08 Balance for Better - March 8 is International Women's Day. - Sr Ananda Amritmahal, rscj

posted Feb 28, 2019, 10:34 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Feb 28, 2019, 10:34 AM ]
I googled the term 'Gender Balance' and found an unbelievable 36,400,000 entries! Needless to say, I didn't look through all of them, but even a cursory glance at some of the titles seemed to indicate a growing awareness of the urgent need for gender balance, and a growing conviction that such a balanced perspective in every area of human activity would in fact contribute to heightened effectivity, better performance, a healthier and more sustainable environment, and greater justice and peace at all levels. To quote Michelle Obama, "No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half of its citizens."

That women bring in a different perspective is undeniable. This has been shown time and again, when women have been allowed to participate in the making of public policy. Village panchayats show a clear shift in priorities when there is a majority of women in the group, or when the sarpanch is a woman. Access to clean water, healthcare and education received greater emphasis in such villages, than more commercial enterprises. Women's perspective on preserving the environment, too, is one that recognises the integral connectedness of all life, and seeks to preserve a balance between use and conservation of our finite natural resources.

The Grameen Bank movement started by Muhammad Yunus in the late 1970s caught the attention of the world, since it focused on empowering village women through small loans to enable them to set up small entrepreneurial enterprises. It was particularly indicative that this movement, as also the micro-finance initiatives undertaken by banks, found that women made more reliable creditors than men; the small-scale businesses frequently proved to be profitable, and the loans were usually faithfully repaid. Even when the women defaulted, the money was more likely to have been spent on the nurture and upkeep of family, especially children, than on anti-social activities like drinking, gambling etc.

A spate of films like 'Bend It Like Beckham', 'Chak de India' and 'Dangal' turned the spotlight on women in the sports world. Representation of women in the sports world, institutional and governmental support of their activities, and adequate coverage of their performance in the media are all on the increase (witness the 2016 Olympics when the only two medals won by Indians were claimed by women athletes!), but there is still a long way to go.