Best time to be a woman ?
By Ranjan Yumnam *
A women contingent at the Manipur Police Raising Day Parade at 1st Bn Manipur Rifles Parade ground on 19th October 2011
Pix : Bullu Raj
The Times of India recently carried a report proclaiming Manipur as one of the best places to be born in India. Though the news had a hyperbolic slant, it was a moment to be proud of. So rarely do we get applause for a positive reason that I fear this piece of good news may have gone unnoticed by many.
The rare distinction was bestowed on Manipur for its achievement on two vital indicators of women health. One, the Infant Mortality Rate (number of deaths for every 1000 live births) in the State has come down to 11 in 2011 from 14 in 2010, and second, our tiny puny State has managed to bring down the Maternal Mortality Rate (maternal deaths for every 100000 live births) to 160.
These figures are impressive if compared against the corresponding national indices. Acknowledging these, India Today awarded Manipur the coveted title of Best Performing State in the small state category.
Please let your hair down. There are more good news for women in store as they march forward for parity with men. And in increasing number of areas, Manipuri women are outperforming men.
Say for example, if we look at the proportion of recruitments in Government in recent years, women are fairly represented, even stripping men's numbers.
It is significant to note that this upward mobility of women is happening at the higher end of the pyramid. Women have joined the ranks of top professionals on an equal footing with their male counterparts. For any proof, scan the results of the UPSC and MPSC examinations held in the recent few years—the number of successful women getting inducted into positions of responsibility is simply revealing of a social transformation that is brewing quietly.
Women are definitely set to dominate the profession of teaching—if the results of recruitment of teachers by SSA and RMSA are anything to go by. If this trend continues, curriculum may likely incorporate more women centric issues. Schools will become more attractive to girls. In the lighter side, we will see a spurt in sales of a particular colour to adorn the wall of school buildings: you guess it right, it is pink!
Half jokes apart, what is more surprising is that Manipuri women have broken the glass ceiling, doors and windows—almost everything that is blocking their way forward— to claim their places even in the traditionally male bastion like police forces. (It is another matter whether the police will become a more humane and sensitive organisation or the system will produce a new generation of macho ladies).
Likewise in healthcare sector, doctors of fair sex are out-manning the hospitals, PHCs, private clinics and diagnosis centres. There is a 90 per cent chance that if you ever contracted a venereal disease or something and go out for treatment, the doctor holding the scalpel would be a lady!
Already our nurses are becoming one of the biggest exports to other states and foreign countries.
And in sports, who would have thought that graceful ladies like Mary Kom, Sarita and Sanamacha Chanu would become champions in sports disciplines that an entire male lineage of a family tree wouldn't dare to tread?
The point is: it's a hell of a good time to be a woman now than it ever was in the past. Two factors have enabled this social transformation and the thousands kitty parties that accompany it.
First, education. More women are getting a decent education encouraged by their parents whose middle class aspirations extend both to their sons and daughters. Even illiterate parents have recognised education as a priority and think nothing of foregoing present comforts to be able to send their daughters to good schools to lift themselves out of poverty to a future of status and wealth.
It's a good sign of our times that education is no more skewed in favour of any gender. It's getting more inclusive and girls are getting better in studies as the Board and University exam results have shown year after year.
In this merit-based society, talent is the hottest currency and is gender-blind. A male conspiracy for domination is simply impossible.
Second, the change in the nature of economy: from manufacturing, agriculture and labour intensive industry to knowledge and service oriented economy has been a catalyst for women empowerment.
We are living in the post industrial age where brain power is more valuable than brawny power. This has tipped the scales in favour of women. The highest paying jobs in today's world are those that involve and draw upon intellectual capacity and educational attainments of the person. It's not about physical strength anymore; hydraulic machines and robots have made human physical prowess irrelevant anyway.
In the past, the man with the superior fighting skills was made a Warrior Prince to lord over women and physically weak populace. It would not be an exaggeration to say that if that person were to born in this age, he would be a police constable.
It's inescapable: men have lost their edge. So, it's a level playing field now, and that field is called education which calls for hours of sitting alone at the desk, studying with patience and discipline—two attributes boys generally lack.
The implications of this new tectonic change in the social and economic landscape will be profound.
First, women may start earning more than men as they grab more high-paying and prestigious jobs.
Second, we may see a slew of new pro-women policies at the workplace, like more extended and meaningful childcare and maternity benefits. Gender budgeting will become a norm rather than an exception.
Third, at the home front, as women are holding bigger purse strings, they will have a greater say in the affairs of the family, education of the kids and other decisions involving finances.
The effects of all these on men will range from feelings of resentment, fear to resignation.
There may even be a backlash from men used to an entrenched culture of condescension towards women, especially from men engaging in frustrating menial works at the lower rungs of the society.
As women make big strides, crimes against them have also increased which is a manifestation of men's sense of loss of control and power.
This can't continue forever. Men are bound to shut up, throw away their beer cases, use their brain or face the consequences.
In other words, men should learn to sit quietly and work harder or concede the lead further to the fair sex.
Of course, there will be many men who will not like the new gender equation. In such a situation fraught with raw nerves and uneasy adjustments, it is quite possible that a disgruntled male chauvinist, in a blind fury, may assault a random woman in the street who happen to be a lawyer, who happens to be a friend of the female Deputy Commissioner of the district, who then calls up the Superintendent of Police, who is a lady, who then produce the male culprit before a magistrate, a lady again, who then sends him to jail where the jailor, you bet, is a woman. Helplessly, the man calls up the Local MLA who wears a saree!
Such a day is not very far.
(Views expressed are personal and do not represent official position)
* Ranjan Yumnam , a frequent contributor to e-pao.net, wrote this article for The Sangai Express. The writer can be contacted at ranjanyumnam(at)gmail(dot)com
This article was posted on November 18, 2012.
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