Many women accept their plight and think that it’s not possible to achieve professional success. This isn’t true and there are so many women around us who have stayed committed and proved this possible, if you only care to look. The fields of opportunity await, but it’s not all smooth sailing. You need to steel your mind and make the right choices to get there. Take charge, think like a leader, don’t wait for permission, set clear goals, and strike the right balance between personal and professional.
I’ve recently had the opportunity to be part of the UN #MujheHaqHai video campaign; it’s such a pertinent initiative for the times we live in. We’re part of a society that on one hand is yearning to be progressive, but is somehow still stuck with prehistoric notions of what we expect from both genders. Ironic, isn’t it? I’m sure you’d argue that we’re making progress toward building a more gender-inclusive society. But I don’t think that everyone is on the same page. Here’s why.
We as a country are progressing at different tempos – you have urban areas that have more access to global influences and are differently inclined as compared to people living in more remote areas or villages. While policy is driving change within today’s ‘workforce’, it’s mostly only reaching the organized sector, leaving out a chunk of the population who’s still operating in unorganized fields. We’re not making much headway then, are we, if we’re not reaching out to an entire section of our population?
So then what happens to the dreams of women and girls from these hinterlands? Do they ever get to try to achieve them or do they fall flat before the get-go? Imagine the loss if Hima Das, our athletic star, had chosen to just drop sprinting because it wasn’t a conventional option. What a shame that’d be, wouldn’t it? In fact, it’s admirable that she didn’t let life’s obstacles get in her way but focused on what she was truly passionate about. In the words of Moliere, “The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it,” – she’s on her glory road today.
Don’t we all know of schoolmates who showed so much potential at such a young age, only to meet them later in life and realize that they stopped short of pursuing their passion due to family pressure or some such? They’ve done what was ‘expected’ and quite often let go of their dreams. These are the circumstances that are putting India on the backfoot. McKinsey recently put a number to it – a $550 billion lag in GDP just because women aren’t a part of the workforce.
It’s this very notion of compromising before we’ve even begun that the UN Women initiative is bent on changing. All the women in the video have compelling stories that resound of sheer grit and determination to overcome all odds – that’s what has got them recognized! Look at eight-year-old Tajamul Islam, our very own World Kick-Boxing champion, who worked her way to the top by starting with a makeshift apparatus in an open field. Then there’s 82-year-old “Revolver Dadi” – Chandro Tomar – who shot to fame, quite literally, and inspired other women in her community to follow suit. Inspiring, isn’t it?
Each one of these women has passionately pursued their dreams and unequivocally created the right circumstances for them to be able to succeed – that’s the dynamic that we need to draw inspiration from. Why are we, as girls, always taught to smile pretty and be perfect, while bravery and courage are supposedly left to boys? This misconception needs to change now! There are quite a few women who don’t conform to traditional norms and try their best to swim against the tide to reach their goals; it’s we who need to support and enable them.
Sheryl Sandberg (of Facebook) hit the nail on the head in her TED talk – women face harder choices between professional success and personal fulfilment, and that’s why what you tell yourself is more important than ever. You can’t realize your potential if you keep believing that it’s not a possibility; that’s something that tends to happen all too often.
Thoughts fuel our actions and it’s quite the same when it comes to chasing our goals. After meeting many successful people over the years, I think I can speak with some authority – there are some stark similarities that define these personas. They’ve steeled their minds against nay-sayers, have their priorities clearly outlined, and make their choices to suit what’s best for them. Moreover, they don’t ever shy away from taking the lead, without waiting for validation. It’s this constant need for a nod of approval that women anticipate that’s quite often a setback. We need to get rid of this tentativeness!
In an India that’s more receptive to change today than it’s ever been before, we’ve got an inkling of hope to change how our country shapes up. We’ve come a long way as an independent country and it’s about time we women take charge of our own independence to bring to life the inclusive society we’re always dreaming of.
Nah wakt ne kaha rukne ke liye, na kadmo ne kaha thamne ke liye,
Toh kyun ruk jao main, jab chalte jaana mujhe pasand hain?
Iss zameen pe mera bhi haq hai.
Apurva Purohit is the President of the Jagran Group, one of India’s largest multi-media conglomerates.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)