Women’s day is an opportunity. ‘For what?’ you may want to ask. The answer to this meanders around newspaper adverts, TV spots, radio jingles, emailers, social media updates, and whatsapp messages. The blitz began a couple of days back and my inbox has almost every sort of seller remind me of either what to do on women’s day or what to buy.

Women's Day is an opportunity
Women’s Day is an opportunity

As a result of the tens of emailers, I now know that Zefmo has a mobile to sell and Zoomin has a special discount code ‘mydiva’ because it doesn’t want to remain away from congratulating super women. HRKatha wants me to attend some kind of power lecture on the 3Cs mantra for women’s day and Social samosa is doing a FB live that they call their SuperWomen Summit. The adverts in newspapers aren’t far behind. They urge readers to ‘look beyond my look’ and insist that they are making this day ‘as special as you’. ‘May every step you take have a beautiful ring to it’ obviously comes with diamonds attached. Restaurants are offering free dessert to gatherings of ten or more women, fashion pledges to let women glide over gift vouchers, malls talk about special concerts, salons offer extra somethings, and even PVR is shouting itself hoarse. Whatsapp unfortunately has around a dozen pictures getting forwarded at breakneck speed… and some of these pictures are actually sales messages that users are sending without even reading the text. Even political parties have joined this ‘opportunity mela’.

Now you must agree that women’s day is an opportunity.

This day has shrunk into itself and is sitting restlessly in a cocoon constructed with sales messages and marketing pitches. This is what makes the whole hullaballoo sound scary and isn’t what Nari Shakti is all about.

The real Nari Shakti

For those who have not being following news bulletins in the past few months, let me just add here that Women in India have excelled in almost every sphere. There have been amendments in laws, changes and tweaks in policies, activities completed that speak more about women empowerment than a few business houses offering discounts and doing a profit-oriented lip service to women and their lives. Women can now go for a permanent commission as officers in the Indian army, navy and air force. The wider and deeper penetration of LPG connections, antenatal check-ups, movement to ensure safety during pregnancy, Samriddhi accounts for the girl child, and efforts to improve the skewed sex ratio are what really benefit women. If you want to know more about women’s reproductive health, you can discover here resources about topics such as abortion. The amendment to increase maternity leave, ordinance for death penalty for rape of girl child under 12, the will to promote enrolment and the availibility of multiple scholarships for girls in schools, the Muslim women bill seeking to ban triple talaq, and construction of toilets in rural India are things that celebrate women more than free desserts in restaurants. By the way, the minimum punishment for the rape of a girl under 16 years has been increased from 10 to 20 years. I am pretty much sure that many readers would not be aware that government PSUs have been asked to purchase 3% of material from enterprises owned by women, that 9.74 crore toilets in 5.48 lakh villages spanning 27 States/UTs now exist to make defecation safer for women, that Muslim women can now perform Haj without a male guardian, that passport rules have been relaxed for single mothers, and 6.26 crore women now have LPG connection at home.

How many of us are aware of the women who have lead our Republic day contingent, or that brave group on INSV Tarini, or our sportswomen who have won medals in international sports, or Avani Chaturvedi for being the first Indian pilot to fly a fighter jet, Deepika Padukone for being one of the top ten highest paid actresses in the world, Meenakshi Gurukkal for being fit enough at 76 to practice Kalaripayattu, and Mithali Raj for becoming the first woman cricketer to reach 2000 runs in T20 matches.

To tell you the truth, women achievers aren’t just the newsmakers that I have mentioned but would include the millions of those women who have loved balancing effectively their work in the office and the hundreds of things to be done at home. There are then the women entrepreneurs from the unorganized sector who one meets at every crossing and every street in the country. There are women in creative fields giving the world an opportunity to dive into fresh perspectives.

A new relevance for women’s day is what we must seek

We must rise above all the ephemeral fluff and the cacophony of reverberating slogans and begin seeing women’s day for what it really stands for. Women’s day is indeed an opportunity but not just for the hundreds of marketers who wait to push products and services but for us all to acknowledge that…

  1. Women can do and do everything right
  2. Women can think and think for themselves as well
  3. Women can move the world if the need arises
  4. Women can learn, unlearn, and relearn
  5. Women can construct, deconstruct, and reconstruct
  6. Women can understand what equality really means

The sad fact is that despite all the fabulous words in my article there are still millions of women waiting on the other side of euphoria. Women’s day is one opportunity to connect with such women and make them aware that times are changing. Awareness is the first step that initiates a change. Let us simply take the first step… the same step that women achievers of today took a few years or decades back. And if discounts, vouchers, and visiting a restaurant for free dessert helps strengthen this resolve, so be it.




Women's Day messages in 2019
Women’s Day messages in 2019




Arvind Passey
08 March 2019