Touria Prayag's Blog

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on March 14, 2011

L’express Weekly,11 March 2011

Women’s Day centenary

One hundred years of struggle and the United Nations verdict
is still alarming: nowhere in the world can women claim to
have the same rights and opportunities as their male counterparts.
Worse: the majority of those living in abject poverty (1.3
billion) are women. They are the segment of the population most likely to
be abused, exploited and their rights as human beings disregarded.
In our little paradise, we celebrated this day with great pomp. The
PM surprised everyone by announcing the introduction of quotas for
women. Ambitious women took turns with the microphone. Some
talked proudly about the great strides women have made towards equality.
Others talked about the dismal number of women in Parliament.
Some verbs like “empower” have been so used and abused that they
have become hollow.
Yes, Sheila Bappoo’s efforts to empower housewives by turning them
into “entrepreneurs” are praise-worthy. We would not like to undermine
that. However, in many cases, these women, with little training, little education
and often shackled with children end up being mere ‘achard’ makers,
shoving wedges of vegetables into pickling jars between feeding their
children, changing their babies and cooking the family meal. Some of their
‘enterprises’ bite the dust within two years.
The harsh reality is that the measures taken to help women have been
more of a cosmetic nature. The harsher reality is that the movements which
are supposed to stand up for them have tied their claims so much to the
Legislative Assembly that they have become completely cut off from the
daily realities of the ordinary woman.
The manifesto the Muvman Liberasyon Fam (MLF) unveiled this
week will hopefully reignite, inspire and channel women’s struggle for emancipation.
They have shifted the debate away from the man/woman 50/50
paradigm and focused on the problems both men and women face. Their
demands are that household chores, for example, should not be shared but
rather socialized, by providing an adequate framework which allows both
men and women to get out of the house and participate fully in the overall
development of the country.
The one simple measure which would help women on the bottom rung
of the ladder as well as those professionally trained mothers who fi nd themselves
forced to reduce their participation in the workforce and downscale
their hopes for achievement is making suffi cient resources for good quality
child care available, regulated and subsidized and having working mothers
supported by adequate pre-school and after-school programmes. Legislation
should push for having work-based child care centres.
Also, we will not make any progress in the fi ght to reduce violence
against women so long as battered wives are not taken care of by the state
and provided with accommodation and adequate support.
We all know all this but the debate has been driven by the obsessions
of the few rather than the needs of the many. So we can’t claim that we
celebrated women’s emancipation this week. It hasn’t happened yet. The
debate is only just beginning: the oppressor is not the male but the patriarchal
society we live in. The enemy is not the man we wake up next
to but the challenges we face as individuals, as couples, as families and as
a society. Progress is made through programmes not through gender.
So, between Nando Bodha and Maya Hanoomanjee, I’d still vote for
Nando Bodha. Sorry!



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