Empowered but not Financially Independent
We saw the meaning of the words 'empowered' and 'financially independent' earlier; in the context of women. We also saw the scenario of women being independent financially without being empowered. Now the scenario I am talking about today is quite interesting. Think of the woman who is empowered but not financially independent. The immediate response tends to be, "What, is this possible" ? Well, we have always read and we know the importance of being financially independent. Are we saying we can be empowered even without earning any money ?
Yes, of course. Do you recollect anyone you know in this category ? It may be easier to identify who fits this bill especially in your parents' generation! The mom or the aunt who was dependent on her husband for money, but then took major decisions and made a big impact on the family. Remember her ? It may have been decisions around education, money management, how she created a respected place for her in the family! And many a times, you find these women being referred to in the interviews of successful people. Most often, they refer to how their mothers took bold decisions, dared to dream and created an impact. I have been very diligent when it comes to references to such women. I look for some common signs, are they always educated ? Are they in positions of influence or power ? Do they have lot of exposure ? Most often, the answer is no. So, what made them different from the many women around them ? The impact of a woman being empowered is most often visible in the lives of her children. But we do come across many women who made a difference to their own lives!
I love to look up to these women for inspiration, especially when I am demotivated and/or angry at the world. And most of the time, we recollect only positive aspects about these women. It is as if them being empowered overshadows any negative attributes they have. Or it is because, these are women you know up close and respect them a lot. And I do like to remember the characters in books that display this quality. I remember the character Bhagirathi from a Tamil short story I read a couple of years back. I love that character. There is something special about these characters in novels/books in general. It is as if you knew them well, you allowed yourself to get closer to them, knowing what goes on in their mind, little by little.
What makes you register these women as empowered in your mind ?
I would love to share an important empowered person in my life, my mother! She is approaching eighty now. She was a studious girl who never managed to go to college because she was a woman. Well, that is a story for another day. She got married to a very large joint family where she was seen more as a person who cooks and cleans all the time. We never felt she had a say in anything much in the house. There was a regular stream of people coming home at short notice and staying for meals or over the night. And we always had atleast one older cousin who did his/her education living in our house. She didn’t have any say in who visited, who stayed and for how long - she had to do everything required, for them. But when it was time for us to join school, she put her foot down and insisted we go to a convent school. This was a rebellious demand in those days, considering my father's family were the co- founders of another reputed school in the district. By default every kid in our large extended family went to that school. Besides, the convent school was farther away from our home. And that also meant we had to carry packed lunch - something never done in our family! Not to talk about the concern from elders that we may get converted by the nuns there!! My mom was quite good in her studies and she had studied in a convent school. She was clear of the differences in teaching, discipline, focus on learning English language etc, between these 2 schools. And this made her stick firm on her stand. And she made it happen. How ? I have no idea.. This affected not only her already busy daily schedule, but also the finances for arranging transport. But then, it was a well informed decision taken by her and she was ready to do anything to make this happen. She faced a lot of ridicule throughout our school years for this decision, from many people in our family. She did not argue with them, she kept quiet. She was clear and confident about her decision. In the process, we grew up knowing that our education is her highest priority and she would go to any lengths to make it happen.
Now, I am sure I would not have been bold enough to take that stand, had I been in her position. To stand up to the entire joint family, without fighting, without arguing, but as gently as ever, making her resolute will happen.. And this is one example! She did similar decisions about her own life as well. It was not a case of the mother doing anything for her children and hence fighting the system. The many small acts of hers, enrolling in a mobile library and reading English books, going for sewing classes and then getting a sewing machine, learning Malayalam language along with us, the list goes on and on…
I am interested to know about the people in your life who were empowered despite being financially dependent. What are their qualities you look up to ? They may not have changed the world, but they have created their own impact, in their own small little ways.
Eager to hear these stories from you.