Happy Independence Day! We have come a long way in terms of women’s rights since 1947. But we still have a long way to go. With every fight women win, there are many more stories of women being oppressed and shunned. Ironically, as our economy grows, female labour participation is decreasing. For every 100 boys born, there are only 89 new baby girls born. Women in India earn 57 percent of what their male colleagues earn for the same work. So yes, though we see stories of women entrepreneurs, and of women’s empowerment, when it comes to the real numbers, we are far behind most other countries.
We asked a few powerful women about what they think women in India still need freedom from, and whether women in this country are truly independent:
Richa Singh, founder of online counselling company YourDost, says that we are independent in the fact that we live in a democracy, and there are opportunities to grow. However she says that we are still not mentally independent. “We don’t have the freedom to craft ur own lives, and create an environment where the odds are in the favour of a person who puts in honest effort,” she says.
We need freedom from our own thoughts says entrepreneur Richa Singh.
“We need freedom from our own thoughts and beliefs which prevent us from thinking big, to truly believe we can achieve whatever we set our eyes on. We do not have to find our voice rather give ourselves permission to use our own voice. We need freedom from the thoughts which make us feel – “I am not important and everything else is”. We should think “I am the most important”, it is my life and it has to be my way!”
We need to become more empowered, says entrepreneur Shantala Bhat
Shantala Bhat, founder of Gamatics, India’s largest store for training equipment says, “we need the freedom from a thought that we should be like men to be successful and that we need men to protect us!”
We need to be free to feel safe, says author Kiran Manral
“What women in India need is freedom from fear, that of being able to walk down a street without fear, of being able to say no to a suitors advances without the fear of being knifed to death on a busy road, of being able to chose to study, to work, to marry to have children without the shadow of the patriarchy dictating their choices,” says Kiran Manral.
Marginalised communities need freedom, says author and activist Tara Kaushal
“We need freedom from all systems of oppression, and the discrimination and hate they cause–the caste, class and religious systems and hierarchies, patriarchy, etc. Only once these systemic issues are addressed will India be the land of the free,” says Tara Kaushal.
Anuradha Parekh cofounder of The Better India says we need freedom from class and caste
“If we scratch the surface and try to understand what independence means for every individual in a nation, we might find that we are far from being truly a free nation. And that freedom is highly subjective. For me, one of the important things I think we still need freedom from are caste and class divides that shackle the nation and restrict it from flying high and achieving the potential of 1.2 billion people working towards a better India,” she says.
Nina Lekhi, founder of Baggit says that Independence means the freedom to dream big
“Independence is when you know what you want from your life and you allow yourself to explore all possibilities to reach that goal. Don’t let the societal norms and restrictions get in the way of your goals, but instead look up to them as challenges that you may want to conquer. In India, firstly one needs to make their thoughts independent of what one might think. If I would have thought, “What can I build from my hobby”, Baggit would have never come into existence,” she says.
So what do you think? What do we need freedom from?