From ‘homemakers’ to ‘nation builders; From independent to empowered

The year 2022 is of special significance to every Indian, given that it marks the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence. As we celebrate ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ to commemorate our hard-earned freedom from the shackles of British Raj, we also embark on the onward journey towards Amrit Kal – an era of inclusivity and progress.

This journey of our independence was a movement that parallelly led to the encouraging progress of women in India. A satyagraha in itself. A journey of self-belief, courage, sacrifice, and camaraderie, spearheaded by some ‘revolutionary women’. They believe in their capabilities and refuse to be defined by any gender roles set by society.

The year 2022 is also very special in the timeline of women’s history in India. We saw the appointment of Ms. Droupadi Murmu as the first tribal and second woman President of India. Her win is a tribute to the generations of women who through our nation’s history, paved the way for that moment and whilst we took long to get here, let us soak in the moment in all its glory and what it means for the future.

As more and more women got access to education, it facilitated the transformation of young girls into resilient women ready to take on leadership roles, irrespective of economic or social background. And so, in this 75th year of Independence, we look around us and see women becoming icons in a well-entrenched democracy. This also reflects in our legal system, which has recognised the need for empowering women. It has been a journey from Ms. Leila Seth, the first woman Chief Justice of a High Court in India to soon having the First Woman Chief Justice of India- Justice BV Nagarathna. These women have questioned and taken to bits the gender constructs that once obstructed women’s growth in leadership roles. We’ve seen in our lifetime Mary Kom, Mithali Raj, Kalpana Chawla and so many more. Women in India fly commercial planes, fighter jets, send probes to Mars, innovate, run public-enterprises, cause social change, are legislators, judges and executives, provide jobs to the masses through successful ventures as entrepreneurs, head scientific bodies; and all of this while most of them are also fulfilling the expectations of their conventional gender roles.

Women have learned to do it all. There is a common element to all these stories- access to education leading to financial independence, inclusivity and most importantly, potential. Sustaining gender parity and diversity is critical to the success of women. Empowerment is necessary. It is no longer an option. Over the years, India has been reshaping its policies to empower the average Indian women by granting access to education and by financial inclusion. This has ensured that a woman can be Atmanirbhar. Equal opportunity is a must in all regards. It is true that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.

We must bring women into the mainstream and equally into the unconventional. I believe this applies also to the corporate world. Women need to be where innovation and decision are taking place. Women need to be present in traditional industries that need reform. We need more women scientists. More women engineers. More women politicians. More women CEOs, CFOs, CTOs, etc. More women judges. More women athletes. More women cops. Frankly, we need diversity at all levels. Equally, we need more diversity in areas where women have typically been stereotyped, for example, in the role of primary caregivers. Why don’t we have enough male caregivers? For this, all the stakeholders of the country, including the judiciary will need to step up their role. Women will need more funding, more opportunities, less hurdles to success, more facilitative policies (eg the maternity benefit act). Some of the biases that set in during our early years need to be shed for otherwise they fundamentally stunt our future. This starts at the time of birth and is passed on from home to school to workplace to marital home.

Whilst we have won quite a few of these battles, we are tired of having to fight for basic rights enough. Today we have reached a point where women are independent wealth creators. We need to prioritise welfare and dignity, particularly health and economic welfare. Unfortunately, rurally women lack so much on the health front; Access to hygienic living conditions or basic medical care are still off limits.

Today, we still see ghastly crimes ranging from rape, acid attacks, sexual harassment, bullying, etc. against women—both from well-to-do as well as marginalized sections of the society. India cannot be ‘free’ if even one of its citizens is unfree. While using in amrit kal, where we rightfully celebrate the dreamers, the disruptors, the warriors, the nurturers, the achievers, unsung sheroes, etc., we must not forget to work towards building a progressive and safe nation for women. It’s in only when we are able to leave our homes to without having to worry for safety issues, that we can get rid of social divisions and regressive mindsets.

In the initial years of our independence, women were contributing to the informal economy and in this journey to the present India, women redefined their roles as the ones fueling economic growth in addition to being culture custodians. In rural India, women entrepreneurs have emerged as leaders and job creators. More importantly they have discovered a voice to bring about a positive change transcending national boundaries and generations. I read a quote somewhere- “in woman, there is hidden the revolutionary energy which can establish paradise on Earth.”

In the words of Coretta Scott King – “If the soul of the nation needs to be saved, women, I believe you must become its soul. At present, the world needs a women’s idealism, her determination, and her empathy far more than ever. In politics, in law enforcement, in classrooms. Therefore, let’s take an earnest pledge that not only we will celebrate an independent India, but also seek an empowered India. Please, lets make our female voices heard whether shrill or melodious. Lets be seen – whether brown, black or white.

The time has come to change the game, the time has come to break the bias. Perhaps it’s time to take an exponential leap of faith. Amrit Kal presents a catalyst moment for bringing about fresh and purposeful change, for sustainable nation building. We aim to develop an environment for the modern Indian women to be more empowered and for our home makers to be nation builders.

We need to engage with children, parents, men, women, educators, influencers, etc. to break some of the biases and to rebalance the social contract. These engagements are necessary to arrive at a solution which can work towards shaping a more inclusive and sustainable future.

As lawyers, we also wish to recognise and thank the role of the law, especially the judiciary, which has called out many issues, extinguished stigmas and brought about real change especially on aspects of financial safety and independence, dignity, status in the society. Such decisions have helped in breaking regressive beliefs and mindsets. We must recognise that all this will play a greater role and serve a larger purpose. We may not see or understand it today but perhaps our children will.



Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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