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International Womens Day

Saturday, March 6, 2010

international womens' day,successful,woman,salute

Rajit Nair

"Ma Tujhe Salaam! We Salute You!

More than 2 million devotees offered pongala (offerings prepared from rice, with or without other ingredients like jaggery, sugar, plantain and coconut gratings cooked in earthen pots, readers outside India, please watch the clipping) at the world famous Attukal Devi Temple, in Trivandrum, India this year on February 28th. Women of all ages occupied the 8 km radius around the temple. Popularly known as “Women’s Sabarimala” (Sabarimala is abode of Lord Ayyappa, Hindu God, where only men are allowed), the Guinness book of world records confirms that this is the largest annual assembly of women in one day on Planet Earth. As we celebrate 8th March as the International Women’s Day, I would dedicate this blog as a tribute for all successful women.

As Hinduism spells, Sakthi is the supreme power in the universe and places the Goddess at the superlative position. Accordingly, the Indian woman enjoys equal status as their male counterparts. Over the years, access to education, entry to the world of employment,, politics, literature, arts, performing arts, army etc elevated their social statues too. Mother India had produced over the years, especially post freedom,woman with stature, intellect, leadership, talent and skills besides beauty. Few to name include Mata Amritanandamayi, Indira Gandhi, M.S. Subbulakshmi, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, K. S. Chithra, S. Janaki, Mallika Sarabhai, Padma Subramanyam, Chitra Visweswaran, Shakuntala Devi, PT Usha, Mira Nair, Kiran Bedi and many more.

Being the largest democracy in the world, under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi, Indian Parliament is all set to approve the much awaited Women's Reservation Bill on 8th March, 2010, the International Women’s Day. The Bill once approved would provide thirty three (33%) percent of all seats in Lok Sabha while the state legislative assembly seats shall be reserved for women.

In the recent past, we have witnessed an array of Indian women reaching highest offices in their respective fields. Pratibha Patil (Hon. President of India), Chanda Kochhar (MD & CEO, ICICI Bank), Indra Nooyi (Chairperson & CEO, PepsiCo) are few who stood tall. These people systematically reached such high positions because of their background, education and intellect. Importantly, they continued to prove their worth, their leadership, and their success in their own domains. Most of them never chased media, instead media always focused on their credible work. Such success icons should be a motivation for other women in India,especially our younger generation who is nurturing dreams of a successful career.

For those who are downtrodden and not so fortunate to get quality education, especially those in our villages but with passion to stand in their own legs and to support their families are also having more avenues than ever before. Both the Centre and the State governments over the years implemented several programs directed to eradicate poverty through community participation and to empower and guide women to earn their own living. Some programs proved successful while some lost their fervor and path due to awful management, lack of political will and poor marketing. One such program that proved its worth is the Kerala government’s "Kudumbashree" Project.

As a result of such programs alongside other factors, now we could see women entrepreneurs individually or collectively in every city, every town and every village coming to the mainstream. With very low capital and frugal infrastructure yet, their activities reached heights is an example of their business acumen. Most of them started small revenue generating units, employed other woman, and explored potential markets to sell their merchandise or products. The appreciable fact is that majority of those behind such initiatives are without any previous experience or education. The products mostly include home made sweets, snacks, jute products, leather items, dairy products, poultry products, garments and the like. Salute those who showed the guts to start a business and earn their livelihood. Importantly, in the majority of cases, these women are the only breadwinners in their family. They are the unsung heroes, the real woman entrepreneurs, hailing from rural India who did their own homework, discovered their own strengths and generating income. Our visual media will feature very rarely such stories. We are used to witnessing or admiring those towering successes even if they had inherited the business from their visionary fathers.

However, the road to any such success is not paved with roses. As in any society, these women also would face lot of hurdles, in different formats. The initial social sigma of a woman working, resistance from family or husband, bureaucracy, lack of seed capital etc is few among them. However, real success comes from hard work, perseverance and dedication.

20 years back, while returning from college in our state owned public transport bus I witnessed a heart breaking episode – imaging (portraying) life’s reality. A middle aged lady was carrying a basket filled with home made snacks to be sold in front of the government owned medical college hospital (Trivandrum Medical College). Unfortunately, due to the enormous crowd inside the bus, the basket fell down and all the ready-to-eat snacks got crumbled or crushed. The scream of that lady is still ringing in my ears. Helplessness and despair in her eyes, clearly showing the grave reality of returning home empty handed. May be no dinner, or may be no medicine for her sick husband or her aged parent or no school fees for her son/daughter due next day. Other passengers, minus me, was discussing what happened, and investigating who did it and some was blaming the driver for his rash driving and some blaming the condition of the roads. None came up with a solution that would help that grief stricken lady to be at ease. People started behaving like some management consultants, who complicate things, even if they understood the problem. Meanwhile, the old noisy metallic junk reached my destination and while passing by her to alight from the vehicle, I handed over a 100-rupee note without giving her a chance to see who I am or to make a comment. That amount at that time is a big amount for me at least, since it is the weekly allowance from home. I am sure very few passengers might have noticed my gesture, as I purposely didn’t want anyone to appreciate this help. Even if someone appreciated, that would have happened in my absence as I just dissolved into the crowd in that bus stop. The help may not be enough, but it should at least help her to buy the raw materials or ingredients for making those snacks again for the next day.

Such unexpected impediments will be in the path of every woman entrepreneur. It is important to keep the spirit kindled. I know someone who has a basket full of master degrees and still reluctant either to work or start something of her own. The knowledge acquired seems to be waste of time, effort and money. This is an exception and such ‘losers’ should learn from those uneducated folks, who toil to earn for a living, rather fight their fate to provide her family at least one meal a day.

For such smaller entrepreneurs, fighting all odds to earn a living, need only our appreciation and support, not necessary in the form of money. No businesswomen or entrepreneurial awards would fetch them joy. Instead, the end of the day’s earning would bring them happiness and that too in double portion when the money is utilized to feed hungry mouths in the family. Hats off!

Please keep visiting  (every week) for more on the series “Fearless or Shameless”.  

© stateoftheartconsulting 2010

Do Post your valuable Comments!

March 9, 2010 Ramakrishnan writes from the Gulf:

Hats off to you by bringing a topic not very much appreciated by my male counterparts in Kerala.

When evenings come, my friends in Kerala go for "teetotalling" in bars and restaurants, while their womenfolk come back after 8 hours work and do everything in the kitchen. Most of my friends don't have time for their children nor their wives and lead an intoxicated life of their own! Ha Ha Ha!!!

Although above is a general observation, it has some value since Kerala consumes more per capita alcohol than other states.

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