Jack Ma, Alibaba’s founder and one of the world’s richest men, said that one of Alibaba’s secret for success is hiring women. What made this stand out is that it was said by Jack Ma, a man. Women make efficient and valuable contributions to the workforce. They are, thus, highly valued, professionally skilled workers. Consider if Jack Ma had said that one of Alibaba’s secrets to success is hiring men; his words may not have gone viral and been quoted by people because society is already conditioned to perceive a predominantly male workforce. The entry of women in the formal work force has started to challenge the stereotypical gender roles in societies across the world.
Centuries of culture and society have defined gender roles that determine gender behaviour and shape gender specific personalities. Stereotypes are created in an attempt to define and make sense of who we are. In Naga society, it has been more or less defined from the very beginning. In a nutshell, a Naga female must know how to weave, cook and look after the household, and was not a part of the village’s decision making body. On the other hand, a Naga male must know the art of hunting and warfare and was an integral part of the political and administrative set up of the village.
Now take a look at the world today. When Hillary Clinton was defeated in the US Presidential elections by Donald Trump, apart from other factors contributing to her defeat, many women across America cried, attributing it as symbolic of the inability to break the glass ceiling of male superiority that still exists in America, despite having progressed into a world superpower. In Pakistan in 2012, Malala Yousafzai, aged 14, was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman for advocating female education. In Nagaland, the question of 33% women’s reservation led to widespread public protest and violence.
It can be seen that the question of gender equality and the extent of its impact differs from country to country. In Nagaland, women have started to break through, despite the cultural stereotypes and the customary practice of not being a part of decision making bodies. They have broken through in other industries and professions. Even academically, the female performance in the NBSE HSSLC exams regular category was significantly better. In the Arts stream the girls secured 85.35% pass percentage over the boys with 80.14%. The Commerce stream had a pass percentage of 85.04% by the girls, while the boys secured a 76.03% pass percentage. In the Science stream, the girls again outshone the boys with a 93.72% pass percentage, while the boys had a pass percentage of 88.48%.
All of this has been achieved despite the odds. So, do women really need reservation? The problem here is that all of this has occurred under the continued baggage of confining women to certain roles, significantly pronounced by societal conditions, which makes the journey towards emancipation much more challenging. The condition of educated women is entirely different from those uneducated women and children who are at the mercy of husbands or fathers for their material and financial needs. While educated woman can probably take care of herself, what about the ones who are married off early, having to sacrifice their career, education etc? We need these women to feel they are equals and then more of them will begin to act as equals, removing the need for women empowerment groups to emerge and speak out for women. The very fact that they exist, implies that there are imbalances in our society that need to be fixed.
This is part of a series of ‘Guest Editorials’ run by The Morung Express. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org