Manjula Dharmalingam On The Battles Women Still Have To Win
Manjula Dharmalingam, the founder of ‘Her Second Innings,’ talks to us about why more women becoming proactive in matters concerning their rights and entrepreneurship is a good idea. Her endeavour encourages women to get back to work after a break. Some edited snippets from our conversation with her:
What is the one battle that women around the world still have to win?
Women keep progressing year after year with more access to resources, support to enable them to grow and nurture better in the workplace, society and on the home front. At the workplace, they have power and freedom to take decisions and lead. At the home front though, women still need to consult family members about whether to work or to be home makers. Even if they get permission to work, deciding the distance, work hours, managing the home front support, everything, will be based on the family members choice. While it is great to consult and decide together, most of the time she would be forced to take actions based on the other powerful members of the family. This is the one reason why, though opportunities are increasing more women are not able to join the workforce. Women are forced to sit at home to take care of the children and elders to give comfort for family.
Even if they get permission to work, deciding the distance, work hours, managing the home front support, everything, will be based on the family members choice.
In India, what are the main challenges that women face?
Lack of inclusion both at workplace and family for all decision making for their level is still a challenge for women. A voice to raise, take a vote for deciding actions is still not practiced across domestic space and the workplace at all. Though in pockets, very few organizations and families have adapted this but too many are still following the hierarchy and traditional ways in making men decide as leaders. More awareness and lots of living examples need to be showcased to change the mindset of traditional men whether in the family or workplace and to create confidence in women to lead by themselves.
What are your hopes and dreams for the women of the next generation?
Choice of selection for leading their personal and professional life. While we are building values for empathy, relationship, finding right passion to build career etc, we should also ensure women are able to take their own calls on building their own life. How today the entire family, community, society and workplace is woven for men to progress, in the same way the world needs to be geared to let women start and lead the life they want without any prejudice or dictation by fellow members in the society.
How today the entire family, community, society and workplace is woven for men to progress, in the same way the world needs to be geared to let women start and lead the life they want without any prejudice or dictation by fellow members in the society.
How can women support women?
By extending their arms physically and virtually. In their circumference finding ways to support women, by sharing knowledge, helping them to grow, giving financial support, staying in touch to monitor any of the above is easily possible and it’s within reach as well. For example, be a mentor and mentee itself is a start to the journey. Most of the time, all of us can play both roles whenever it’s possible.
What is the one moment in the past year that has been the most empowering for women according to you?
The kind of opportunities opening up for women wanting to come back to work is amazing. When we started, it was difficult but in the last year we saw most of the corporate opening up positions across levels. Also the environment for women to learn new skills are getting better day by day which makes it easy for them to connect to work with confidence, whether to build the gap through assessments, training or taking some practice at workplace through returnships. It improves the hiring possibilities for women to become financially independent.
The environment for women to learn new skills are getting better day by day which makes it easy for them to connect to work with confidence, whether to build the gap through assessments, training or taking some practice at workplace through returnships.
What are the ways in which women can empower themselves and other women around them?
One simple exercise may be the straightforward answer. Most of us face challenges in the family, workplace and society. Women need constant springboards to bounce thoughts and reflect on it to take the right call. Hence if women can find mentors to guide them for these aspects, from within the family, their office and their social circle then it becomes easy to lead with choices. Similarly, if every woman can find where they can contribute to help another woman in those three areas then we have built the system for women to nurture themselves holistically in all the areas.
What are the key issues that governments need to tackle to make women safer and happier?
One is by using technology to build the infrastructure for women’s safety. Government should implement IoT to monitor public places so that there is no nuisance and it becomes a safe environment. Currently we have cameras on selected roads to monitor vehicles, but instead we must build the infrastructure to monitor people as well using this technology.
Second, sensitizing and building a great culture of compassion between men and women rather than portraying sex and domestic victims all the time. Both government and media can collaborate together to make the difference. Campaigns, Advocacy, national social movements to spread the news, workplace awareness, etc can be the ways to make it effective.