Have you ever wondered how the term woman came into being? Have you ever thought about why we celebrate international women’s day all across the world? The term “wo-” comes from the Old English term “wifmon” and means “wife,” showing that the idea of a woman was created with a relationship attached to it. The word woman is rooted in concepts like family and community, yet a woman’s value is not limited to these relationships. This narrow definition is perhaps due to a woman’s vitality in keeping a family together; women are essential to building a solid foundation in the home so that her husband and children thrive. Society needs to progress, with a mindset to perceive women as individuals, with their success measured not only in the value it brings to the family.
This year’s International Women’s Day, with the theme #ChooseToChallenge, brought about a sense of upliftment and empowerment for the women of the world, indicating that a “challenged world is an alert world, and from challenge comes change.” This Women’s Day aimed to challenge the world to change, strive, accelerate gender parity, and begin treating women the way they deserve to be treated.
In India, women empowerment is mainly an essential factor of inequitable development, as women constitute 48.1% of the population yet only make up 20.3% of the workforce (Catalyst.org, 2020). The social implications of this gap include women having less agency than men in a family structure, in financial decision making, and in an earlier average marriage age for women.
A crucial part of Industree Foundation’s mission is to bring the gap in gender equality to light and provide women with opportunities to operate in the formal work economy. Through the POWER Project supported by USAID, women are given the opportunity to work in formal, equitable environments where they are owners in their companies. They receive increased and regular incomes, enabling them to support their families and increase the standard of living for themselves and their children. Working in the Industree incubated production units provides them with hard skills training and equips them with life skills with soft skills training. Like the gender training that helps shape their autonomy and view of themselves as independent, empowered women.
To celebrate International Women’s Day 2021, the women producers at Industree raised their hands in a symbolic challenge to gender norms. They imprinted a banner that will hang in the production units as a reminder that choosing to challenge these social norms is something that they will continue on a constant, daily basis. The women producers are breaking out of how they traditionally viewed themselves and have developed personal identities. The dreams and ambitions that they have cultivated are unique but are still essential to support the foundation that their family stands on.
Statistics from the World Economic Forum suggest that the world will not see gender parity for at least another century, which is hard to digest; however, if the world works together and adapts progressively, women will be included and treated as equals. Initiatives for gender equality should be supported by women and men together who collaborate to create change. As the saying goes, “Every drop counts,” likewise, every hand that is lifted to shun patriarchy and encourage men to walk hand in hand with women will establish foundations for future generations.