomy that exists in the Indian society where on one hand women as deities have been worshipped while on the other hand the treatment meted out to them is worst than animals. And with her role stereotyped in the society, her progress has been marred by perceptions for she is bound and chained in the shackles of religion,rituals and age-old traditions.
But despite the unabated obstacles,there are quite a few inspiring stories that shine like beacons of hope and serve as a guiding light to a bright future that’s ahead of us!
In fact at this very moment, I am reminded of a simple but true-life story of seven Gujrati women from Mumbai who got together to start a venture.And the vision they cherished was to create a sustainable livelihood with the only skill they unanimously shared in common being – Cooking! Today,their products grace our tables during meal times and are enjoyed as snacks alongside main cuisines in weddings and parties.
This is the success story of a Lijjat, a Self Help Group that began in 1959 with a seed capital of just Rs. 80 and has flourished over the last five and a half decades with an annual turnover of over 100 million dollars. And with Rs. 290 million in exports in 81 branches and 27 divisions across India,this enterprise employs around 42000 people! You could do your math to calculate the number of women in this value chain who have gained employment as a result of the brainchild of these seven ordinary yet brilliant Gujrati women. These women are just like you and me but they were on a mission to make a difference in their lives.
I have cited this as an example because it is a success story that we all can relate to at different levels.Since 1959 India has progressed as a nation.Today,we have so many avenues towards getting an education with technology (thanks to the computers and the internet) playing a leading role together with ideas culminating into startups. But five decades ago these seven semi-literate Gujarati housewives had no access to any of these tools to fall back upon. Thus their success story is indeed a case-in-study of what not women can achieve when it comes to entrepreneurship, empowerment and emancipation. It is a story of entrepreneurship because they took the first step outside of their homes towards realizing a common goal. It is a story of empowerment because together they wanted to equip themselves with a stable source of income for a better future. And it is a story of emancipation because how often do you see women who are semi-educated from middle-class families making it outside the periphery of their homes especially with responsibilities of the household and rearing children thrusted upon them and then to venture into an enterprise? The answer to it is – hardly, seldom or even Never!
But when their dreams took wings it had a spiraling effect for it inspired women around in their own little way in giving them the hope, belief and confidence that - ”Yes, I can” that gradually resonated into unified voices as - ”Yes, We can”! And the success story of Lijjat truly inspires me,as a Media and Communication professional because in my sphere of expertise it gives me the conviction, belief and courage that I too can make this short film or execute this idea even on a shoe-string budget no matter how insurmountable the problems at hand might be.
And today it is not surprising that once again we have women like Indra Nooyi, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Chanda Kochar etc. in India to Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg in America heading multi-billion dollar conglomerates and shattering all stereotypes. The dynamics of progression i.e. from SHG to the board-room may have changed – but the core essence here is that women are leading the way!
In the coming years we will soon be a witness to yet another historic election in the world’s most powerful nation,the United States Of America where in all possibility the people would elect their first woman president,Hillary Clinton after Barack Obama’s stupendous victory became the first Afro-American president to lead the country. And her win would inspire yet another generation of women as she sets an unprecedented milestone in the history of America. For a moment,I oft imagine on how would Bill Clinton soon be addressed as - First Gentleman of the United States Of America? And with Hillary Clinton’s victory, for all we know, America in years to come would soon have her first female Afro-American president as well! Talk of women as inspiration and women in leadership…then it takes one step by them to change the course of history!
However, at the outset is very important for men to understand and accept that even though a woman in her life-time may don many roles -be it as a daughter, wife, mother etc but she can be an instrument of change. And as someone once rightly said, “You educate a man,you educate him alone; You educate a woman and you educate a generation”. And with a sound education,she can touch dizzy heights, conquer newer domains and walk into unknown territories where no man may have dared to tread.
And today I, as a woman am proud to be a part of this social awakening that’s taking place where equal opportunities beckon,the patriarchal hierarchy/ male supremacy both at home and work are being broken and an equal platform where both men and women can come together to have an open dialogue and debate – all of which upholds and elevates the status of women in the society. And I am glad to be a liberated woman of the 21st century!!
Viva Woman! We Rock!
Feature Pic: National Council