At 8:30 am, Avigail Spira, First Secretary Spokesperson to the Embassy of Israel, was already waiting for SheThePeople crew to arrive at the Taj Palace hotel in New Delhi. When we met, Spira went on to tell me about the Knesset — Israel’s parliament. She explained that Knesset means a place where people assemble. As Spira started explaining how the Knesset functions, I realised that it was very different from our parliament in India. The Israelis have only one house and the citizens vote as a whole and are not divided by districts. The reason being, the small population of the nation. Though there are differences in how both the governments run their countries, one thing which seems to stay constant is the need for feminism!

Spira introduced the four women entrepreneurs, including SheThePeople’s Shaili Chopra to Michal Rozin, Member of the Knesset, and the women got into a candid conversation about Delhi’s climate, Israel tourism and other such things. As Rozin started speaking about the Knesset, the others pitched in with their comparisons with the Indian parliament. Rozin, being on a tight schedule, was reminded by Spira to start the ‘networking breakfast’ we all had gathered for at 9 in the morning.

After the first round of introductions, the entrepreneurs started talking about the difficulties they had faced during their initial days of starting up. All the conversations moved towards one direction — gender bias.

All five women at the table seemed to agree to the points each of them was making. Some added more points and the rest nodded in solidarity.

Talking openly about the gender issues faced in Israel, Rozin agreed that gender parity was present in workplaces, parliament and most importantly, at home. She referred to instances which had happened to her in her own family. Rozin as a kid was told, “don’t think so big” as she “won’t be able to achieve it”. The entrepreneurs, all of them from India, where it is a woman’s “duty” to feed the family, couldn’t agree more with her.

Let’s Get Men Into The Dialogue Of Gender Equality: Michal Rozin, Israel MP

The conversation then moved to workplace prejudice. Rozin, who told the gathering that three of the 14 parties do not have a single female candidate, owing to their ultra-orthodox nature, feels the representation of women in the Knesset is low. She said, “Men are invested in for their potential and a woman for her experience,” she added, “they have to prove themselves”. The entrepreneurs couldn’t help but help Rozin finish her sentence as all of them knew exactly what she meant.

The conversation kept returning to family and the role it plays in inculcating feminist values. The women in the room exchanged their views on women taking an active part in fuelling the patriarchal ways of the society, including mothers. Rozin — talking about family — said, “It is known from literature that a lot of feminists have a very supportive father. It is really important for a girl. If a girl has a very supportive father who gives her the chance to be independent, confident and push her to do whatever she wants, it is more likely that she will succeed.”

She added, “Spouses, women and men sharing (work) is very importance. And I think, obstacles for women start after they get married. When I talk to young girls, who are 14, 15 or 16-years-old, they say they feel just like their male friends. They ask, “What is the difference?”. “I think they start to feel it at the workplace, when they see the salaries are different, when they see who is being promoted and who is not and then they see it when they get married and suddenly when they have children, then the inequality really gets into your life,” she added.

As the member of Israel’s parliament left the room after voicing her annoyance at her being the only woman in the entire delegation, the four women entrepreneurs in the room got into a conversation about the experience. Michal Rozin, a feminist, works real hard for promoting the rights of women and children in her country. She believes in equal rights for all and promotes same-sex marriage as well. Once Rozin even conducted mock gay marriages outside the Jewish Home party to protest against the party’s opposition.

The realisation that women staying oceans away from us face the exact same issues we face here in India left the entrepreneurs bemused.