In a nation where a vast majority is obsessed with the male child, I grew up in a female dominated family of three women and one man – my Father, the minority! I was the younger of two sisters and when my mother was expecting me, my maternal grandmother waited with bated breath for her ‘grandson’ to be born.... instead there I was - the second grand-daughter! As the story goes, when I was born, the nurse who came to break the news to my poor fretting and impatient dad pacing the waiting room. She actually started with the sentence - ‘Sir, I’m sorry to say…’. All sorts of terrible thoughts crossed the poor man’s head in that instant. When he realized what she was apologizing for (the tragedy of the second daughter) he yelled so hard, that she may still be getting over it after 46 years!!
I grew up in a somewhat unconventional family for the late 1900’s in India. I do not recall a single time my parents ever used the phrase ‘Girls should behave like this or that’ or ‘you can’t do this because you’re a girl’. My sister and I were brought up with conviction and confidence that every child deserves - Female, Male or Transgender.
In my entire life as a working professional spanning 22 years, I have never approached any workplace situation conscious of the fact that I’m a woman, I simply don’t think my gender has any relevance to what I bring to the table - my value at work includes the skills, competencies and contributions. I am neither apologetic, apprehensive or demanding of special privileges for my gender – at the same time I’m proud of who I am, which of course, for a large part is being a woman.
There are two India’s when it comes to equal opportunity for women. We were one of the earliest countries to have a female head of state, women have equal opportunity in the Indian Army and there are a number of successful women leading large organisations - the county’s laws are very equitable towards women. At the same time our male to female ratio is low at about 1,000 boys for 940 girls. Female foeticide and Infanticide plague large segments of our society to the point where sex-determination before birth is a crime in India, many girls are denied education and married off at young ages (as low as 12 years).
While I don’t believe in one special day for women because all people are special, however, in societies such as ours where the odds are stacked up against women even before they are born it serves as a reminder to bridge the gender-parity gap.