Bleeding in Silence

Education makes people easy to lead, but difficult to drive; easy to govern, but impossible to enslave – Lord Brougham (1778 – 1868).

As a men’s rights activist, I have always wondered why Indian women are never empowered. I have observed that women’s groups always advocate bringing in new gender biased legislation to undermine men in the country and project that as women empowerment. I have always believed that we are not addressing the issue of women empowerment in the right perspective. So I have done some research to find out the factors for gender equality and how India as a nation is performing vis-à-vis is other countries in the globe. This excerpt is taken from UNDP published Human Development Report, 2013

Global Gender Inequality Index

This table shows the factors responsible for gender equality and we find that education plays a very important role in ensuring overall gender equality. Population with Secondary Education is an important direct factor measuring equality. An educated population will create an educated labor force and hence will increase women participation in our labor force as well. This will also ensure increased participation of women in our political force and hence we will have more participation in our parliament. And when women are engaged in education, child marriage rate will come down, reducing our adolescent fertility rate. Increased education will in turn also increase awareness among women about their health and hygiene and reduced child marriage will eventually lead to reduced maternal mortality ratio. In a nutshell, education is the key empowerment for anyone.

So we understand from the above discussion that Secondary Education is the most important factor that needs urgent attention from our govt. and women’s groups. Unfortunately in recent times we have seen that Human Resource Ministry of India and many women’s rights groups demanding girls first in centers of excellence like IITs. So we understand that instead of focusing on the right factor of ‘Secondary Education for masses’, our govt. is looking at destroying our leadership in technical education by introducing more quotas there. No wonder why we don’t find any Indian University in global top 200 university list .

So we should want secondary education to spread far and wide, both in men and women. This is because in a nation when both genders progress equally, only then we see progress of the nation.

From the above table, we also find that in all the countries where women literacy rate is abysmally low, have one thing in common. ‘Poverty’! But when in most of these nations education is free then why is poverty such a big factor in hindering women’s education.

Meaningful research towards this issue shows the exact reason for lower education rate among women in these poor countries. Prof. Linda Scott of Said Business School, Oxford has done a research on this issue in Ghana. Her research has shown that post-pubescent girls were missing school as many as five days each month due to inadequate menstrual care. Other activities such as work, chores and playing with other children are also restricted. In rural locations the impact of menstruation upon the girls was particularly noticeable where there were no, or inadequate, toilet or washing facilities, no privacy, and the girls had walks of 2 hours or more to attend school.

Her research showed that after providing free sanitary pads and introducing education about menstruation issues girls absenteeism dropped from 21% to 9%. The other advantages reported are –

    1. Improved ability to concentrate in school
    2. Higher confidence levels
    3. Increased participation in a range of everyday activities while menstruating.
    4. Declined negative experiences relating to soiling and embarrassment
    5. Decreased feelings of shame and isolation and
    6. Improved measures of well-being

Aruna Wilson in her report WOM 420 paper  has done the similar research and studied women menstruation Issue in India. In her research on this issue she has questioned the taboo that is created around women’s menstruation issues and a sense of shame attached to it in different forms, whereas it is a natural physiological issue of every woman. She has projected the need of social Circles of Knowledge that revolves mostly around mothers, nannies, friends or aunts. But the main issue facing these poor and uneducated families is ignorance and lack of support structure that many NGOs are filling.

UNICEF has also brought in different measures of Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) and WASH programs in different schools in developing nations.

Sex education is still a taboo in these countries. Adolescent girls from these countries do not have any knowledgeable and reliable source of information about their sexuality. They end up being misinformed and ashamed of their sexuality because of certain changes during puberty. But since NO ONE talks about these issues openly, they become worried and think it is their personal problem and not affecting anyone else. The solution to this problem facing any normal woman is only one – hygienic sanitary pads.

Multinational companies like P&G and Johnson and Johnson are dominating the marketplace today, with their branded products at very high price level. Affordability of these products becomes a big question for women in these countries. These are the countries that are reeling under so much poverty that sustaining hunger itself is a big issue for them. Use of branded sanitary pads becomes a luxury for them. Hence, these women use less hygienic, home- made products that cause hygienic problems leading to issues like irregular attendance in schools, social separation and eventually dropping out from school and getting married.

A country that is already reeling under poverty, many of our parents have no choice but to allow the girl child to drop out of school simply because they can’t afford to educate the girl child and maintain their health standards this way. It is not because as a nation we hate women or we want to oppress them, but because affording healthy Sanitary Napkins is Just Not Possible for most of the rural parents in India.

When most of the issues relating to women empowerment and gender equality can be resolved by solving one big issue –‘EDUCATION’ and by providing our women with affordable sanitary napkins, we are busy making gender biased legislation to empower them. This is not only creating a distance between men and women in the country, but also creating hatred between the genders as women are given all benefits and men are increasingly being deprived of their basic rights.

Those who have served the cause of revolution have ploughed the sea” – Simon Bolivar 1783 – 1830

Make a difference not only to yourself but to our future generation, too..…Do you care?

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