by Urmy Shukla
Shukla is a PhD student in sociology and a development policy consultant. She looks for human-rights based approaches to international development. For updates on her work, check out http://rightsandresults.com/ and follow her on Twitter @mirchi_calabaza.
Helen Pidd has been reporting for the Guardian on life in “India”, essentially why it sucks to be a woman (and a person) in India. To reporting on isolated incidents and the difficulties of buying booze in the capital, she generally tells us about how India is a backwards, third-world country. She also talks about why it sucks that India didn’t win more Olympic medals, as though that should be a national priority (you know, healthcare and unemployment, let’s not do this anymore – we have Olympians to train!). Helen Pidd seems to think that she is seeing the “real India.” I beg to differ.
Now – India is not without its problems. There are serious gender inequities that need to be taken care of. Women have lower literacy rates than men, female infanticide is a huge problem, and son-preference is rampant. Nicholas Kristof even went so far as to say that India is “worse than Saudi Arabia” when it comes to woman’s rights. Seriously, Nicholas Kristof? You know that whole driving, travelling independently, and being a high-level business executive thing? That all happens in India. We see incredibly amazing and intelligent women working against these problems.
However, the India that Helen Pidd is talking about is incomplete. It is often said that when you go to India, you rarely see a representative microcosm of the entire country. There is no doubt that what I have seen with my 30 years of travelling there, I have only seen a nugget of all that India has to offer. But, I would like to point out that my India is far from the “female-unfriendly” India that Helen Pidd chooses to report on. My India includes incredibly smart, talented women. Women with university-level educations, that create businesses, work towards development, are university chancellors, and school principals. Women that work through-out marriage and even work instead of marriage. My family is full of women that have represented themselves to a better India – doctors, teachers, principals, etc. Women that work towards making India the type of country they would like it to be.
India has a lot of problems, especially in the gender department. But it also has a lot of amazing, intelligent women working to stop gender inequalities. And a safe, legal forum to do so. I think that says a lot about India, and the type of country that it hopes to become.
I am an Ivy-league alumna, LSE graduate, and PhD student.
I am who I am because I am an Indian woman, not despite of it.
[Originally published at Rights and Results, cross-posted with author's permission.]
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