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What Does it Take to be a Woman?

Feb 2016

What Does it Take to be a Woman?

Plato wrote in his “Republic”, that it’s women, who make the cosmos move.

Is being a woman a long drawn battle where she has to go on fighting?

How difficult is it?

This and much more was discussed at the session “The War Within – Being a Woman”. The session brought together three powerful women Arundhati Bhattacharya, chairman of SBI, Malabika Sarkar, ex Vice Chancellor of Presidency university and Manabi Bandhapadhyay, India’s first transgender person to complete her PhD and become a college Principal. What is the common factor binding these women? Power, strength and determination.

They’ve fought against all odds, whether they’re roadblocks that arose from being a woman or choosing to be a woman, and they’ve emerged victorious.

Malabika Sarkar began by elucidating on the fact that this issue is close to everyone’s hearts and even men today, are starting to acknowledge that. She said, caring and education are the two areas where woman is expected to play her role, but even in these spheres, various difficulties arise. She recollected, how angry she made everybody when she stood up against Jadavpur University administration and raised her voice against she what she thought was wrong.

Malabika Sarkar

Malabika Sarkar

Arundhati Bhattacharya on being asked how she managed to achieve so much and yet keep her family happy, said the problems in a male dominated society were plenty. She says, most of the discrimination today, is unconscious. She recollects the troubles she faced when she wanted to be posted to be in the Kharagpur branch and yet, she managed to make it the second best run branch after taking over when it was ranked the lowest. Sometimes, she says, you have to stand up and ask for the distinction to be removed. A woman needs to work very hard and create a reputation and even though the initial years might be hard, they eventually get better. For a woman, its of utmost importance to prioritize and that’s the secret behind balancing family and work life. Creating efficient teams to take care of your duties when you’re away is the key.

“Make your own luck, sometimes,” she said.

Arundhati Bhattacharya

Arundhati Bhattacharya

Manabi Bandhapadhyay says, after every women has fought and won battles, she has had a husband or a father beside her. She was all alone. She has grown up reading books, rather sadly, about relationships between a woman and the many men in her life. A raised eyebrow, is what she gets at every sphere of her life whether its her work or the fact that she adopted a son.
Manabi Bandhopadhyay also elucidated on the misuse of the benefits a woman gets.

The most important problem transgenders face is that, people cannot accept that they are actually women, in spite of the male voice and a masculine structure.

Manabi Bandhapadhyay

Manabi Bandhapadhyay

The real fight is actually inside our hearts.

Discrimination, to be ended, is still a long way away. They discussed the quota system too. Its after one lady infringes and takes part in something, people recognize the importance of women being there.
What is important, is to create an ecosystem, where a woman can easily balance both work and personal lives. Where they can take maternity leave, leave when elderly people fall sick at home or when children need attention due to board examinations and others.Technology can be used to create an area where women can work from home.

“Sometimes, women are their own demons”, said Arundhati Bhattacharya.

Self doubt is what works here.”They create their own boundaries. They need to feel confident and step out,” said Arundhati.

“At the end of the day, you alone can help yourself” she advises.

Predefined gender role acts as a barricade too. If one is spirited, a woman can overcome all barricades with ease.
On being asked whether the panelists support women beginning startups and stepping out in the outer world as entrepreneurs, Arundhati Bhattacharya says, just before coming down to Kolkata, she has given loans to 200 women to help them start their own boutiques. Each of them had their own unique struggles and stories. Special schemes are being created to help women.

As Malabika Bandhapadhyay said, that there hopefully will be a day in future, when there won’t at all be a session on troubles a woman faces. That’ll be the real victory.


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