RAINBOW
Empowering Women Worldwide

No looking back: Journey of empowered Indian women

By: Ms. Neha Sharma

Manager: Centre Outreach and Counselling Intervention

RAINBOW CENTRE BIMTECH

A spiritual genius of intellect and power, Swami Vivekananda once quoted, “The best thermometer to the progress of a nation is its treatment of its women. There is no chance for the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved. The woman has suffered for eons, and that has given her infinite patience and infinite perseverance.

The idea of perfect womanhood is perfect independence. There is no hope of rising for that family or country where there is no estimation of women, where they live in sadness.”

India got independence 75 years ago and since then we have come a long way ahead. The movement to development and progression in almost all the fields, including sports is very much evident but the irony is that our ethos and stereotype thinking is yet to change. The patriarchal mindset in sports in India can be taken as an example because when it comes to sports the foremost question that comes to mind is… “Are women sports players in India given equal importance as that of men, which they truly deserve…?” A noticeable preconception of stereotyping in our attitudes towards sportswomen which is very much unfailingly followed and experienced shows gender-based discrimination in our country. Although, as a developing country, India has produced many world-famous sportswomen who were highly talented and have represented India at various international fora. They are doing exhaustively well in their respective professions by winning honors for the country but they are not given enough attention and respect that they were truly felicitous for. Hence uncourtly we can say that we have a golden history marked by division and discrimination. It is being almost three decades since we ratified with Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), a global human rights treaty that incorporates into national law as the highest standard for women’s rights yet we are struggling to get equal rights and placement for this underprivileged yet important part of Society.

Feminism word is contextually used with different connotations and meanings. At times this may be taken as a disgrace for other gender but that is not what we want and move forward for. Many a time it is also said that feminism is not a desired movement today as women are blossoming in many parklands but there is still a lot more that needs to be done for women. Because we wish to create a society where not only we can give feathers to women but also the liberty to fly in their way. We need to create a society where women and men are treated equally in every professional space. It is not fair when both the genders have the same capabilities and talent yet one takes more pay, more fame, more credit, and esteem than the other.

Even now, many parents in India are reluctant to send their children or to be more specific their daughters to participate in sports because of gender biases. Gender discrimination in sports inadvertently impacts the decision of our youth to give up their dreams and desires aspiring to be a sportsperson. The fact that there is no inevitability makes it a risky career. That ultimately limits the number of female sportspersons that we can produce as a country. We should try to make it easier and comfortable for women by giving equal opportunities for growth in our country. This will happen only if we identify the efforts, unbreakable desire to go beyond all limits and ability of the sportswomen and give them equivalent status as their male counterparts. The only way is to empower women to achieve a more peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable world.

The only thing that one should be doing now is encouraging and making things easier for women by supporting them. Needless to say, a woman has to fight not just to win a game but also to win a battle based on social, economic, and political discrimination. The success stories of our Women Sportsperson justify the plea for equal opportunities.

With women coming from all over the country, right from PV Sindhu to Mirabai Chanu to Phogat sisters to Sania Mirza, history has been created. These powerful and headstrong women have been winning laurels around the world, even though their struggles alone make them worthy of equality, it is high time that the gender dynamics and the distribution of wealth in sports quota become equal now. According to Global Gender Gap Report 2021, India slipped 28 places and is currently standing at 140th position. 156 nations have participated in this report and India’s position, well, is a grim reminder that we are very far, very far from attaining gender equality.

Our compassion to lead and patience to succeed have been witnessed by the world. Our Female sportspersons have glorified an inspiring story of success by going through a rough and arduous journey of perseverance. The only question that arises… what’s next?? What else can we achieve and how far can we go to get equal status…?

Today we acknowledge the efforts and cherish the success of Women Star Athlete “Sania Nehwal”, but little do we know that “she suffered from minor malfunction, hiccups and went through discrimination as a girl child in Haryana. As in Haryana, there was no coaching facility available for small children so her father uses to borrow money from friends, colleagues, and relatives to finance her badminton activities.” With family support and zeal to conquer the world, Sania Nehwal has reached a pinnacle and is looked upon as an inspiring figure.

We all proudly applauded Mirabai Chanu when she bought laurels for our country. But what inspires the most is the challenging time and circumstances that she has been through, to reach this stage of her life. Salute to her inner strength and resilience for her spirit to fight all odds. “Born in a poor family, she could hardly afford her daily diet as an athlete. She kept a deal with her parents where she had to promise to quit sports if she did not qualify for Olympics this year. She would Cycle for long kilometers from her village to the training center every day. Even during the first 6 months of her training, she was only allowed to lift bamboo canes before switching to iron bar.”

Indian Shooter, Heena Sidhu gave it all as “she underwent physiotherapy as she couldn’t feel her fingers after shooting and was struggling with her trigger finger owing to a nerve problem, to advance her trigger she set a target to finish her first 10 shot series in 11 minutes. Went through an injury in the 2015 National Games, a bulging disc in her neck, and used to feel tremors while shooting. She was relieved post-Rio Olympics after an MRI.” Such circumstances never obstruct a true sportsperson and she wrote her own success story.

The well-known face of Indian women’s cricket, “Mithali Raj comes from South India, and her grandparents were not comfortable that she was playing a sport. She had a lot of struggles in her journey, as an Indian player she traveled in train unreserved from Hyderabad to Delhi. Mithali was not provided with the basic facilities a sportsperson gets in our country.” The support that she got from her parents, kept her going ahead and reap the benefits of brilliant performances and achieve what she has achieved today.

Indian Tennis Sensation, “Sania Mirza stood up with all dignity in this patriarchal society, being quoted as a ‘shame’ for a Muslim to wear skirts and expose her legs. She has been trained by her father since the age of six. Despite bringing fame and honor to the country the athlete was criticized as unpatriotic and was accused of disrespecting India’s national flag. Her marriage with Pakistani cricketer Shoaib drew a lot of criticism from the general public.”

The change can only be brought about with Education! Education can bring empowerment to Woman as an individual.

The education system should root up the responsibilities and encourage students to participate in sports. Sports is a much-needed activity for developing, nurturing, and building sportsmanship. This includes encouraging female students to participate more and explore their physical potential in being sportswomen. Of course, the government’s contribution in taking notice of the same is essential. Providing equal funding and opportunities to all genders to grow and develop at the basic level needs special groundwork.

Sports influences lives. Women empowerment with gender equality is only a key to fundamental human rights that can help to progress towards a more peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable world. Sports by teaching teamwork, self-confidence, resilience, and confidence can only challenge gender stereotypes where we have these unwritten rules of beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that are considered acceptable in a particular social group or culture. By following this path we can make inspiring role models that demonstrate that men and women as equals.

Cultural bias, conventional approaches to working, and stereotyping have many times proved as hurdles or barriers to pursuing careers by women in India for ages. But this perception has gradually smoothened enabling women to prove their potential, passion, and creativity in various career avenues. Women in India have evolved from being a homemaker to an equally important member of households in terms of income contributor.

The change is happening and it is only through equal opportunity and representation that this change can lead to success. Certain steps are necessary for humanity to grow and prosper. The world is changing at a snail’s pace but we’ll get there soon… and India has started well!

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