The work opportunities available for men and women are not equal. Because of the demands of the family and society, a woman has to make many sacrifices. Moreover, many job opportunities are considered to be more relevant for men than women.
Fewer opportunities and rigid expectations
If we are asked to have an image of a nurse, a scientist and a teacher in our mind, the result is a female for nurse and teacher, and a male as a scientist. This is because this is what we commonly see. Moreover, every job requires certain characteristics in a person. A nurse is supposed to be very patient and soft, hence we always expect a nurse to be a female. On the other hand a scientist is supposed to be extraordinarily intelligent, a trait often associated with males in the society. Presuming some roles for men and some for women is also because of the roles played by girls and women in the family and society. Since people believe in stereotypes, many girls do not get the same encouragement and support from the family for taking up studies in engineering and medical fields. In fact girls are expected to get married once they finish school.
We live in a society where children are pressurized by people around them. The pressure could be from
- Adults of the family
- Other children of the same age group
An example of pressure specific to gender is the disapproval regarding boys crying in front of others. Boys are forced by the elders in the family to take up full time mainstream jobs thus discouraging them from pursuing their passion in the field of art, music, etc.
Learning for change
Going to school is an important part of our lives. When we see more and more children joining school, it seems to be very natural to go to school. But in the earlier days, the skill of reading and writing were known only to a few. There were also lots of superstitions attached to educating women. For example two centuries ago it was believed that educated women would bring ill luck to their husbands and hence they would become widows!
Children used to learn the skills and activities in which their family was engaged. There was extreme gender bias in the earlier days. In communities, where the male child was taught to read and write, girls were not allowed to learn the alphabet. Even in families where skills like pottery, weaving, craft, etc. were taught, the contribution of the females was only supportive and not main. For example regarding pottery, women collected mud and prepared the earth for pots. But they did not operate the wheel. Hence they were not seen as potters.
Many new ideas about education and learning emerged in the nineteenth century. Schools became more common. Many communities that were earlier not sending their children to school started sending them to school for formal education. There was lot of resistance regarding educating women. With a lot of effort of many women and men, schools were opened for girls. Females struggled to read and write.
27 year old Lakshmi Lakra from a poor family in a tribal village in Jharkhand is the first woman engine driver for Northern Railways.
She championed the cause of women's education. She was given the title Pandita. This was because she could read and write Sanskrit. She never went to school. She learnt to read and write from her parents. She set up a Mission (which is still active today) near Pune in 1898 where poor women and widows were encouraged to become literate and independent.
Rashsundari Devi (1800-1890)
Her autobiography in Bangla titled Amar Jiban is the first known autobiography written by an Indian woman. She used to secretly take out pages from the books of her son and husband. She learnt by matching the letters/words with the ones she remembered/heard during the course of her days. Through her own writing, she could express and let the world know about women's lives in those days.
Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain
She knew how to read and write Urdu but was not allowed to learn Bangla and English. She learnt these with the help of her brother and sister. She became a writer and wrote a remarkable story titled Sultana's Dream in 1905. In 1910, she also started a school for girls in Kolkata, which is still functioning today.