There is no tool for development so effective than the empowerment of women. As gender bias is still deeply embedded in cultures, economies, political and social institutions around the world, it is so important to give this much attention. Each culture, each country and region have their own issues and needs in gender inequality. At a Dutch citizen, raised in a caring warm family together with my sister, I’m blessed to have had free choice, access to high quality education and health services, equal treatment throughout my life. And still under these circumstances, I had to walk my path as a girl, women, mothers and professional. Working for a great company, IBM, where diversity has been top of agenda for many, many years, I have been able to learn, grow, contribute and share my experience as a women. I’ve been a member of the Women in Blue community and worked with many different other Women diversity corporate teams and organisations. I’ve facilitated Women Leadership Training to highly talented female leaders across Europe. So you can say I’m quite passionate about the topic Women Empowerment. Than yet, I’ve learned so much more about women empowerment in the last few weeks here in India.
In India, women have never been given their basic rights for proper education and freedom. They are victims who have to face day to day violence, abuse and other several ill treatments in this male dominated society and this patriarch society.There is a high level of gender inequality where women are maltreated by their family members as well as outsiders. The sex ratio in Rajasthan is 926 (females per 1,000 males) and continues to decrease. Due to the social and cultural pressure, giving birth to a son if more favorable than to a daughter. Than also the literacy rate of women is only 52,7% versus 65.5% of the men. So gender equality is a moral imperative which requires a lot of focus of all leaders in India.
Secondly, women are key managers of natural resources and powerful agents of change. Women are often more directly dependent on natural resources, with responsibility for the unpaid work of securing food, water, fuel and shelter for their household. Women are therefore also the key players in pathways to sustainability development. Women are more vulnerable to climate change but also have different perspectives, concerns and ideas for change. Parallels between the treatment of women and nature are no coincidence, but have an ancient history in mythology and religion, with powerful concepts such as ‘Mother Earth’.
CECOEDECON, the NGO with whom we have worked with over the past few weeks for the #IBMCSC project, has a strong focus on Women Empowerment and Gender Equality. Through the enhancement of women capacities of marginalized communities in the rural parts of Rajasthan, livelihoods of the poorest of the poor will be positively influenced. I’ve learned how all is rural challenges are interconnected to the importance of gender equality. It are the women who are taking care of 80% of the agriculture, who take care of the families as best as they can with limited access to water and food. Imagine the impact climate change has on especially on women. Rajasthan is the driest region in India and it suffers from dry and hot winds. Due to the climate change, there is increased unpredictability of the monsoons.
In all, education plays the most important and vital role in bringing about the required behavioural changes among women and make them well updated and equipped in terms of knowledge, competence and capacity to deal with different problems. The popular UNESCO slogan says: “Educate a man and you educate an individual; educate a woman and you educate a family” is the most appropriate today.
Being offered the opportunity to do our contribution with our #IBMCSCIndia32 team to this great cause, has been one of my best experiences during this month. As a team we facilitated 3 workshop on Women Empowerment. Instead of the 60 women we expected to show-up, the rumor went around and we had more than 120 women attending, fully engaged and energized.
Together with Sylvia and Leon, we facilitated the Go for It! – rocks, pebbles and sand exercise. A metaphor used to take the lead in making key decisions on your life priorities. Amazing to learn that also for those women this exercise resonated very well. They will need to take the lead in making time available to further educate themselves but also take good care of their own health in their also very busy agenda full of challenges low on the Maslow pyramid.
I have lots and lots of respect for those women: colorful, full energy, curious and eager to learn. Heartwarming to see they also take care of each other. How wonderful to see that at the end of the day, they all started dancing and singing and had lots of fun.
Thanks, Mr Manish, CECOEDECON team, VSO and IBM for this life-time experience!
Grateful for having with those women for one day. Namaste!