If you are into sports, you probably know that for most of men’s cricket history no one was able to score a double hundred in ODI cricket. Lots of people came close, but they were never able to go past that coveted number.
It seemed to everyone that the men’s cricketers, no matter how talented, fit or trained, would never be able to break that record. But then in 2010, Sachin Tendulkar broke that barrier and scored the first double hundred in men’s’ ODI cricket.
And then a very interesting thing happened: barely a year after this feat, another cricketer scored a double hundred, and then more cricketers did it, and then even more. Now it’s considered possible for cricketers to score double hundreds in ODI cricket, a feat that took 39 years and 2961 games to overcome!
Role models show others what is possible, and that’s powerful. Humans tend to not attempt things unless we believe it can be accomplished.
Also Read: Why Are Female Athletes Judged By Their Appearance?
Our children learn from watching us. They learn how to think, act, and feel about themselves and the world around them. Role Modelling is incredibly powerful. Research shows that the greatest determinant of a child’s success and especially for a girl is her access to a tribe of strong, visible, capable female role models who can show her how to unearth her talents, find her voice and forge her own path.
Role models like Indira Nooyi, Mary Kom, Indira Gandhi, Lata Mangeshkar; make our girls think ‘If they can do it, why can’t I?’
Do as I do, not as I say!
As my daughter Anaya was growing up, she began learning about the great achievements of
man humankind. For the most part, women have been anonymous. They have achieved tremendous feats but sadly have never been given the recognition they truly deserve. Everyone recognises Albert Einstein, but how many would recognise Marie Curie? Closer home, we celebrate our male freedom fighters, but what about Sarojini Naidu or Kittur Rani Chennamma?! How many of our children would recognise them?
For our girls who are raised on a diet of western media and culture, they need to understand who they are, where they come from and the legacy and contribution of their female predecessors in India‘s past and present.
Research tells us, that girls need strong, visible female role models to feel their own power when they see it reflected in women leading companies, running countries and founding businesses. (And there are nowhere near enough of them across the world right now). Representation matters, because “if she can see it, she can be it.” Daughters of India was started to help the young daughters of India to explore and go beyond the achievements of the past and the present.
Children’s early experiences – including the hours spent consuming media – shape what they imagine to be possible for people who look like them, live where they live, or come from where they came from. Simply put, kids determine what they can be based on the examples around them.
As a mother of a daughter, I would, of course, like to believe that I am her greatest role model; but…I am her mother and therefore not necessarily would I be considered .
Girls are exposed to both positive and negative role models every day: a strong mother who stands up against domestic abuse or someone using just their appeal to be popular. All of these people affect how a girl views her own potential. These are the people who girls use as references for whom they will become and whose behaviour they will emulate.
Young adolescent girls, want someone to look up to, someone older who has followed a certain life path. Girls should have real-life role models rather than women who are too far removed from their lives to be aspirational. By showing girls a picture of a badminton superstar or a young army pilot, girls can begin to envisage a life that could well be within their reach.
Sadly, due to the capitalistic nature of our society, our children are bombarded with headlines that often neglect to highlight our most significant female leaders and achiever’s, favouring those who can sell products fast and generate money for media companies. It’s a challenge for young girls to navigate through the social tech jungle and find women of substance. Strong, hard-working, purposeful young women with ambitions beyond their looks are rare in our media diet. There’s an all-pervasive emphasis on the value of women being about how they look and dress, which gives young girls the message that being a woman is all about style and appearance, not what you do or stand for.
A girl needs to see confidence, leadership and accomplishment in other women in order to envision herself with those qualities. She needs to identify herself with strong role models, skilled athletes, coaches, community leaders, successful business people, celebrities, politicians, religious leaders, confident peers or any strong woman whose presence will resonate with girls.
“We cannot create what we can’t imagine, but it is possible to envisage a whole new world if we are shown it.”
Despite the progress made in the last few decades, women have a long way to go. Daughters of India wants to inspire the next generation to look for strong visible female role models thinking big, breaking through and radically redesigning the future of our country so girls can, alongside and after the women of the past and present, push through barriers and biases to create the world-shaping and ground-breaking innovations of our age.
Daughter of India will work with inspirational women from India and connect these female role models with adolescent girls. We aim to create a network of women around India who will inspire confidence in girls to open their minds to new opportunities in life.
The views expressed are the author’s own.