International Women’s Day is celebrated in many countries around the world. It is a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions; whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. In order to make lasting change, women need the skills and resources to build self-confidence, understand their own rights, earn an income, and gain the respect of their family and community. By utilizing skills, knowledge, and resources, women will be able to create sustainable change for themselves, their family, and community.

Ratan Tata’s quote about how none can destroy iron except its own rust, rings true here. One’s mindset and lack of self-esteem can do more harm to one’s self than any other thing in the world. Added to this is the indisputable fact that most of the time, it is women who are obstacles to women themselves. If you have seen lobsters lying together after they are caught, open in a basket, you will wonder why they don’t escape. It is simply because every time a lobster tries to climb out, the others pull it back.

This is pretty much the attitude of many women while dealing with their own daughters, when they don’t accord them with the same privileges that they do their sons; or when a mother-in-law treats her daughter-in-law as if she is altogether of a different species; or when women colleague turns a blind eye when one of their own is a victim to some kind of harassment. Sometimes, it’s in the form of a police woman who instead of empathizing with a dowry/abuse victim, yells and roughs her up; or a lady gynecologist who doesn’t bat an eyelid while aborting a female foetus.

“Courage is like a muscle. We strengthen it by use.”
– Ruth Gordon

I have been witness to the attitudes my women friends encounter from their families; women from various strata of society are unable to do things that you and me would consider regular and normal — like taking up a course of higher studies or finding a new job or even styling their hair differently. I have been beyond shocked because young girls who want to study and have a career are forced to get married and have no choice or say because of lack of support from their mothers, fathers, families and society. This is happening today, not 100-years-ago.

Here it’s not just women’s support that will matter, but men’s support also; without which true empowerment cannot be achieved.

“If you don’t like being a doormat then get off the floor.”
– Alcoholics Anonymous

Small things like encouraging a daughter to find her dreams and helping her achieve them; appreciating efforts and helping a woman at home; treating all children equal — irrespective of gender; making a woman believe in herself and increasing her self-confidence by letting her take her own decisions; making a woman feel safe and other considerate gestures shown to women at the basic unit called family — these will impact society positively and tremendously more than any lofty women’s day celebrations will.

While stating all this I would like to thankfully acknowledge my family and their role in supporting me, developing my confidence, treating me on par with my brothers, while encouraging me to believe that I was better, if not equally as good, as anyone else in this world. This faith reposed in me, helped me stand up for myself and rise time after time, in spite of innumerable setbacks, failures and falls in life. It is because of all this that I am still able to stand tall and face life courageously with enthusiasm and a smile.

We all look up to strong, independent women. But how do we become one ourselves?

“There are two ways of spreading light … to be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it.”
– Edith Wharton

By honouring yourself and treating yourself with respect, you set the stage up for others to treat you with respect. Developing great self-esteem, believing in oneself, having a never-say-die attitude and most importantly, supporting other women – women set the sails towards true women empowerment.
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