|HER WORLD||Sunday, September 28, 2003, Chandigarh, India|
only work, they don’t take decisions
Anu Celly talks to a cross-section of accomplished professional women who are homemakers too, to find out how they strike a balance between home and work.
WOMEN make up one half of the world’s task force. Blessed with the capacity for giving and nurturing life, women have developed unparalleled skills of economy and resource management because for centuries they have had to battle against odds. They have proved their mettle in the world of professional competence and successful entrepreneurship , while managing their home and families
Neena Singh, Vice-President and Regional Head, North, HDFC Bank Ltd.
It is indeed a challenge to balance work and home efficiently, especially if the job is demanding and there is a desire to excel. Time is often a constraint, so one has to extract so much more from each day. This builds up its own pressures and stress which can only be released if there is complete understanding between members of the family–husband, children and in-laws–towards the requirements of a high-pressure job for the woman in the family. It is only with their active support that the roles can be balanced and harmony achieved. I am fortunate in having a husband and teenage son who encourage me in all my endeavours and this foundation of mutual respect has motivated me to take on such a demanding career.
Smriti, Professor, University Business School and Institute For Management Research
The art of balancing, I have learnt through time management. Pre-planning for the next day helps. In order to meet deadlines, I organise my schedule meticulously to distribute properly my energy and time between my job at the university and at the management centre. When my children were small, I took the help of my husband and mother-in-law but never sent them to a cr`E8che. I do my own research work early mornings, late evenings and on holidays. I never take up a commitment unless I can fulfill the same.
Vijay Wadhawan, owner, gas distribution agency:
I have been managing a gas distribution agency since 1985, before that I was working as a Publicity Officer at Punjab Tractors. My day starts at 4.30 am. In order to arm myself spiritually, I practice an hour of yoga and Art of Living, followed by a game of golf at the break of the day. This helps me to keep fit. I work in my office till 5 pm and then take part in community service projects through the Rotary Club and Golf Club activities.
Simran Chadha, Owner, Iris Beauty Parlour:
A very helpful joint family system and an encouraging and co-operative husband comprise the bulwark of my professional success. Working together with my sisters-in-law in a joint family business takes care of most of the bottlenecks involved in business. I strongly believe that working women are more organised and tend to spend more quality time with husband and children. Extra money is always welcome since it augments a woman’s self-esteem and self-confidence to take life head on!
Dr. Neena Raina, Technical Officer, Child and Adolescent Health, WHO:
It is important for a woman to develop an understanding within the family so that they respect your professional life and understand your commitments. The critical factor is the role of an accommodating husband who values your professional goals. Women should not lose sight of their traditional values. Whenever we get the time and opportunity we should remain actively involved in domestic chores. This helps me to relax and unwind. Balancing requires shifting priorities slightly from time to time.
Kamal Bedi, Governor, Rotary International, Distt. 3080
I believe that only the busiest people in the world have all the time to take up anything. Though I have to look after my family and my relations, my own travel business, my current Rotary assignment as District Governor of Rotary International, which would be requiring my major time, my own self (spiritually, physically, mentally), I am prepared to take up any fresh challenge. The key to my determination is a level of dynamism which feeds on insatiable energy levels and the fervour to see a project completed. I am totally focussed on what I do at a given point of time—the secret of my success.
Usha Khetarpal, Principal, GCG, Sector 11, Chandigarh:
My own teachers taught me
that punctuality and sincerity are the hallmarks of teaching. I enjoy
teaching and it is this that gives me the impetus to meet the
challenges. My husband is very supportive. He took premature retirement
to join me. Discipline and an all-consuming love for what you are doing
in life is what takes you through all the odds.
women only work, they don’t take decisions
WOMEN'S role in agricultural operations, animal husbandry and other economically productive activities is very significant. They contribute about 60-70 per cent of the labour required for these activities thus playing a pivotal role in sustaining rural economy. The decision-making process is an important segment of every household because it makes implementation of a plan or programme quite easy. In rural areas of Himachal Pradesh, both husband and wife are jointly responsible for making decisions on matters like family obligations, specific housing charges and purchase of household articles. However, women's suggestions are not given due consideration in the decisions pertaining to agricultural sector and important family matters. It is because the majority of women are illiterate, have little time to know about the latest techniques of farming and restricted mobility due to several cultural taboos. It is worth mentioning that according to the Economic Survey of India, 2001, the number of school dropouts for girl students was still relatively high (41.9 and 57.7 per cent) at the primary and upper primary stages, respectively, despite the fact that elementary education was given priority by the government.
In a study conducted by Bela et al (1996) on the women of rural areas of Himachal Pradesh, it was observed (table 1) that in almost all the aspects relating to livestock, procurement of credit, education of children, marketing of farm produce and investment of added profits, joint decisions were taken in most families. However, the percentage of families with male-dominated decisions was more than female-dominated decisions in all the matters. The decisions related to agricultural sector were male-dominated in most of the farm families, though, more than 70 per cent of the labour input required for this sector was provided by women.
In an interview with female respondents, it was noticed that the joint decisions were also apparently joint in most of the cases. Male members only sought their consent whereas their suggestions/objections were not taken in to account. Thus it was evident that women had to play second-fiddle to men in decision-making. Another study conducted by Punia and Yadav (1990) in Haryana, revealed that farm women did not decide independently about any farm operation but participated in almost all the decisions and dominated only decisions more related to home sphere i.e. storage of farm produce, purchase/sale of animal and credit.
We generally talk of women's empowerment which can be interpreted as creating power, increasing power or enabling power to be exercised by them. In other words, it can be said that women should have powers to determine their own actions, power to have an authority to make decisions and guide their destiny. This power in decision-making can be acquired and exercised only if they have a thorough knowledge about the various programmes, plans and current issues, access to the basic human development and social policies. Generally, women have less access to information about technology by virtue of their inferior educational status and relative isolation from public life. Thus, there is a hesitation to come out and interact. At times, even the suggestions of knowledgeable rural women are ignored or are not taken seriously because men consider it disgraceful to accept the decisions of women. This is because traditionally men have been major law-makers of society. Many policies and decisions neglect women and undermine their abilities and roles.
In this context, a strong support from male society is deemed to improve the plight of women. Men should provide an equal status to their female counterparts, exhort them, make them equally capable and help enhance their knowledge and skills. Male members and other elders (mothers, fathers-in-law etc) should share their responsibilities at home, encourage them and make it possible to attend various extension programmes. The undesired restrictions imposed by elderly people in the society on their daughters and daughters-in-law should be relaxed to facilitate their mobility in order to have easy access to the outer world.
Most importantly, the women should have a penchant for self-empowerment through enhancing their knowledge and skills. Empowerment without any change in men's attitude or without their willingness will only aggravate family problems, increasing dissatisfaction and ensuring that women will continue to be at the receiving end.
Government policies should be framed to provide legal support and instil confidence in women. Programmes should be developed exclusively for women, to build leadership skills for managing agricultural community-based development activities. Access of technology, inputs and credit has to be ensured predominantly through women extension workers.
They should be trained in
farm management skills and made capable of taking even complex decisions
like shifting from subsistence farming to diversified agriculture,
withstand competition from market forces, improvement in work or farm
I know it’s a losing battle. But like a determined warrior, I haven’t yet accepted defeat in the constant tussle to shield my nearly two-year-old son from the ever-expanding empire of junk food. Signs of it having invaded his mindscape are already visible though.
My efforts to get him hooked to health foods were working well. Till he got hooked to television, that is. The other day, I was so thrilled when I returned from work to his chirrupy chants of " Johnny papa, Johnny papa." A couple of nights ago, I’d read out the rhyme, "Johnny, Johnny, yes papa" to him. On hearing him rattle off the lines thus, I welled up with motherly pride, "Wow! He liked the poem so much that he remembers it." I tweaked my little one’s cheeks in appreciation as he tugged me into our living room. And there came the revelation`85
I sprawled on the sofa only to be riveted soon to the images emanating from Tiny TV. As my son animatedly bobbed up and down like a spring toy in front of the small screen, I wondered what was it he had dragged me along to see. Not much in the mood then to savour the adventures of Tom & Jerry or Bob the Builder, I got up to get myself some snacks when the commercial break came. Just then my son let out squeals of excitement. "Mama, look. Johnny Papa." I froze in my tracks. This was not the good old Johnny of our rhyme books who ate sugar. This was a contemporary, adult Johnny getting scolded by his papa for devouring not sugar but 5 Star chocolates. Ah, so it was the chocolates, not Johnny, that had clicked with my son! That was the first bittersweet taste I got of junk food having made inroads into my son’s consciousness. More was to follow.
Having witnessed how telly images were seducing his taste buds, I stepped up my drive to initiate him into health foods with more gusto. What better day to do that than a Sunday, when my time and patience are not in short supply. "Look baby, what mama has made for you," I beckoned him in a tone as syrupy as the sweet revenge I planned on the electronic agent of junk food standing in my living room.
I chased him around with a bowl full of wholesome, healthy porridge. "Dalia, dalia," I crooned lyrically as if I was lending my voice to an ad jingle. But it was not music for his ears. "Maggi, Maggi," he preferred to sing a different tune. This struck a discordant note. The Maggi magic certainly took the melody out of my value-added dietary drive. But I wasn’t going to give up so easily. I tightened my vigil. Anything and everything that belonged to the damaging family of fast and junk food began being kept out of sight. "Out of sight, out of mind" became my new war cry against all zero-nutrition foods. Every time my son pouted pleadingly, ‘Chips,chips’, I’d dish out home-made French fries, packed with the goodness of potatoes and sprinkled lavishly with my goodwill. Each time he pointed to the colas or Frootis his cousin was sipping, I’d treat him to almond sherbat or nimboo pani. In short, I’d think up a healthier substitute for each junk food he showed a craving for.
"Aha, now he’s on the right track," I told myself in a self-congratulatory appraisal of the food-for-health programme. He was responding favourably to my well-planned menu`85until a small red packet of spicy snack appeared on the scene when we’d got guests over. I saw red. "Dearie, that’s not for you. It’s got mirchi," I tried my best to scare him off. But the moment my back was turned he was munching the forbidden food, never mind the tears cruising down his stuffed mouth. He obviously didn’t mind going red in the face, such was his commitment to what’s a ‘hot’ favourite in the snack pack.
For once, my imagination
failed me. It’s a thing I’ve not yet found a home-made substitute
for. It seems, with my son’s discovery of kurkure my health
food promotion is in for din bure!