To mark International Women’s Day, MetroPlus speaks to women from different walks of life who tell us how each of us can make a difference by empowering ourselves

Yet another International Women’s Day… A day when many pay lip service to the cause of women’s empowerment without practising what they preach. But there are an equal number of people who, without making a show and dance of it, work to empower women in many small but significant ways. On the occasion of Women's Day, MetroPlus asks some women, students and professionals, what is the one thing that they feel would make a significant contribution to better the lives of women, how that would make a difference and why.

Many of the women we spoke to said that the change had to come from within. Self-reliance, self-awareness, confidence… these were some of the changes in attitude that they felt would make a woman secure and in charge of her life.

Let’s us hear it from these women themselves…

Rekha Menon

(Television hostess and corporate communications expert)

It is high time women stopped hankering for the certificate of the ‘paavam’ and the ‘nice person’ and also stop trying to mould their personality to please others. We must teach our daughters to be confident and self-reliant. Women should have the spunk to speak up and/or express their anger or displeasure when they are the target of unwanted attention. I feel ‘violence’ is not just physical, it can be emotional too. Even a man’s gaze could violate a woman’s sense of security and dignity. But if we continue to play victims, we are bound to get victimised.

Soumya P. Nair

(Teacher of English, Nedumangad Girls Higher Secondary School)

We must ensure that girls are aware of their strengths while teaching boys to respect women. It has to begin at home and continued in school with gender sensitisation programmes and teaching of life skills. We have to empower ourselves. More than the injury done unto us, it is the injury that we inflict on ourselves that does the biggest damage and hampers our development in every way. There are no victors or vanquished but one has to strive for a level playing field.

Sreebala K. Menon

(Author and filmmaker)

Some kind of arrangement wherein children, at least till they finish school, could come and spend time at their mother’s or father’s workplace has become the need of the hour. Their children’s safety and security is on the mind of every working mother. In fact, many women take a break or stop working to provide their children with a safe environment. If the government comes up with a policy that makes it compulsory for every work place to provide space for such an arrangement, I am sure many more women would join the work force. This has become a necessity with the break down of the nuclear family and displacement.

Amrutha Mohan

(Final-year undergraduate student of All Saints College)

Usually, whenever there is any injustice against women, it is the women’s organisations that come out in the open to protest against it. But I would like to see a collective protest by men in support of the woman/women seeking justice. This acts as a catalyst in women’s empowerment. I insist on this aspect because every man is dependent on at least one woman in his life, including his mother. So, at least for the sake of that sacred relationship, men should rally behind a woman who needs support.

Dr. Sheila Balakrishnan

(Additional Professor and Head of the Fertility Centre, SAT Hospital, Government Medical College, Thiruvananthapuram)

Women should take charge of their own lives. Most women neglect themselves and their dreams take a back seat. She even feels guilty if she ever puts her needs first. The more a woman cares for herself and becomes comfortable with her own self, the better she can fulfil her multiple roles as a good citizen, an equal partner and a responsible mother.

Shobha Koshy

(Chief Postmaster General of Kerala)

We need a change in the attitude towards women and womanhood. Be it among men or, for that matter, women themselves, there is this feeling that women cannot aspire. All women should be in a position to be and do whatever it is that they want. There is nothing that a woman can’t achieve if she sets her mind to it. Every choice that she makes should be a free choice. The only way I see a change in this parochial attitude is sensitisation at every level. Everyone needs to set their own example.

Arya S.

(Final year student of B.A. English at Government College for Women. She was in the news for voicing her displeasure at an anti-woman tirade)

Women should not wait for anyone, anything or depend on reservations or any such handholding from the Government to forge ahead. We have to learn to do our best purely on the basis of our competence and our intelligence. We ourselves have to be the change. Parents need to nurture and encourage this inherent strength in their children right from childhood onwards.

Juleey Aji

(Advocate at Nedumangad District Court)

The girl child should be taught to defend herself, vocally and physically. She should be encouraged to voice her opinion and learn to say ‘no’ when the need arises. Every girl child should learn some form of martial art. We hide facts of rape, abuse and the like to protect our children when in reality we are making them view the world through rose tinted glasses. Punishments for crimes against woman should be made more stringent.

Nisha Verghis

(Third year Electrical and Electronics student at Mar Baselios College of Engineering and Technology)

I wish women had true “security”. I’m sure if women were more confident of their security, they would have achieved far more. By security I do not mean increasing police personnel as no amount of policing will make women secure. Only a change in mindset would help achieve this security. If both men and women would learn to respect women for what they are, for the multiple roles they play, for their ability to care, then I feel life would be much more productive and only then girls would be truly free.