29.11.17 (VT) Today is the second day of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. The topic today is, ‘women first, prosperity for all’. The conference, being held in Hyderabad, was inaugurated yesterday by Narendra Modi and Ivanka Trump.
The conference organizers have been careful to ensure that women are equally represented, and 52% of the 350 participants are women. Speaking at the conference today, Chanda Kochhar said, “Not even 25 per cent of graduate women (in India) participate in the workforce.”
Statistics are not available for the rate of female employment in Braj, however, residents say that the problem is particularly severe in the area, due to the lack of industry and a dearth of well paying jobs in the town. Vrindavan resident and mother Deepika Parashar, said, “we are losing our brightest youth to the big cities. My friends are always asking me if I know anyone who can employ their sons, because they rely on their sons to bring-in income to help the family. They don’t even try to find work for their daughters.”
At the conference this morning, Ivanka Trump said, “Having equal gender representation is a financial positive to businesses today, besides being a social responsibility.” Her words were echoed by Karen Quintos, who said, “Business outcomes are great when you have diverse thinking.”
Despite widespread agreement that having women in the workforce is good for businesses and the economy, there are still barriers that stop women entering and fully participating in the workforce.
In some families, girls’ education is viewed as only being for the purpose of making them more marriageable, and, even if they enter the workforce, many women give up work when they get married. In big cities, it is more common for more women to work after marriage as the demands of a modern lifestyle mean that people are more likely to give up traditional beliefs in order to keep up with the rat race of consumerism. In smaller towns, like Vrindavan and the villages of Braj, traditional ways of thinking still dominate, and, many women who could have had promising careers, are kept out of the workforce. Sociology graduate Pratima Sharma said, “Feminism in India needs to advance, but there is no need for India to follow the path of the West. Women need to be given the choice of whether they want to work.”
Talking about the issues effecting Braj, Pratima said, “In the villages in Braj, the practice of married women covering their entire faces with their sari is still current. Men are brought up to believe that ‘no other man should look at my wife’. Women are taught from childhood that their duty is to serve, and they selflessly serve their husbands and children. These Indian housewives are the upholders of traditional Indian artforms like singing, cooking and weaving, but they also need to be empowered. We need to look for local solutions, which will allow women to participate in the workforce, but, at the same time, will preserve and strengthen Braj’s family-and-temple-centred culture.
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