Gender Equality 2030: How will we get there?
According to the Gender Gap Report 2021 by the World Economic Forum, India has slipped 28 places to settle at the rank 140th among 156 countries, becoming the third-worst performer in South Asia. Further, the estimated earned income of women in India is only one-fifth of men’s, which puts the country among the bottom 10 globally on this indicator, the report said. Discrimination against women is also reflected in the health and suvrival sub-index statistics. Wide gaps in sex ratio at birth are due to the high incidence of gender-based sex-selective practices. And in spite of progressing modernisation, unfortunately, the mindset of people hasn’t altered much.
Enough of the stats. Let’s go back in time. When we think about ‘gender inequality’,what all comes to mind? Eve eating the forbidden apple and being blamed for all of mankind’s evils? Draupadi being harassed in an open court and being labelled as the “Woman who caused the dharmayuddha”. Let’s not forget Sita who had to prove her chastity in front of the entire kingdom just because Lord Ram, the ‘Maryada Purushottam’ wanted to assert his sense of righteousness and honor. It almost seems that women have been sidelined since the Big Bang. The transition from the Early Vedic Age to the Later Vedic Age was gigantic. Women went from being worshipped to being bound to household chores. They went from presiding over in meetings to being castigated and their power being further diminished. In our culture, women are supposed to be delicate, soft, shy, timid, easy to tame. That’s the definition of a woman. The term ‘gender inequality’ has seeped so deep into the roots of our culture, that it’s almost impossible to eradicate it.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
~ Nelson Mandela
Education is the first step for people to gain the knowledge, critical thinking, empowerment and skills they need to make this world a better place. With a population of 1.3 billion people, out of the nearly 6 million children not in school in India are girls. Between 2006 and 2010, only 26% of girls completed secondary education, compared to 50% of boys. This inequality between genders is more pronounced among lower-income families.
The disparity in education between genders is visible in India’s childhood literacy rates – 82% of boys are literate while only 65% of girls can read and write, according to the Census of India in 2011. Statistics show that around 10% more girls were enrolled in secondary school in India by 2019 when compared to 2011. While this is a significant increase, there is still a long way to go in ensuring that girls have the same access to quality education as boys. We need to make sure that girls don’t drop out of school just to take care of the household chores or to take care of the family.
The nature of upbringing that a child receives is fundamental to decreasing the gender disparity that haunts India. The stereotypes and the patriarchal construction of the Indian society attached with the term ‘gender’ needs to be dissolved and a new culture needs to be reinstated that promotes equality between both genders without creating a plane that subsides one gender. And let’s not forget that male and female are not the only two recognized genders. The people belonging to the LGBTQ community need to be given as much freedom and power that the other genders vie for. To create and embolden such an atmosphere where a person is not judged or looked down upon for the sake of their gender, children need to be taught since childhood. We see how in houses, the chores are divided between the kids. If it’s washing the dishes or sweeping and mopping the floors, the work is usually designated to the female counterpart while the male child goes out to buy groceries. Thus, we see that the roots of this entrenched discrimination begin at home when parents tell their kids that this job is to be done by the girl and that job by the boy when ideally, both the kids, male or female, should be equally prepared for the world.
The school curriculum needs to be flexible and create an atmosphere of positive learning. Parents and guardians will have to play a very crucial role at homes educating their kids. Since their birth, kids are placed in boxes cast upon them by the societal constructs of gender. “If it’s blue, it’s a boy and if it’s pink, it’s a girl.” What we call or rather perceive as colors are actually components of white light. When white light falls on an object, all the other colors are absorbed and the color that the object is, is reflected and that is how we perceive color. When all colors come together in unison, white light is produced that travels across the universe. Similarly, when all genders come together, in harmony, only then can we take our society one plus ultra.
The Pride movements and the feministic wave sweeping across the nation should be taken seriously and promoted by the government and the media. Media is the fourth pillar of democracy, it holds the power to influence billions of people. Our media is like a double edged sword. It can sway people as per its choice which is why, media is an important tool in decreasing the gender incongruity that ravages our nation. India still has a long way to go in creating a space that is not run by any one specific gender but is appreciative and respectful of all the differences that exist between the genders and still binds the country harmoniously. It is time we see gender as a spectrum instead of different sets of opposing ideals.