29 July 2013 by Himanshi Shinde | JABALPUR
Even as we bask in the ambiance of our women creating their own purses, there’s a long way to go before they own these purses. This was the common opinion of the intelligentsia gathered to launch The Petticoat Journal this evening.
The discussion on “The Poorer Sex: Have working women become financially independent?” followed immediately after the author, Shruti Kohli, read out excerpts from her book which hinted at “financial independence of women” being an illusory phenomenon.
Dr Ishwar Mukhi, professor (retd) and social thinker, said, speaking at the occasion, “Families where both men and women earn are less prone to clashes as compared to the ones where only men earn. When the amount of money women get from their men is insufficient to run the household, there is a clash. Men would do well by giving sufficient amount to their wives.” She had a word of advice for women whose men are alcoholics and wasters and do not support their families financially. Dr Mukhi suggests that such women should become independent and should learn to stand on their own feet rather than taking violence lying down.
There was general consensus on this and entrepreneur Archana Bhatnagar added, “At least 85 to 90 per cent of women in India are still not financially independent. I see some of my friends earning equivalent to me but they don’t even buy a single saree without their husband’s approval. It makes me sick that at this age they are depending on their husband’s approval for such a small thing.”
However, Lorraine B Lobo, MLA, BJP, brought in another dimension when she begged to differ on the point that women are the poorer sex. She said, “I have been a young widow. My children were very young when my husband passed away. My younger son was just two and a half years old. But I was determined to be independent.” Women are strong and they can achieve what they want with their determination, she said.
Taking the discussion forward, Shubhada Pandey Dharmadhikari, Director of GS College asked, “Women now have the right to earn but do we have the right to spend?” Besides, we often talk about women who have stepped out to work but what about those women who are at home and do work like cooking washing, cleaning, etc, she said. These issues need to be urgently addressed so that women can claim their rightful space, she urged.
Pitching in at this juncture, Ved Prakash, Commissioner, Municipal Corporation, Jabalpur, warned that women’s independence should not threaten the family structure. He said, “Women should be independent so that they can make their own identity. But his should be within the limits of the family and traditions”. At the same time, he said, we talk about women’s independence but nobody wants a daughter-in-law who earns more than their son or son-in-law who earns less than their daughter. It’s deeply embedded in our system and psyche that one gender has to be lower than the other. This has to change.
Dr Nilanjana Pathak, HOD (English), St Aloysius College, Jabalpur, said, “We live in a subcontinent which is marked with diversity. On the one hand, we have empowered women like Shruti Kohli who are floating their own companies, and on the other hand we have women who struggle through the day and at the end of the day, whatever little they earn, is taken away by their husbands. So, I think it’s very difficult to generalise.” Personally, she said, she has never felt over the past 25 years that she does not have control over her earnings. “In fact, I have a good control over my husband’s earnings as well,” she said. It’s all in the mind. Women need to be sensitised about how empowered they are, Dr Pathak said. “Also, I feel Shruti that your book has content which must most definitely reach those sections of the society which read Hindi. You must publish the Hindi version of your book soon so that it reached the masses and does not just stay with the classes,” she requested.
A C Mishra, GM, BSNL, agreed and added, “Financial independence of women is fine. But things will have to be worked out in collaboration.” This should not be seen as a fight of genders. It is an attempt to work out cordiality in society. This would ensure progress, he said.
SK Choudhary, Engineer (retd), said, “I support independence of women. But at the same time I feel that this independence should bring about a positive change. In the US, there have been reports that financially independent women beat their husbands. So, it should not lead to such instances. If you use your independence positively, you will get support from all quarters and you can go places then.”
Kapila Sharma, a teacher on sabbatical, a mother of two and a housewife, said, “Not just monetarily, women are the poorer sex in every way.” It’s not safe for us to walk on the roads at decent hours of the day. “When I hear about acid attacks and rapes, I feel it’s dangerous for women to take decisions,” she said. We must work towards making this world a safer place for women.
Lin Ann D’lima, Director, Leonard HS School, “One very important thing that I found in Shruti’s book is that it’s not just talking about a woman’s ability to earn but also about her ability to invest. It’s only when the two combine that women would have taken charge of their money in the true sense of it. Besides, I really liked the point in the book where Shruti says that women should look for a man who has a heart of gold and a head for diamonds.” It’s not just her own financial status but also of her partner’s that counts as her financial independence, she said.
Arvind Shrivastava, an advocate and an orator, brought in history to explain the transformation of society from matriarchal to a strongly patriarchal one. It was only after private property came into picture that dominance shifted from women to men. Financial rights shifted from women to men thereafter. “Even women in our society are against violence in families. So, they quietly follow the patriarchal dictates, he said. He challenged rituals like kanya daan which make a woman a donated property of her husband which of course gives him the authority to make her function according to his will. In middle class and lower middle class families it is very difficult for women to break away from families. This has made the issue of independence of women more complicated, he said.
Smita Dubey, UNDP consultant and a single mother, said, “In my professional capacity, I work in rural areas. I used to think that women in villages would be ignorant about their finances. But I was wrong. We have created a lot of self-help groups and have seen that women started from small amounts and created large accounts. They have improved their conditions.” She said that even if we were to look back a little, we will know that we don’t need to teach money management to women. Housewives of our grandmothers’ and mothers’ generations were skilled money managers, she said. “I would suggest Shruti that you publish your book in Hindi soon so that it can reach all strata of society. It is a very useful book so nobody should miss it. Though we talk about these issues with the women but the written word has a better impact,” Smita said.
The discussion did not end with this hour-long interaction. This subject calls for continuous conversation followed by diligent ground work. The Petticoat Journal strives towards achieving this.
If you, or a woman or women around you, are subject to domestic violence, sexual harassment, sexual violence, and other atrocities at home or anywhere else, here is what you can do.Know more