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The Second Step

The Second Step

February 13, 2013
Susmita SenThe first step was educating our girls; it’s time we take the second step.


Indian women have come a long way since the days of exile in dark kitchens full of fumes of a coal fire. One of the foremost factors ushering this change has been the education of women. Gone are the days when a parent would plan the son’s education and the daughter’s marriage. Today in most urban educated homes, equal importance is given, or so I would like to believe, to the education of girls and boys. So far so good. But still not good enough. Formally educating a girl is just the first step, not the final. The reason why I felt like making this point is that around me I see too many educated girls who have a college degree (something coveted in a place like the US I believe- but much too easily available in India) but have no clear idea about why they acquired it in the first place.

Years ago when I was in University pursuing a degree, one of my very catty and sarcastic classmates had made the point that the day we would graduate our “worth” in the ‘marriage market’ would drastically improve. I paid no attention then since I knew she was just being sarcastic and that none in my close friends group had any such perverted ambition. Years later today however when I am the mother of a college going girl, I am unpleasantly surprised to see that that tenet uttered years ago holds true for so many girls who are pursuing college / university degrees with no clear aim of using the education so acquired for the betterment of society, to do something outside the home, to give back to the society that nurtured them.

Having said that college education is easily available in India, it does not necessarily mean that it can be devalued. This is especially true of specialized courses where the number of seats is limited and the competition to secure one of these is high. After having landed one of these plum seats, if the girl in question still intends to use it for nothing more than value-creation in the marriage market then all I can say is, “Girl! What were you thinking while writing the entrance test?!” Somehow you might have thought that these were the course contents:

Accounts: How to keep the grocery shopping accounts

Human Resource Management:  How to bring up children

Public Relations: How to entertain guests and score points with your in-laws

Finance: How to budget the spends and savings on your husband’s salary

Research & development: How to research the latest gadgets to equip you home with

Entrepreneurship: How to plan a kitty party

IT: How to download the latest software on your laptop

Production Technology: How to operate your microwave oven

Fluid Mechanics: How to operate your washing machine

Architecture: How to build your dream home

So on and so forth…The question is about having a conscience and realizing that courses on offer at good colleges and universities come at a price. If you happen to be occupying a seat in a government institute of repute, it was set up using tax-payers’ money. Even if you are at a private institution, the courses on offer had a ‘purpose’, the last of which must have been churning out ideal housewives.

Make no mistake; I am in no way disrespecting or demeaning  the vocation and zeal of  home-makers who often do a brilliant job of converting the hearth to a piece of heaven. All I am suggesting is that if that is the aim and purpose of your life, you should have the heart or the conscience to pass on the seat to another (girl or boy) who may not have the brilliance to do as well as you at the entrance to the course but who in the long run would engage in society outside the home.

At the same time, I urge more and more Indian girls to step out of the home and actively engage in transitioning the society in which they live. I live in the hope that they will see the world that is outside their four walls, that they will also relinquish some of their hold on things inside their houses so that their brothers, partners may engage more and share some of their responsibilities and joys. At the end of the day, it’s a give and take.

The first step was educating our girls; it’s time we take the second step.

13 Comments

  • Rajpriya
    By
    Rajpriya
    24.02.13 07:47 AM
    Here’s a woman known as the first Indian-American woman to take a company public in California’s Silicon Valley answering questions about: Breaking the Gender Barrier”.

    She also sits on the boards of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, the Indian School of Business and Maitri, a Silicon Valley nonprofit that assists women victims of domestic violence.

    Indian women just need to think differently to succeed professionally.

    http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/india/article.cfm?articleid=4570
  • Dimple  Patel
    By
    Dimple Patel
    23.02.13 11:52 PM
    Once a girl is educated, it should be her choice to go out to work or not.If she does want to, then her husband and in laws should encourage her to do so and support her.Two wages are always better than one and as I said earlier. a woman is very good at accommodating, she will always make a home out of a house educated or not. Even if someone wishes to go for further education after married life then it should be encouraged as well.
  • HARRY
    By
    HARRY
    23.02.13 04:05 PM
    @ Susmita

    I can't seem to understand your point in this article at all. where one minute you are saying, women of India needs empowering and educating, and next minute you are saying get off the courses so the one who really wants to become career focused can have place at the university.

    What's that all about????? I can't seem to understand you in what you are really asking them to do.

    One individual in every family will have to give up his/her dream to look after the house. So from what you are saying is, they should not pursue their dream of education because it's waste of time, and they are taking the potions away from somebody who wants to purse the career path of life.

    If above is true then, From what you really are saying by your post is, only go to university if you want a career focused life, maybe own a cat and live alone. Is this what you are asking? Because this is not part of our culture. This is true where I live, but it will never be in India or Indian household any where on the face of the planet.
    Period.

    HARRY
  • desi Traveler
    By
    desi Traveler
    14.02.13 11:03 PM
    We need to also worry about taking step Zero... i.e. to not kill our girls in womb.
  • deviousDiv
    By
    deviousDiv
    14.02.13 08:57 AM
    @Susmita- OMG so true. Such a waste for a woman to study to be a civil engineer, or a doctor, and then stay home. Those are like life-long vocations. >_<

    Unfortunately- the decision to stay home is often made due to parental, societal pressures. Its s pity really- we're losing out on a very viable workforce.
  • Susmita Sen
    By
    Susmita Sen
    14.02.13 08:26 AM
    I thank you all for sharing your views here.
    However, I'm afraid some of us are missing one of the main points I tried to make in the article and that there is nothing wrong in either men or women in choosing to stay at home but that they should not waste an opportunity by enrolling for a professional course. Education on general lines should be enough for such people. My plea is for them to leave the 'professional' courses to those who want to have a profession. Period.
  • deviousDiv
    By
    deviousDiv
    14.02.13 04:29 AM
    Isn't one of the key points of an education the right to make informed choices? I don't think women who give up their careers for family do so lightly.

    But that said- It'll be nice to see more men making the decision to stay home- instead of saying that they aren't good nurturers of home and hearth, or pressuring the woman to make the sacrifices.

    On the flip side of the matrimonial game, a woman who is 'too educated' is also at a disadvantage.
  • Dimple  Patel
    By
    Dimple Patel
    14.02.13 02:34 AM
    i feel whether educated or uneducated, a woman will always be good at housework, nurturing the children, keeping relationships going, keeping budgets bringing an ambience. The problem lies with the man and his relatives.If the man creates the right atmosphere and knowing how to keep a balance, then hw will have a happy life, provided the woman appreciates what if on offer.
  • HARRY
    By
    HARRY
    13.02.13 10:48 PM
    @ Susmita

    Loved the article. :) Agree 100% with you. But don't you think you are asking too much in your last sentence. I'm not being rude but being real, after all we are Indians. Family focus is our number one priority in our culture. If we don't have family and friends and culture, even millions of pounds means nothing. I think in you case is Euros. We are simply a sad loosers with millions of pounds, if there is no family. I'm not saying having a good job is not important, it is. But family always comes first.

    My question is, what is wrong in nourishing people that you love?

    Do you know that 87% of everything made in the world is made for women. I was told this. Cookers, washing machines, vacuum cleaners and all the other domestic appliances to make womens life easier. I don't know what you women really want anymore. LOL :) I think I better stop before I get lynched.

    I think we have come a long way in society but you and I know we still haven't crossed that threshold yet, and I don't think we will any time soon either.

    You can take Indians out of India but you can't take indianess out of Indians. Period. That is the way we are.

    I think I should go and tell the Mrs. start cooking because I like my food hot. Well on that note Susmita au revoir.

    HARRY
  • Rajpriya
    By
    Rajpriya
    13.02.13 09:36 PM
    @Susmita,

    Please read information on how much effort is being made by "The Federal Ministry of Education and Research in Germany"on women's Education. The Link is in English language.

    http://www.bmbf.de/en/474.php
  • Supratik SEN
    By
    Supratik SEN
    13.02.13 08:56 PM
    Very nice article Susmita!
  • Rajpriya
    By
    Rajpriya
    13.02.13 01:55 PM
    @Susmita,

    Your post presents the reality in Indian society. The First Step the society and as the Second Step the education sysem in India needs radical changes to accomodate and empower women more than placing them in marrige markets. Marriage markets are like cattle markets where everything starting from perfect teeth, health, apearance, size and how much (liters=dowry) can you milk a cow and so on are expected by the prospective buyer. Similarly a good looking woman or a beautiful one may have far better chances than the not so looking women is added disadvantage of many women.

    I have watched how Ants as a team carried spilled pieces of bread or other food from our kitchen table and walked at a rapid pace in a perfectly straight line towards some known destination that told us humans that any time soon rain could be expected. As a kid I not only wondered their discipline but what education they had and how it got into their too tiny brains.

    God seems to have created the human anatomy for specific reasons. Our head large enough to put on a hat so that the brain does not overheat, ears big enough to hang all sizes of headsets, the neck round and large enough to display expensive necklaces and I could go on if you know what I mean.

    The kind of prejudice existed in the middle ages to exclude women and girls from education and any vocational trining even in a country like Germany. The women’s life revolved around the kitchen, house keeping, bedroom, taking care of children and in worst and extreme cases lands them in brothels.

    In this era known as dark ages women were deprived of rights to education and any knowledge of sciences. Women rarely had opportunities to develop their potential intellectually while being considered the property of their husbands in this period dictated by superstition and the then illiterate society.

    Indian women acquiring degrees in US, UK or European countries still seem to serve a similar purpose of increasing their demand in the marriage market at home or abroad. It is believed that a foreign educated woman could adapt to life abroad better when marrying men living abroad than rural Indian women. It also satisfies a general idea of getting good and better-paid jobs when moving abroad with those qualifications. Having children puts an abrupt end to women in profession even abroad. Employers are reluctant to re-employ giving the reason that they become out of touch with their profession.

    Moreover education abroad alone does not ensure a different outlook or change in mentality necessary by Indians in this rapidly evolving world. I would refrain from a generalization of this opinion to all Indians. However, to expect those returning would have a changed attitude, mentality, a different outlook to lay value in improving society in the closest neighborhood are far and few. That we do follow up words with deeds is invisible.

    My humble opinion is therefore, education we require must be to gain intelligence for better adaptability and could be used as an evolutionary advantage. In the case of not so good lookig women what should be the first step to a dignified living? We need to come out of the dark ages in India.

    When it comes to knowledge and intelligence we are all satisfied with what each of us have and are very convinced we have much more than anyone else in this world. I am ashamed to admit this includes me.

    I believe an Internet Forum provides a platform to share, discuss and part knowledge (If one thinks I have) is to find a common ground to improve our immediate environment if not the entire world. The meaning of my opinion could be interpreted, as being feminist can only be half the truth. I am as much a feminist as the judge who was called so, by Silvio Berlusconi after he was ordered to pay his ex.
  • Padma Akula
    By
    Padma Akula
    13.02.13 02:54 AM
    Love the article. So true! 7 years ago I had a similar conversation with a friend, who was just studing to score a NRI groom.

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