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“Malala: What a courageous girl!”- 23 July 2013

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Written by Rita Aggarwal
Wednesday, 07 August 2013 17:25

She does not want to be known as a girl who was attacked by the Taliban. Instead, she wants to be known as a girl who has devoted her life to girls’ education. At the United Nations Youth Assembly in New York, the 16-year-old Malala appeared as a symbol of courage that every girl should emulate. Just some time ago, she lay in sick bed, fighting for life. Today, she has become a symbol of grit and determination of girls who want to break from the shackles that bind them traditionally.

Yes, despite modern times and despite all the facilities -- including the societal freedoms the woman enjoys today -- the woman in general has continued to portray herself as a weaker sex, seeking concessions all the time. That the society may not want to grant her all those concessions is one thing, but the average woman still wants to look for those concessions -- for her weaknesses, for her being a woman; for her lower socio-cultural status and this is happening all over the world and in all societies.
Against this background, Malala appears as a brave-heart, unwilling to be consoled out of pity or mercy. On the contrary, she looks for support for her cause -- of working for education of girls. That is the cause she would love to be remembered, and not as a girl who was attacked by the Taliban militants almost fatally.
This courage stands out. This courage is fascinating. I am sure countless girls around the world must be fascinated by Malala’s courage and her ability to say some wonderful words such as “I am not against anyone, neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban, or any other terrorist group.... I am here to speak about the right of education for every child...” She asserts that it is every child’s right to go to school, and right to live in peace.
Almost every word demonstrates Malala’s grit and determination to live life on her own terms, after having got a new lease of life after the Taliban attack.
How many examples like this one does one find in the society, whether in Pakistan or in India or anywhere else? In most cases, when terrorists strike and injure persons, most cower under the violence that affects them personally, and want to hide away from public glare.
However, contrary to this universal experience, Malala has stood up firmly and is talking her heart out on world forums, asserting her right to follow her own dream.
This is something every girl should be trying to do or achieve. For, what marks Malala from the crowd is her ability to rise emotionally above the fear-psychosis and stand up firmly to insist that the Taliban does not know the importance of education. Her speech does not betray rancour, nor does it show any sense of personal vendetta, something rare to be found even in men, let alone in women and girls.
Perhaps, the attack by Taliban that nearly killed her may have hardened Malala’s resolve to live a life of grit. Perhaps, Malala was groomed differently. But what she now stands for is something every girl should be emulating. She is a picture of courage that defies the commonplace logic of the timid. Perhaps, Malala’s situation has made her strong.
One must agree that Malala’s story is not just of being a strong woman; it is the story of human courage beyond gender, beyond the normal confines of the narrow definition of being a woman or girl. Hers is a story that should fascinate one and all, the story of how to look at life from a sublime point of view.

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“Women to empower women”- 10 July 2013

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Written by Rita Aggarwal
Wednesday, 07 August 2013 17:23

When Democratic Senator Wendy Davis stood up in Texas Senate at Austin at 11.18 a.m.to speak against an anti-abortion bill that would have harmed much public interest, she might not have known that she was about to create a history of sorts. For, when she stopped, it was 10 p.m. a full eleven hours of studied speech, and when sat down in the Senate’s lounge at 1 p.m., it was a full 14 hours after she first took to her feet. During this long effort of filibustering of a bill, Wendy Davis did not sit down, did not eat, did not use the bathroom, drawing the attention of the American nation, so much so that on his twitter, President Barack Obama wrote, “Something special is happening in Austin tonight”.

This account in the international media did not present only a story of an attempt to filibuster a bill, but also denoted how determined women have stood their ground for right causes and have enhanced the sense of dignity of being women. Fifty-year-old Wendy Davis did not sit back even for a moment, and did not allow Republican Senators to block her speech by using stringent laws against filibustering. And though she was aware that she might not be able to stall the bill, she said after her 14-hour effort, “I am tired but pleased that a spotlight is shining on the failure of our leadership”.
The news reports about Wendy’s feat also explain the hard struggle she has put up to come up in life, as if to interpret how she got this grit. Reading those accounts makes one proud that women of substance have often raised the dignity of womanhood all over the world through history of countless hundreds of years.
There were times when male-dominated societies felt shocked when women started asserting themselves. And that element of shock has not vanished even now as men still feel shocked at the temerity of women who stand up to raise a point and hold on despite opposition, browbeating and even physical aggression.
Of course, even though such experiences pop up to make their mark, a good number of women still do not muster enough courage to stand up for many things that are patently unjust and intended to damn them, daunt them. What hurts most is that shining examples, like that of Wendy Davis, still do not inspire common women in general to stand for themselves firmly. What hurts more is that when they are subjected to oppression by the society in general, big numbers of women still buckle, in spite of the evidence from all over that if they stand up, they make the desired mark.
What matters most is the readiness to stand up. And the locale each time does not have to be a Senate. It can be any absolutely nondescript location where a woman’s courage is challenge -- in the kitchen, in the marketplace, on any occasion in the family, at the workplace. The cause, too, need not have to be a legislative bill; it could be anything -- harassment at workplace, browbeating or actual beating by husband, ragging by in-laws, misbehaviour by a wayward son...! What matters is standing up. If the woman stands up, she makes the mark. If she shies away, she gets bullied even by cowards.
But what is needed most is a Wendy Davis-like persistence and steadfast belief in one’s cause. Many women adopt that path, but most don’t, and that hurts. Many women talk of the threats and their inability to counter those. But it has been seen on many occasions that many threats are only perceived, not real. If the women learn to make out the difference, they make the grade.
Yet, because this does not happen on most occasions, one wonders if there is some difficulty in our education to women. If the flaw is in this area, then we need to get going immediately with rectification. And that seems to be the core area where much work needs to be done. This is not an official business, however; this relates to a social initiative to make our women stronger. And who can do this work better than women themselves? They have to ensure that their daughters are trained well, their daughters-in-law are cared for well, and their pride is safeguarded well.

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Ask for opportunity, not charity- 26 June 2013

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Written by Rita Aggarwal
Friday, 28 June 2013 19:57

Celebrated author Rashmi Bansal’s latest book ‘Follow Every Rainbow’ celebrates entrepreneurship among women. She picks up women who became entrepreneurs braving absolutely adverse conditions, or because conditions and adversities pushed them into taking control of their lives and succeeding in overcoming the odds. What Rashmi Bansal does, in the ultimate analysis, is nothing but brings out the fundamental virtues that all women possess but may not be using to make their lives better and honourable. The book should act as a real eye-opener for women in general.

This is not talking about actually the book; this is picking up its central idea to highlight the reality women can be as good the entrepreneurs as men are. The purpose here is to bring to the notice of women in general that they do not lag behind men in any field including entrepreneurship, provided they decide to achieve certain results.
In fact, women are more entrepreneurial than men in most cases, on a person-to-person comparison. The difference, in Indian conditions, is that women do not get the right opportunities, which men get in good numbers in our tradition-bound society. If this problem is overcome, India will see countless women entrepreneurs.
The theme this time is, again, not the complaint against the society that does not grant many opportunities to women as it does to men. The theme here is to highlight that there is no need for the women to wait for the charitable nod from the society or the family to launch entrepreneurial ventures, howsoever small. The need is for them to ask for opportunity and get it smartly.
Unfortunately, however, most Indian women do not find themselves in situations that they could overcome by their courage of conviction and firm self-belief, two of the most critical characteristics of entrepreneurs. That is exactly why there are not many women foraying into entrepreneurial ventures that would set them apart from and ahead of the rest of the pack.
In fact, the women have the best of entrepreneurial qualities. They have the grit and determination. They have a complete sense of responsibility. They have the ability to take their own decisions and carry those through to a logical end. And most importantly, the women have a sense of commitment to whatever belongs to them. This quality is visible in women’s life even when they are just home-makers. For their home, howsoever small it may be, and their family, the women are willing to go any distance to get things done. They haggle. They shout. They cajole. They cry. They fight. They make friends. And they are willing to do all this just because they have set their minds to doing certain things for certain results. All these, too, are entrepreneurial qualities.
Another natural virtue women have is their ability to do multi-tasking successfully. So many things do the women do in their day, and all without a word of complaint. That is what an entrepreneur is supposed to be doing. For, when he launches a venture, there is no going back. He has to keep going.
Almost all women have this quality -- not looking back.
Yet, most unfortunately, women keep looking for the charitable nod from their men to be allowed to do certain things. This is not their weakness; this is their sense of togetherness, belonging.
But, times have changed now. Women need not keep waiting for the charitable nod for their entrepreneurial urges. All they should seek is opportunity. That is where the real difference would be made.

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“Women, career and evolved men”- 12 June 2013

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Written by Rita Aggarwal
Friday, 28 June 2013 19:55

The year 2013 they say is a stressful year for women in particular. More women than men report stress in general. The reasons could be many and varied. Women with jobs and families are finding it difficult to do justice to both on an equal basis. Either one area suffers relatively. And we all know what takes a backseat. Women want to work and realise their talents and make full use of their education and do justice to their selves. With the growth of women’s education aspirations of women are growing too and naturally.

My niece who worked in an advertisement company in Mumbai did a silent study of the women achievers in the organisation and realised to her surprise that practically all of them (around 25 of them) who were in significant positions were either single, separated or divorced. That was an eye opener for her as it sort of made her anxious about her career aspirations as she realised that her husband, child and family was very important for her. Her grumbling about her desire to achieve higher success in her career declined out of fear. She wanted both –her career as well as her family. She also realised that they were two sisters and had no brother and her parents needed her in bad times as well. Men, chauvinistic ones, would love to say that women achievers are ruthless and aggressive and love to destroy families and are happy being single, separated and divorced. I would absolutely disagree. Such men would obviously blame the women for this situation for putting their careers on equal priority as their personal lives. Such men perhaps see a lot of their own selves in such women as they strive for professional excellence and achievement. Such perceptions are to a large extent subjective as you see what you think and you tend to project your own hidden and known emotional needs on to others.

I would say that it is unfortunate that women have to compromise on one part of their lives, either professional or personal if they are to remain happy. Either they choose to make good careers and pay a heavy price with their personal lives or they lower down their ambitions and stay married. Why cannot women do both efficiently when they have enough talent, aptitude and energy is the big question? Every sane woman knows the answer that the men in their lives do not cooperate for reasons known to them and to us too! Women end up paying a heavy price for the realisation of their natural talents and get blamed for it too.

My professor of Psychology who was single and successful always loved to repeat a phrase ‘I am not a kitchen queen’ she would say with glee. Go help yourself in the kitchen serve yourself she would say as we would visit her home where we were always welcome. It was a warm and positive house and she would be in cheerful spirits. She dedicated her life for the promotion of psychology and inspired us to do the same. We never felt that she might have ever felt guilty or victimised as a person. She chose her path and walked it confidently. That is how it should be.

But again why should women be penalised for wanting good careers? There is a small crop of women achievers who are happily married as well. I am sure their husbands belong to a different breed altogether. Their husbands are men who push promote and rejoice the success of their spouses. They have positive self esteem and evolved minds. They do not experience insecurities and jealousies about their spouse’s achievement. They are a minority few. That is why such women keep expressing their gratitude to their men folks and keep praising them. They deserve it all for being what they are- evolved human beings.

 

Evolution is a process of growth and development of the mind and body. A finer human being would fine tune all his or her qualities and work towards development of virtues. They would learn to appreciate all good things in life, do away with darker sides of their mind and would aspire for God like qualities or those that take you nearer to the Almighty. That is the only path to tread ultimately.

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