Wednesday, 16 July 2014

She is Boss?

Once I had taken my five-year-old son to a neighbouring house that belonged to an educational consultant. There he saw a white lady, and kept staring at her. To satisfy his curiosity the gentleman said, “You know,
Bishu, she is my boss.” At this, Bishu’s words came out like a bullet, “No! Women can’t be a boss!” Everyone of us gaped with this statement. What a remark he made observing his surroundings. I am sure the boss lady might have got a glimpse of a Nepali society; however the child made his comment innocently.

In our society women get merely lip service in general that they are equal to men but in reality they suffer from discriminations. And the discrimination starts right from home. One can easily observe various forms of discriminations that exist even in an educated and urban household. What to say about the poor village women who are far behind to understand what exactly the term gender equality stands for?

Most of the parents themselves discriminate between their sons and daughters. Better food, better education and better facilities are virtually set-aside for male folks. They are privileged by birth so they do not have to involve them in household duties. It is entirely daughters’ responsibility to take care of everything because they have to go to their husbands’ houses sooner or later. Then they will have to prove themselves as the best housewives. It does not matter whether they are highly educated and self-reliant.

There is a belief deep rooted in Nepali culture that daughters are just guests for the time being. In contrast, sons look after their parents, especially at their old age and help them attain salvation after death. Because of this, parents do not want to disappoint their sons. Boys are always free to do anything they like or to go anywhere they want to, whereas girls are obliged to obey countless “dos” and “don’ts.”

Outside the home also, girls experience many forms of discrimination, such as eve teasing, sexual harassments and sometimes even severer case like rapes. In workplace they are usually regarded inferior to their male counterparts. So, all the time they have to be very careful to protect themselves from unwanted and unavoidable troubles.

It is a cliché that husband and wife are two wheels of a cart to run a family and both of them have equal shares in every aspect in the house. Unfortunately, it cannot be felt in practice. There are many couples who are equally educated and who have equal social and economic status. But the responsibilities of housekeeping automatically belong to wives. Both husband and wife go to office and come back home at the same time, feeling deadly tired. It is the wife’s duty to serve her husband with cup of hot tea and some yummy snacks, to look after children, to prepare dinner and to do dishes. A woman’s position is even worse in a joint family where she has to maintain social hierarchy, remaining at the lowest rung.

On the other hand, males dominate all the family decisions and financial management activities. Females are not supposed to oppose males’ decisions. If any courageous woman by any chance dares to do so, there will be an immediate criticism, “Gharma pothi baseko ta suhaudaina hai!” If there are some financial issues then men are qualified to deal with them. All these discriminations are basically the consequences of our patriarchal social structure.

It is obvious that education should bring change. So the educated parents must start to change their mentality and attitudes towards their daughters. They must realize that sons and daughters have equal rights to get what they deserve from their parents. Men must share their workload in the house without any superiority complex or hesitation. Women must be given an opportunity to express their views and to participate in decision making in all family issues.

The crucial steps to end gender disparity must be begun at home. If such a wave of change comes from families, it spreads to the society, and gradually to the nation. Then a situation may not occur where a woman is compelled to keep destroying female foetuses in her womb until she conceives a male child.  

(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Sunday, June 13, 2004)

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I would appreciate any and all suggestions on making improvements (as long as they are viable).