You have got a baby girl :-(
“Do you plan to have another baby?” a mother of a daughter was asked by family members and some friends.
"Yes” replied the mother.
“Sure you must since the first one is a daughter,” they said. And the mother replied, “ yes because I already have a daughter, I don't mind having another baby which might be a boy; had I had a son as my first born, I would have been worried what if the next one is also a son?”
The mother is a close friend of the writer.
There is a lot of talk around women empowerment – but the moment empowerment is defined as a woman doing what she "wants" to do, the conversations end in social expectations, customs, rights and wrongs. Why is it that people think that women cannot think for themselves or understand what is good for them and what is not? Why is there a need to train them into “wanting” what the people around them think they “should” want? There is a section of the Indian society ( though a very small minority) who believe that it is really the woman in the mother who can bring many changes but unfortunately the woman in the mother is often not allowed to think – it is the social conditioning in the mother which thinks and speaks. It is for this reason that sometimes even women are found unhappy when a girl child is born to them. And it is exactly that conditioning which needs to be replaced – this can happen only with efforts from family members, educators, writers, columnists, movie makers and all those people who influence a girl’s life from childhood. And probably that is what would have helped my friend give the answer that she did - but you know that - while she was free from the social conditioning of the inequal kind, the people who asked her were not and thus her answer did scandalise some, offend others and some thought she was arrogant!
There is a strange duality in this country – Indian women have been ahead of women of many other countries when it comes to achievements (sports, art, literature) or holding important decision making positions while at the same time female foeticide, infanticide, abuse and torture on women carry on unabated. But despite the inhuman treatment, most girls are very humane. How many cases of parent abandonment do we read, where daughters have left parents to perish on the road without food and clothing? In fact, there are many stories of how daughters take care of their aged parents despite the parents having their much-beloved sons. It is also true that there are “good sons” like there are “bad daughters” - then why such apathy towards girl children and why are they still considered a burden? The reasons may lie in historical practices, notions about propriety, traditions and customs which have been passed on through generations in the name of religion, family welfare, tradition and what not – but no matter what the reason is, the reality is that women are really no less than men. In fact, studies show that they perform better under stress, they are temperamentally better equipped to handle conflict situations, they are the nurturers by nature and thus are excellent caretakers, they are emotionally more stable which helps them take appropriate decisions in sensitive situations be it in their professional life or personal life. Women have achieved a lot despite many adversities but society is yet to recognise the power and empathy that women possess. It is thus imminent that sensitisation about gender equality is made mandatory in all areas, especially at schools from the very primary level. It is only when children grow up knowing that all children are the same, that they will feel equal and treat another with love and respect. And in this journey of making the world a better place for girl children, parents have a very strong role to play – it might not be easy to fight pressures from regressive family members and treat the son and daughter similarly, provide equal opportunities to them and respect them as only “children” irrespective of the sex they are born with. But the silver lining is that we do read about many such couples who have walked the path despite all the risks. They are not afraid to say that they are proud to have a daughter, they protect their daughter from being made to feel inadequate, they ensure that their girl gets all the respect she deserves from every corner of the society; they don't hide and protect her but rather make her strong to be able to take the world on! They are the inspiration - let us hope that their numbers increase and a day soon comes when the news “you’ve got a baby girl” will bring happiness all around! :-)