[This article marks the beginning of a special series at Homegrown through which we attempt to push the conversation forward to offer real solutions to societal issues our generation faces, with the active participation of young Indians spanning demographics. While
opening up a dialogue is vital, it's important not to stagnate in debate alone without offering up practical solutions. We're positive we've reached a point where we need tangible answers, not just other open-ended questions - so through this, we seek to catalyse more action-based manifestations in everyday life. Start with the small things to work towards bigger change.]
Of the various issues we're looking to tackle, gender equality and women's rights are the first on our list.
"What do you think is a feasible solution to better the current status of Gender Inequality in India?"
Here are excerpts from their answers:
Education seems to be a pan-favourite solution, with many stressing the need to have a grassroots approach to ensure that the next generation of Indians have a gender-neutral view of society. Almost everyone on the list agreed that a change in mindset was indispensable. While we found many respondents echoing similar beliefs, here are a few who offered a fresh take on the possible solutions.
Image Source: Nimble Foundation
Focus on educating the next generation, both rural and urban, on gender equality.
Jayesh Sachdev, 32, Artist & Co-founder/Owner at Quirk Box
"This is a deep-rooted issue. Education at the grass root level needs change. Primary education (onward) at rural as well as urban levels need to inculcate an acceptance of equality amongst both gender. The existing generation is perhaps far too destroyed but you might want to address your tomorrow. Patriarchal and archaic School literature needs to be revised. More often than not, it's the kids who influence the minds of their parents."
Exposing kids to a gender-just society from day one means that they will never see gender inequality as 'normal'.
Lipi Mehta, 23, Writer and Researcher
"I think that education is a good and possible method of bridging gender gaps in India. It is very difficult to change someone's mindset once they have grown up in a patriarchal society where many everyday situations of gender inequality seem like a non-problem. Many of us are 'habituated' to instances of gender inequality and this is because we have seen such instances from our childhood. When children are told about a gender-just society right from the beginning, they will not be 'habituated' to such instances as they grow up and hopefully, even take action to change the same."
Kids should be introduced to the importance of treating every gender with respect in their formative years.
Kumail Hamid, 21, Musician
"To be acquainted with social issues during the most impressionable years of their lives would be a great start to battling them in the long run. School is where we grow up, where we learn, it practically moulds us into who we are going to be for the rest of our lives. These issues need to be a part of basic education, as opposed to just the same old archaic ways as taught to kids today."
Courses with a special focus on women shed light on societal realities, and help educate students about these.
Ishita Maheshwari Mendonsa, 27, Communications Researcher and Doctoral Candidate
"A helpful start would be to incorporate comprehensive women's studies programs at high schools and universities. Speaking from experience, I too underestimated the true value of this until I took my first women's studies course in the U.S. "
Change the Portrayal of Women in Mass Media
A few even pointed out how the gender stereotypes are reinforced by the mass media, particularly in Hindi films. Here are some interesting perspectives.
Women need to be portrayed as more than just a pretty face.
Anurag Banerjee, 23, Photographer
"Our films need to propagate this mentality where female leads are not just a trophy for the male actor to parade and are portrayed to be as powerful as they truly are."
Whatever their roles in the film might be, it's important to inject personality into women characters so they're not unidimensional.
Rohan Kapoor, 22, Video Editor
"Changing the rules of mass media. For example, something like a Salman Khan film, should treat the female character in a particular manner. Even if they have to be portrayed as damsels in distress in a story, what's the harm in giving her a bit of pride, dignity, ambition, life of her own?"
Fluidity in the Definition of Gender Roles
The need to breakdown the existing gender structure where men and women are viewed with overwhelming rigidity was underscored by many who did not appreciate the repression and other adverse effects such beliefs propagated.
Let’s start with the basics.
Richa Kaul Padte, 27, Journalist/Activist
“Here’s one: Why don’t we start by believing that women are fully human?”
Men and women were made to co-exist peacefully, not engage in a power struggle.
Jezreel Nathan, 31, Artist
“I believe men and women are equals in the fact that they were created differently, unique in their weaknesses and strengths, only to complement each other. They were designed for relationship, to function alongside one another and not battle each other into isolation. Women weren’t created for domination by a male overlord and men weren’t meant to be pushed aside or silenced by a ‘feminist’ voice. The ignorance of this truth keeps us victimized in the war of the sexes; one that’s fought, but can’t be won. A concept as simple as RESPECT for THE HUMAN BEING, ITS desires, ITS longings, ITS life, could flip the culture and end this war.”
Responsibilities and gestures of kindness don’t need to be gender-specific.
Aarathi Kumar, 25, employee at MHFC
“If you’re for gender equality, show it. Household chores are not gender-specific, if you’re capable of helping out, do it. For that matter, courtesy isn’t gender specific either – women can hold the door open or offer their seat on a bus to someone else too.”
Gender equality is a two-way street.
Shreya Dev Dube, 27, Filmmaker
“I think the day we women stop expecting all men to behave in a certain masculine way, men themselves will start accepting us women for who we are and how we perceive ourselves. Men too have the right to cry and express their feeling as naturally as a woman are expected to. I deal with this everyday in my field of work – one hardly sees female DOP taking control of set in this country. Every other day I come across men in my crew who call me sir just out of habit – most of them don’t know how to deal with me cause it’s an unusual site to see a woman behind the camera. Instead of getting offended and outwardly expressing the feminist part of me all I do focus on my own walk and let my actions speak for themselves. I think if we truly are honest to ourselves, we can contribute to gender equality. Don’t be a hypocrite – if you want a man to treat you equally – don’t be offended if he doesn’t hold the door for you, don’t laugh at him if he sobs or is extremely fragile.”
The Power of Social Media
We need a change at every level in this multifaceted movement, and there's no room for hypocrisy.Bikramjit Bose, 31, Photographer"It would need to be a slow but widespread change of values and general outlook on gender. Not just at the grassroots level, where the seeds of such change need to be planted, but also at the top of the ladder (as it were) as well. So a multifaceted and multi-pronged attempt. Given these times of social media where everything is out for the world to see and judge and critique, it's also important for the right people to lead by example and not by hypocrisy. With any luck, if we kick things off now, the next generation will possibly see it come to fruition."To effect change in mindsets, we need to propagate information about gender equality on a large scale.Samyak Chakrabarty, 27, Chief Youth Marketer DDB Mudra Group and Co-Founder of Social Quotient"Mindset change. Nothing else. By using the exact method used to create inequality - propaganda - we can change perspectives. There is a reason men think the way the do. Change is something we can strategically approach and by seeding information on a large scale, we can change the way the next generation thinks. It's easier now with social media to influence urban educated masses. And then, we can allow this to penetrate to the less privileged population which will also soon be a part of the Internet grid, in about 10-12 years."
While we discussed the role education plays in effecting a positive change towards gender equality, some also clamoured for institutional support from corporates and the government in creating an immediate difference within the existing workforce structure.
Image Source:PIBEqual rights for both genders, whether it's about who brings home the bread or maternity/paternity leave.
Twinkle Singhania, 22, Corporate Professional
"There should be a mandatory paternity leave for men when the wife delivers - to instil a sense of responsibility in the fathers and reduce the burden of the mothers. Quorum in meetings/votes should have a minimum on a gender level, as against group level (like 75% of men and women respectively, as against 75% of group) - so that the voices of women are heard. I believe a lot of men do not let their better halves earn more than them with the fear of being looked down. If a culture comes in where men not working, or earning less than women, is accepted by all, the fear of being looked down upon by either gender should substantially reduce. This would let women do what they want, earn how much they deserve, etc. One reason why families prefer boys is so that they continue the legacy. Like my Dadi wanted a boy instead of me because if my father didn't have a boy, the 'Singhania legacy' would come to an end. More number of women - focused cells, be it at better skill development, providing education, employment opportunities, grievance redressal, etc."
Equip women with skills that empower them economically.
Arnav Reddy, 23, Data Analyst, Bloomberg LP
"Any solutions from a government policy directive level should try to increase the amount and type of skills women in our country acquire. The greater human capital will translate into higher wages and narrowing of the gender gap. Additionally, incentives in the form of grants and cheaper education for girls, especially in the skill-intensive sector will help spur the process of gender equality."
Let's start with people's mindsets, so we can see it translate into actions.
Ashutosh Munshi, 36, corporate professional
"Unless there is a mindset change at the grassroots, nothing will change. A serious social campaign would be a good start. Use women as influencers. Real leaders with voices. But then a social campaign will be signed off by men. So hold them accountable. I'd like to see Modi push for this the way he did for Swacch Bharat. Because what he needs to clean first are people's minds."
The Little Things Are Vital
As Gandhi said, "Be the change you want to see in the world." Any progress on Gender Equality is only going to start with a high self-awareness about the behaviour we adopt towards the opposite sex in our daily routine.
Image Used For Representational Purposes Only. Image Source: Prist
Speak out every time you see any form of discrimination taking place, and make sure the talent of women isn't overlooked on the basis of their gender. Also, take it slow when you're a date - you won't regret it.
Kerry Harwin, 32, Freelance journalist
"Making people aware of the ways - both subtle and otherwise - in which they limit the capabilities of women, makes an incremental but real change in the way people think. And yes, women should do it too, but women are often penalized for speaking out. The real responsibility is upon us, upon men. Say something when it's always the female employee who is asked to cut the cake at the office birthday parties. Say something when your domestic labour bring their young daughters to work with them. Most importantly, say something when only men are around, and they speak about women in a way you'd be ashamed for women to hear. Accept the fact that in some situations, you'll run the risk of getting hit."
"Hire skilled, hardworking women for prominent positions in your companies. Read more books written by female authors, and give them as gifts to your friends. Be encouraging to your female friends, co-workers, and lovers when they face bullshit adversity. Don't be creepy. Miss out on opportunities to get laid because you wait and try to kiss them only after you are really, positively sure that they want it. When you do get a woman home, and she hesitates or isn't sure, be patient, don't push. Find a quiet corner, and wank if you must. In the long run, this will melt inhibitions and you'll both come harder."
Your own little protests could change the bigger picture, so don't be a quiet spectator to sexism.
"Stop using sexist language, and that means no matter how harmless it seems, don't laugh at that sexist joke. And remind the person who's using the language or cracking the joke that in their own small way, they're helping perpetuate a system that's incredibly unfair. Stop slut-shaming, and body shaming. And don't just quietly stand by when other people do it - speak up. If you think a Bollywood movie is sexist, don't pay to watch it. It might seem like an insignificant protest, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. Basically, if you believe in gender equality, then put your money where your mouth is. Don't wait around for some higher authority like the government to give it to you."
Ladies, step up and demand the change you want.
Nico Goghavala, 36, Restaurateur
"Women in our society are brought up to give in. That's an ingrained cultural deficiency. Stronger role models in women. Put your foot down, roar louder than us and we will cower away into hiding. We need real women to stand up and be the difference, there are enough men out there to back them. Just like real men for me are men who put women beside them not behind them, that's the change! Women need to demand to be treated equally, nobody gives away anything in society do they..that's the sad reality about us human beings."
Research: Homegrown Staff