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Mirror,Mirror on the wall..

By GovernanceToday
In Cover Story
March 10, 2017
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She  is beautiful, she is gentle, she is motherly yet she is powerful…  A long time ago, when the snowflakes fell like feathers, the Queen sat at a window, thinking … But, with every passing year, the mirror has decided  not to say ‘thou’, but – ‘if truth be told’. The world around us is a mirror of what we’re thinking and feeling. Practitioners of conscious creation or the law of attraction principles especially know this, that the reality we experience is a reflection of the beliefs we hold, regardless of whether we’re aware of what those beliefs actually are. That premise provides the basis today in providing us reasons to celebrate the women hood, as we celebrate the International Women’s Day. GOVERNANCE TODAY HAS MADE A BRIEF ATTEMPT  TO SPEAK THROUGH THE MIRROR THAT HAS BEEN  REFLECTING THE WOMENHOOD SINCE AGES …How India looks up to her women folk to take the lead…

Show Competence! And the Man’s World will have no choice, but Submit; Concede; Accept; Respect; Or Recognize!

kiran-bediWhat was your answer and preparation to the core question- ‘Can I do it’?
Yes you can do. But then prepare yourself. Do not take anything for granted. Also see what kind of support you can rely on. And do not feel a loser if u don’t Succeed.
Pat yourself on the back for having made the effort. You, making the effort to challenge whether you succeed or not is a victory by itself. It will make u more confident. ‘Making the effort is your success’!

What do you think is the biggest issue facing women in the country?
To make her own place and to maintain it is her big challenge.
Retaining her own identity too is a big challenge.
Because, social expectations from women in our society are very high. Woman’s needs are not recognised. Her responsibilities are myriad.

In a country with so much varied regulations & policies, how does one create a supportive environment to achieve their set goal(s)?
Sheer competence! Sheer merit by which the man’s competitive  world to have no choice, but to submit! Or concede. Or accept. Or respect. Or recognize!

In your current role as the constitutional head of Puducherry, how has been your work aligned with women’s issues?
My sheer presence in Raj Nivas is a big source of hope and strength to women and those in needs.
But I also make a conscious effort to be a strength to them; to recognise and applaud them wherever I get a chance to.

Do you think a female Administrator would be any different than a male? Why and how?
In several ways. She is comparatively more sensitive. More accessible. Less demanding. More communicative. (there are exceptions, of course). Simpler in many ways too!

If you compare your younger self with that of a girl today, what are the changes you notice when it comes to women’s rights or gender equality? What has caused this change?
Larger awareness!
More skilled. More inspired. More  aspirational. More independent. More mobile. More equipped. More knowledgeable. More visible. More tech savvy.

How would you rate women’s representation in government and in other key institutions such as the judiciary, academia or the media?
Plenty more are making an impact. Much more in academia and media than in government. We need more in public administration at the highest levels too.

How do you define women empowerment?
One who is self-reliant. Makes  her own choices and one who willingly shares the fruits of her hard work while being capable of bearing the negative consequences of her challenges, by her own self, if the need arises.

If you had the power to make a decision tomorrow that would contribute to greater gender equality in India, what would it be and why?
I would give special coaching for more and more courageous  women to join all India civil services on their own merit. Would love to see capable women officers keep the corrupt and dishonest politicians in their right place and never succumb to threats of transfers, etc.
Women to have courage to stand up to such Leaders (sic) and show them the rules to ensure honest use of all government resources.
And Exercise total financial prudence in financial management.


If you are a humanistic person, you will automatically talk about gender equality

renuka-shahaneWhere does the country stand at the moment with the status of women?
I cannot say much about rural areas, as I am born and brought up in a metropolitan city like Mumbai. In urban as well, I would say, patriarchy exists. We see empowered women from all classes and we also see subtle and gagging women from all classes. It is not depended on class, still, definitely women in the lower casts which because of the unfortunate cast systems are less empowered. Cast system itself is not very empowering.

Today, more and more families have equality within the structure of the family. This is important. But, in spite of this equal right is being granted in the laws, customs like dowry still exists, which is a very skewed way of looking at women. We still have a lot to achieve in terms of status of women.

I would like to highlight one more area that has prompted campaigns like ‘Beti bachao Beti padao’. This is an irony that we are still talking a subject like female foeticide, even in 21st century. For equality, we need to talk about this more, as unfortunately, foeticides, infanticides still happens in our country.

How do you feel about how women are represented in media- TV/film, art? Do you think a female artiste would be any  different than a male? How?
In terms of equal pay, I think, women do differ from their male counterparts, and that does make a lot of difference. Actresses like Kangana Ranaut, Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra and Vidya Balan are huge achievers who can carry the entire film for success on their own shoulders, yet there is inequality, if we compare in the terms of payment with their male counterparts. This is one point of looking at the situation.

The other point is, in industry women used to carry forth only a certain kind of films. But today, there are a wide variety of films which they can carry forth with all responsibility. People are also becoming receptive to female centric films. Market has opened up a lot.

But again, there is a distinct line that has been drawn till some far and no further. Women are celebrated on screen, but through the male gaze. Films like Dirty Picture, which is a female-centric film, yet it was all about the male gaze. Such movies do well and are even encouraged. The movie like ‘Lipstick under my burkha’ will not be encouraged or promoted, because, female image is not portrayed in lines of our cultural settings. So, suddenly religion comes into the subject. Certain religious communities may get. The whole thing called morality is seen as something, which has to be carried forward by a woman only. The morality by now is about how women behave, rather than how men behave. This needs to be changed as we move forward.

How and when is your work aligned with women’s issues?
Firstly, as an actor I try to pick up stuff which is not derogatory to woman.

Lot of people question my being part of the movie, ‘Hum aapke hain koun’, which is supposed to have started this whole regressive television industry trend. People say, you acted in a film which celebrated woman being just good at home. Something, which I categorically say that, nowhere on screen did they ask me to shut up. Women have their own point of view, which is also respected by all the members of the family. That is  beautiful, and is much better than the fact that women don’t have a voice or they are asked to shut up or they are not allowed to express themselves. Such situations would have been derogatory to women, which is what we get to see on television these days. That is not celebration of our culture. These kinds of things should not be hammered because these things sensitize people towards violence that people commit against women in their daily domestic lives. This has an adverse effect on the society. Not only on screen. We were also not disrespected off screen, either by the producer, director or anybody else on the set.

Also, as a director and writer I choose stories which are always empowering, not only for women but for human beings in general. We need to emancipate even men, as men too don’t get to choose a lot of things under the patriarchy. There are certain gender specific things that are expected of men which all men might not confirm to and they need not like as well. Whether it is about their marriage or the type of profession they choose, the kind of life they want to choose, or the kind of partner they want to choose. Such things should not be seen as supporting parent’s views only. There should be sensitivity to the need of both genders.  As an artist, this is the humanistic view I would take. If you are a humanistic person, you will automatically talk about gender equality.

Over the years, what are the changes you observe in the society in its treatment towards women? How has the transition been in women empowerment?

Main issue is security of women. We need to work on it, even within our family. Our society is not very safe for women. Today, woman goes out of home for work. She needs peace of mind; she should feel secure. She cannot live with the fear.
That apart, we are dealing with the prejudiced minds today.  As a mother also, these are my concerns. And I am trying my best to fight these issues. In my child’s class, I found a teacher saying that girls are not good in physics. The toppers in my child’s class are girls and they are very good at physics. Yet a teacher’s mind is also prejudiced. We are still dealing with the old school mentality that girls are only good at humanities and boys are good at math and physics. Look at NASA and our ISRO. There are so many women scientists and there are so many women IT professionals in our country. It is so regressive to see these things casually. ‘Don’t cry like a girl’- we come across such statements quite often. I try to deal with that at home with my children. But try to talk to them in logical manner, so they know that these things are not very cool to say. They are aware about the fact that these kinds of statements are sexist. Awareness has to be inculcated in the family. Whenever parents give a feeling to a boy that they can do anything and it is a girl who needs to be careful, at a very early age only we are perpetuating the same patriarchy. We should give some responsibility of being good to boys also.

What is the one thing you could recommend to make the country a balanced place, with masculine and feminine in harmony?
It cannot be men against women. It has to be both working for each other. I am blessed to be raised in a family where my brothers are more feminist. That is because of the values our mother gave us at home. And it should start at early stage, at school and college levels. Those places should also be very sensitive about gender issues. They should carry such thoughts forward through students, may be by some reward programs for kindness and compassion, rather than giving just good grades. We are very competitive about when it comes to subjects like Math, Science, etc. But there is nothing to grade someone as good human being. Students are constantly geared to be brighter, smarter and stronger. But, are we teaching our children that being kind, compassionate and sensitive is good? I think, there should be grades for that too, so that people will compete to be good. Being good will  make our society more peaceful, compassionate and happy. In turn, it will automatically make a safer society.

What do you consider female attributes?
It’s resilience. I have seen women who are so patient and resilient in handling lot of adversity  and yet making forward moves in life and having courage to voice their opinion. However contradictory it might be to the social morals and acceptability for doing things, I would say, that is the strongest female attribute. I admire all women who are resilient and who are vocal in all sorts of adversities.


Add extra flavor of passion, spice it up with efforts and relish the fruits of your hard work

rakhee-vaswaniHow do you feel about how women are represented in the Indian workforce? What is the one thing you could recommend to make it a more balanced place, with masculine and feminine in harmony?
Women in this developing country are rising above the social norms, even though it may be just a fraction of the entire female population. In the contemporary society the way women are seen is taking a turn for the better. Though the percentage of women in the Indian workforce will not match up to the percentage of men, but even a humble start makes a difference. In a country like India, the greatest issue that arises is the societal pressures everyone falls prey to, that is women being seen just as child bearers and home-makers, and that is what needs to be changed. To create a balanced workplace in this country, the image that most women are subjected to, whether they choose to be identified as hat or not, needs a drastic makeover. Women must work after marriage or after they have kids if their heart desires. It’ll be wrong to say that being a stay-at-home mother is taking away a woman’s chance to excel professionally. Some choose that life, while some don’t. The ones who don’t, need to go out and create a strong foothold  in whichever field they are pas- sionate about and the family must support her. I can say this from experience, because I chose to stay at home and look after my kids and those years will always be close to my heart. But when I expressed the desire to work, the support I received from my family was the best thing that I could’ve asked for. This is exactly what will drive women to pursue what they want and hence, will be a stepping stone in the creation of a more balanced place.

What is your definition for women empowerment?
I can say a lot about women empowerment, but what will really make a difference is when each woman individually stands up for herself and pursues her passion and dreams on her own scale. They say each drop matters to make an ocean. After hearing my story I hope a lot of women reading this will realize that it is never too late to start or restart your career. If your passion is strong enough, you can shake it and wake it to make it your new goal ANYTIME. Age no bar!

Another thing, never give up on learning. Never think you know it all. Each and every day will teach you something or the other. Even though I teach 100+ cuisines, I always learn something every day. Never stop that. And of course imparting that knowledge further is a great deed. At the same time, trials & errors and research are very important. A cook is like a Chef, because without trying too hard a cook’s palate will know if the flavors are in balance. It’s also essential to give your own personal touch to each recipe. In the same way, no matter what career path you are riding on, give it your own style and twist. No competition is good enough for you to stop yourself from being yet another player in the market. To add that extra flavor of passion, spice it up with some efforts and relish the fruits of your hard work thereafter. Even if you are 50/60 years old, just start! You never know what works out and how :)

What do you think is the biggest issue facing women in the country?
Rape has become a joke in this  country. It has not only become common and easy, but also reminds us how low our security levels are. Women trafficking, child trafficking and genital mutilation are some of the biggest issues that women have been facing since a long time, not only in rural areas but also within urban homes as we may not expect. Educated families force their girl child into social pressures like marriage and religious beliefs like genital mutilation, despite having all the money and education that one should have. The problem is in the myths and mentality that people blindly believe in, which has been passed on from generation to generation. Unfortunately, literacy has not played a big role in changing people’s minds for the better.

If you compare your younger self with that of a girl today, what are the changes you notice when it comes to women’s rights or gender equality? What has caused this change? 

Back then, women never had a say. In fact, in many parts of the world they still don’t. Although, lately there have been a lot of reasons and circumstances where women have stood up for themselves and reciprocated to unfair practices on them like never before. Internet and social media has now increased awareness and guts in women to speak up for themselves and fight for their rights, be it in any genre. Also, the tolerance levels of women after all that inequality and unfairness has gone lower. Only experiences make one stronger and that is what has caused a positive change in today’s world. I only hope it keeps getting better and better. More Power to us!


Don’t Support; Celebrate A Woman

swati-popat-vatsHow do you feel about how women are represented in the education and academics? What is the one thing you could recommend to make it a more balanced place, with masculine and feminine harmony?

Over the years I feel women are being represented quite well in the education sector both as academicians and administrators. Previously of course, higher leadership level posts were not filled by more women because of bias and because people would feel that a woman will not be able to give time or take the stress due to family related responsibilities. Also, many a times even if she manages to reach a leadership role, the men on her team would slowly edge her out, as men, especially in India were not brought up to respect women or did not expect or accept women leading them. Taking orders or directions from a woman, even if she is more qualified would not augur well with many men.Now of course women empowerment and the way the society and families look at bringing up women has changed.So there is almost 50% change.But more needs to be done so that women are not ‘molly coddled’ and the more ‘tough positions’ given to men.

My one suggestion is to judge the candidate not as a woman or a man but to judge as qualified or not qualified, experienced or not experienced. Only then will this deep rooted, hidden bias be removed.

What is your definition for women empowerment?

For me women empowerment is about equality, not preferential treatment. Because once we get into preferential treatment, the bias is tilting to the other species. So for me it means equality in terms of wages, job profile, and the selection for competitive exams and posts.

I am not in agreement with  women who want men to stand up when they come in the room or hold the door for them, then you are asking to be taken care of. Let’s not confuse the issue. I am also against the so-called bra burners who feel that women empowerment is about embracing the male way of life. God gave us grace, poise, dignity and just because we want to be empowered does not mean that we have to dress only in trousers and coats and start aping the men. For me, women empowerment means to be able to celebrate being a woman and be successful in whatever I choose to do. Not supported but celebrated.

Do you think a female academician or administrator would be any different than a  male? Why and how?

Women bring a certain multitasking element that many men lack, but men bring a lot of clear logical thinking. Since I am a strong proponent of brain research I feel most men are left brain thinkers and most women are right brain thinkers.

But many women are able to bring a balance between right and left-brains and today, they are the ones leading big corporations globally. I would not say that female academicians or administrators are better or worse than male, but, I would say both have their strengths and weaknesses and the gender that is able to balance their strengths and weaknesses are able to become both good academicians and administrators.

In your current role as the institutional head of Podar Education Network, how has been your work aligned with women’s issues?

Very well aligned. Podar is an extremely progressive thinking organization,deep rooted in values.
After all, our first president was Mahatma Gandhi. Dr PavanPodar has always been the epitome of equality for both men and women in the workspace and the tradition is being carried forward by his two sons, Gaurav Podar and Harsh Podar. Their wives are also an integral part of the work at Podar.
I have never judged someone’s capability based on their gender and that is what we respect at our schools and centers and in our corporate office.
I take parenting workshops too, in which, I always talk about fathers and mothers both playing an equal and complimentary role in the parenting process. I am also a strong proponent of both maternity and paternity leave.


See your life through your own eyes

sadiya-siddiuiDefine women empowerment. Women empowerment is about  capability of making choice. In India’s societal structure, where, fathers, brothers, husbands make all the choices and decisions, women usually don’t get the choice, at least in the first round.  Allow them the freedom; allow them to make their own decision. There are lots of changes in policies and laws for making women empowered in our society. But till the time women are not able to think about this freedom, or about their own rights and decisions, they are not empowered in reality.

Where does the country stand at the moment with women?
In India there is still bias, there is still cast distinction, there is still patriarchy. Any place outside the home has become unsafe for a girl. There is so much insecurity. This is a case, even in the cities. Of course, the girls are getting more encouragement these days than before. At least within the family they are encouraged now, for education, for sports or for any other activity. Such attention, starting right at the family level can lead us to the larger national goal sets. There are certain places and states, where the status of women is as it was even before 50 years back. The laws are there, policies are there, but the status still remains the same.  We need to look deep within our own selves first. As women, we need to look within our family, talk to our family members, extend every support towards empowerment, even to the house help, kids, get them education, get them freedom.

How do you feel about how  women are represented in TV or  Film or in any media?
I will talk more in the context of Television today. Various issues are being highlighted today; there has been enormous change in he society. People are beginning to break stereotypes, beginning to go out, work, work towards a cause, feel the freedom. For any change to happen, they need to take the decision of doing first, to go out first. They may be at times shown as an object at times, with derogatory remark or performing a decorative function. But we also see the change; more women are taking the freedom of choice, following their dreams, they select media and become a part of it. Content wise also, the role of a woman has begun to receive acknowledgement. Now it has opened up possibilities for development of women. There are new generation shows. Women are shown as independent, working outside their home, happy, empowered, keeping her head up and not just to find another venue for romance.

How and when is your work aligned with women’s issues?
Most of my characters represent some or other core issues of the society, be it a girl child marriage, status of a widow or a very powerful woman. In 90s, I played as a child bride in Door Darshan’s Humrahi. And then years after, I portrayed a teacher in Balika Badhu, who counseled, made friendship and helped a child bride not to fall into the societal trap, enlightened her to have education, handle the marriage matters with the power of education. I as a person and the characters I usually represent, talk about keep going when faced with difficult situations. Face new situations, be strong and confident.

What do you think is the biggest issue women are facing?
We are dealing with some or other kinds of prejudice. People become protective for a girl, even before she decides something independently. As a woman also, we tend to think through the eyes and minds of the men in our family. Freedom from all those prejudices should be the first step.

Some other times, it is the prejudices of other women. We must learn to nurture young girls and make them realise their actual role, their aspirations. Look down, speak less…No! We must groom them to look good, stand tall, and be sure about what you are saying.

There is also the security issue of women. We need to work on it, even in our family. Our society is not very safe for women. Today if a woman is working, going out of the home; forget about the family members, she herself is not very confident till the time she comes back. Living with fear, without peace of mind, are some other major issues a woman encounters with.


Every dollar men get paid, women get paid 75 cents for the same exact work

rita-mishraWhere is the world at with women now? Thumbs up?
Thumbs down?  I would definitely say thumbs up.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing women?
Unequal pay at workplace. For every dollar men get paid, women get paid 75 cents for the same exact work.

How does one create a supportive environment at  home? In the society?
Respect for the individual and team work.

How hard is it to make it to the top?
It is very hard for women to make it to the top. There may be a lot of working women, but there are very less women in executive role.

What is the one thing you could recommend to make the world a balanced place, with masculine and feminine in harmony?
Work life balance is very important to me. Both partners should care and follow work life balance.

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