Columns, Opinion

Miss Leading: Improvement in women’s rights in India

Indian women are breaking boundaries and I could not be more proud.

As an Indian woman growing up in the United States, I have been given a lot more encouragement and freedom about who I want to be and what I want to do. However, recently, women in India have been breaking free of all the stereotypes that have been hindering them from living their lives the same way. In India, women are finally becoming more financially independent and are working to be able to provide for their families alongside their male counterparts.

For as long as I’ve been alive and definitely before that, women in India have usually had to stay home and take care of the family and household, rather than going out to do work — and this is mostly because of the lack of education previous generations of women were receiving. Girls in India used to go to school until they reached puberty, when they were forced to marry young and start a family. For so long, dropping out of school to raise children was the only option that Indian women had. It’s one thing if a woman wants to be a homemaker, but it’s another thing if she wants to do something but can’t because of her gender.

Many families in India pray to have sons because of the belief that girls won’t be able to bring in as much money a son would. India has 21 million “unwanted girls” who live in the streets because of the preference of having sons over daughters. If that tells you anything, what it should tell you is that there is a systemic problem in the country.

But times are changing, and they’re changing fast. Prime Minister Narendra Modi advocates for giving women an education and has made protecting them a priority. His policies offer parents higher-interest accounts for their daughters than their sons. More women have gained access to smart phones and TV. They are given many more opportunities to work, whether it be in an office or even in rural environments, with some women even doing things like building self-sustaining businesses that benefit women in villages across India. It is inspiring that so many women are entering the workforce and finding their own ways to be support themselves without the men in their families.

After generations of being put on the backburner, all women in India, regardless of their socioeconomic background, are gaining access to all of the necessities that will change their status in the labor force.

The fact that India is changing so rapidly shows me that Western countries should stop having the wrong idea about countries that have usually had oppressive policies for women. We’ve seen this similar situation with Saudi Arabia — a country that is working to change its old ways and making strides in granting equal rights to women.

It’s so empowering to me, as a person who has lived their whole life in the United States, to see that the country that my family and I are from is making it a point to take women’s rights seriously. I can already see how being empowered is letting my younger cousins do something incredible with their lives and reach limits that they never have before. India’s progress is promising and shows me that if India can make a positive difference, America can improve as well.

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