Hopes, Dreams and the Importance of Choice.

After all those years of confinement and struggle, women have finally started to step outside the marked boundaries of their kitchens and homes to chase their dreams and follow their hearts to their desired career paths. But as much as women are appreciated for managing both home and work, they are still being criticized at large. A working woman having a house-help is considered incapable, whereas a woman who is a house-maker is looked upon as primitive and insignificant because she is supposedly undeveloped in modern society. And the worst part is that these opinions take an exact opposite form depending upon the situation.

A woman wanting to study further, wanting to pursue a career in a male-dominated field, or even just pursue a career, or wanting to settle down in life, be it early or at a later point in time, requires the consent of almost everyone around her but her own. And that’s exactly where the problem lies. In a world that boasts of equality, a female still doesn’t have the freedom of choice.

Not denying the fact that there are reservations at universities and work, supposedly entitled to women to make them feel equal and empowered. Although we appreciate and are proud that we are slowly marching towards a world that knows no gender bias, it is also crucial to understand that we aren’t there yet. A humble request to not feel very conceited but to normalize the developments that are being made. We are evolving, yes, but why is it that we have to look down on those women who choose to settle down early and start a family? Why can’t we just accept the fact that it is completely and purely, their own choice? We can obviously learn to respect the fact that every individual has their own priorities. But the question is, was it really their choice?

A woman’s personal preference should be the key factor in determining what she wants to do ahead but this preference is heavily influenced by socio-economic constraints and pressure to conform to traditional gender roles. The fact that women leave work after marriage reflects lack of support, cultural norms, household and caregiving responsibilities, nature of work available to them, etc. The occupational choices of most young women are severely circumscribed, and even when employed, they are subjected to vulnerable conditions with little improvements. When ILO (International Labour Organisation) and Gallup conducted a survey [1] which showed a staggering 70% of women prefer to work in paid jobs when given an option. The freedom to work, by choice, in safe and dignified conditions, is integral for a better tomorrow. Guaranteeing that women have access to this right is an important end in itself.

On a global scale, although there is an increase of women pursuing higher education globally, a gender gap in employment rates remains among highly educated women and men in some countries. Despite progress, studies show that family support and other policies are crucial for an increase in women’s labour force participation rates. As of the August 2020 Fortune Global list, only 13 women (2.6%) were CEOs of Fortune Global 500 companies — and all of them (no offense meant) were White. [2]

Let’s look at India now. As per World Bank Databank [3], women account for only 19.9% of the total labor force in India, a shocking low in comparison to some neighbouring countries such as 34.8% in Sri Lanka, 30.6% in Bangladesh, 20.5% in Pakistan, and 41.8% in Singapore. Also, according to the Global Wage Report 2018–2019 [4], the hourly wages of women are 34% less than men in India, a disparity that is highest among 73 countries. It is often suggested that a major reason for the poor labour market outcomes of Indian women is the high incidence of child marriage in India. Why is the statistic so regressive?

Women are categorized as working women when they earn a salary or have some source of income from avenues outside the home or via entrepreneurship. This does not necessarily imply that they can bring in ease at the family forefront so to say the responsibilities associated with looking after the children, elderly family members, and household chores. Not that they don’t want to carry out those responsibilities, but the question here is whether they have the choice. Now let us understand what the word avenues means, shall we? In a country like India, the list of most chosen professions ranges from a garbage-picker, cleaning person, caretaker, healthcare worker, call centre executive to teachers, doctors, and scientists. It is also important to keep in mind another section of women who have to choose a profession that is either contrary to their will or not well-received by society as they are the sole breadwinners of the family.

Time has witnessed that the position of a woman in society is to a great extent affected by the culture and how they are socialized. Since childhood, girls are more familiarized with words such as ‘sincere’, ‘obedient’, and ‘sweet’ in contrast to boys who are more familiarized with words such as ‘smart’, ‘intelligent’, and ‘mischievous’. Such stereotypical distinctions, often tend to indirectly suggest women opt for courses like art and non-technical educational fields and men to opt for more technical and vocational fields. The so-called choices that women make are greatly influenced by society and the disproportionate number of women in the STEM fields stands as a witness to this misery. All of this due to the misguided understanding of the roles they ought to play. Women who chose to follow non-traditionalistic paths have had to undergo ridicule, discrimination, and multiple rejections, much more than their male counterparts. Juggling between work and home, several women abandon their dream, unable to balance the duality.

Let us now explore another reason. The film industry and most sitcoms portray women in an incomplete sense. Most of the Indian sitcoms handover women with roles that are very plastic and do not exhibit their inner character, strength, or determination. The majority of the films, most of which are hero-centric, depict a woman as a mere companion to the hero, with no individualism, but just as someone with high beauty standards or as a character taking care of what is known as “a woman’s duty”. Such a perception of women has penetrated deep into the roots of our nation which also proves one of the major reasons for the lower participation rate of rural women to urban women in the labour force despite having the necessary family support.

This might sound all gloomy but hang on, some women outshone all the problems and have been able to impact society by and large. Six-time Olympic champion in boxing, Mary Kom, the woman who played a key role in realizing the Mars Orbiter Mission, Ritu Karidhal, the first woman to head an Indian missile project, Tessy Thomas are a few examples and the list goes on.

The question that arises now is, how should we assist them in carrying out their choices? A simple three-lettered word ‘ASK’ can help us understand the solution better. A stands for acceptance, S for support, and K for knowledge. We as responsible citizens of this country, should accept and acknowledge a woman’s choice, support her in times of discrimination and ridicule, and consider her as equals during knowledge exchange. Women must be put in a position to solve their problems in their own way without any hesitation or sympathy as the women of our nation are very capable of doing it.

Signing off with a powerful quote by Lena Dunham that characterizes the essence of our message “A huge part of being a feminist is giving other women the freedom to make choices you might not necessarily make yourself”.

Emphasizing on our choices,

Ayushi Chakrabarty and Poojaa C






Official account of the GirlUp campaign chapter, VITC. Girl Up is part of the United Nations campaign for gender equality.

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Girl Up VIT Chennai

Official account of the GirlUp campaign chapter, VITC. Girl Up is part of the United Nations campaign for gender equality.