I was selected to present a paper on women empowerment in a particular college for women. At the end of my presentation I was asked a question. Is educating women enough to empower them? Is it enough? The question mark drew itself across my face. Pushing it away in a brief pause, I said, “No.” I sensed the attention of the crowd intensify on my plain, blunt, strong ‘no.’
When a doctor of 23 years was raped brutally in a bus; when thousands of unknown women are kept unknown by their dominating counterparts; when so many educated women’s dreams are incinerated within them; when I myself am a victim of undue influence, how can education alone suffice to empower women? Or maybe we must reconsider the sphere of its meaning.
The problem originates from the middle of every household. A girl is mostly brought up with inherent subservience. She is told to listen and is often denied an answer to the question ‘why.’ In most of our educational institutions in India, girls and boys are made to sit separately, stand in separate lines and in some cases even forced not to talk to each other. Why must a girl be conditioned to shy away about issues on her menstruation days when it’s simply a natural biological phenomenon? Puberty has just as much to do with men as it is with women. When a man has his sexual needs, it’s said to be natural, when a woman has the same, how is it an act of disgrace?
These things that remain as the natural laws of our present society drink in the empowerment of a girl in its own ways. It only exacerbates her confidence. It is true that a girl is vulnerable to abuse. Isn’t it more of a pressing reason why she must be taught to walk with her head held high; to look into a man’s eyes with strength that defies fear? Abuse needn’t always be sexual. The emotional harassment a woman undergoes are often a puzzle to herself and they are rarely brought to light.
Educate every man that he is not there to protect women or to abuse them but to respect them and co-exist with them. Educate every woman that she possesses a rare strength of a mother. Widen the sphere of the word ‘education’ and educate and this education must begin at the womb.