With the Olympics proving once and for all what Indian women can do when they’re empowered, it’s time to step out of ‘suitable’ roles as decided by society and break all stereotypes.

That, in effect, is what Rajasthan’s chief minister Vasundhara Raje said in Jaipur, on the final day of the BRICS Women Parliamentarians’ Forum. She said, according to ‘The Indian Express’: “Today our Lok Sabha is chaired by a lady, our external affairs minister is also a lady. Three of our large and populous states have women chief ministers. (But) there are still strides we need to make. I always say, women cannot be kept down to the level of tourism, or at the level of women and child development. The time has come out to reach out to defence, the time has come out to reach out to finance.”

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In 2016, we are still stuck with the social belief that women cannot head the finance ministry. Only on one occasion, in 1969-70, was this norm broken, by Indira Gandhi. Before and after this historic year, finance has always been a male minister’s portfolio.

So it is exciting to hear a woman in power point out all the other places that women can aim for power. Raje also explained what she meant by power: “Ruling is not just about using one’s brain, it is also about compassion, care; it is also about having a heart,” she said. “If the two come together, I believe things can get done quickly.”

To hear a woman leader talk candidly about compassion, an emotion that sometimes signifies vulnerability, is so refreshing. It makes us thankful for women leaders who inspire dialogue amongst people and within the government to lead change that will benefit all women in society. The issue needs to be addressed at the grassroot level first, of course, but when government is involved and laws are implemented, the process of change grows threefold. India, at this moment, is a hotbed of change. It gives us much hope.

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“If by strength is meant brute strength, then, indeed, is woman less brute than man. If by strength is meant moral power, then woman is immeasurably man’s superior. Has she not greater intuition, is she not more self-sacrificing, has she not greater powers of endurance, has she not greater courage? Without her, man could not be.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Feature image credit: alchetron.com

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