Friday, March 8, 2019

Awaiting the true International Women's Day

Today March 8th, 2019 is the 110th year that the world is celebrating International Women's Day. How far have women really come from the early 1900s to now? Iceland has been voted the most gender equal nation for the 10th consecutive year. Let us see where India stands.

Closer home, the population Census 2011 states that there are 940 females for every 1000 male. Hence, we still need campaigns like 'Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao' even in the 21st century. India has been ranked in the 108th position out of 149 countries on the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap 2017. The Gender gap was measured across 4 key pillars - Economic opportunity, Political empowerment, Educational attainment and Health, and survival. Despite the same qualifications, Indian men get 30% more pay than women according to an ILO report in 2018,

The Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs ( MIWE) has ranked India 52nd out of 57 countries, judged on the parity for Women Entrepreneurs. The 6th Economic Census by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), finds only 14% of businesses in India are run by women. Considering all these aspects, how much time and effort is still required for women to celebrate this year's theme of #BalanceforBetter?

The above might just be numbers and statistics. But when we observe within our own environment, it starts with the microcosm that is the 'Family'. Within our own spheres haven't we come across women who are being subjugated or abused either physically or emotionally by the men in their lives? Mind you this is not restricted to any particular socio-economic class.

Sex determination and female foeticide are still rampant, be it in urban or rural areas. Girls are still considered to be a liability.

I have come across women who work at menial jobs, just so that their children can get better education translating into better job prospects and better lives, with absolutely no support from their husbands.

Women working outside of the home are still trying to put on different hats to be that 'Perfect' mother, wife, daughter, daughter in law, friend etc all at the same time. At times they have to sacrifice their promotions and job assignments outside for the sake of the family.

A woman who is a homemaker has to face the ignominy of 'not working outside and earning', though she is the busiest, working to make family life that much more meaningful and comfortable for all.

These are the everyday women, the real heroes, who despite facing hardships and frequent knocks are out there with boundless energy, smiling, working harder because they want to bring about that change. A salute to all the women out there, and hoping that a time comes when we no longer need to celebrate Women's Day to showcase different facets and areas where women are facing challenges, but celebrate a lifetime of 'Humanity Day' where the word 'Gender' is stuck out of the dictionary.

Friday, January 25, 2019

A choice by Design

After the preliminary academic journey of our second son, which I have captured here, it was research time once again. This time around it was to look for good design schools. We actually found that there were several institutes offering courses in design. However, some institutes preferred students having a science background. So automatically these got eliminated from our list.

We zeroed in on five Institutes which offered Design courses and applied online. The Entrance exams for the design courses were very different and tested their creative skills, design conceptualisation, logical and analytical thinking and so on. The exams happen in between their school academic years. Being private institutes, they conduct their own entrance exams.

While four out of five of these institutes had entrance exams as their main criteria for selection, the fifth institute had several steps when it came to shortlisting the candidates. Now, this institute was what interested my son! This came highly recommended by one of his friends whose cousin was doing her course there.

The candidates got shortlisted at every step. He first submitted the Statement of Purpose and once this was approved, then came the submission of his Portfolio. The first two steps being done online. He uploaded his collection of sketches, designs and drawings that he had done during his Foundation Course. Once he was shortlisted he went to the Institute to give his Entrance exam. They were given their scores on the same day and then as he got through this he had his interview. Then began the nail-biting wait to see whether he had made it to the final list. Yes, he had made it! The best part here is that we get to know the results even before his school final exams! This then would let him concentrate solely on his final exam!

His final exams were soon over and he got his results. He had done well. Since his college would start only in September he had a good three months to relax. However, days flew past and it was time to start packing. Second time round we were connoisseurs. This time it was me advising on traveling light and not over packing! Our second son was now ready to spread his wings and fly!

Another milestone and another Institute to see where my son was going to be for the next five years, as this was an Integrated Masters Course. The institute located on the outskirts of the city was spectacular. The Academic and the Hostel blocks were designed beautifully. There were beautiful and intriguing murals and structures. These were set amidst huge expanse of well manicured lawns. It was truly a beautiful design campus!

The itinerary was prepared by the college for the students as well as the parents. Admissions and college procedures along with checking into the hostel was done on the first day. The hostel rooms were neat and clean. It was a twin sharing arrangement. We were very satisfied with the room. My son took to the place as a duck takes to the water. He insisted that he will stay in the hostel from the first day itself though he had the option of staying with us in the hotel room. Suddenly it struck me that he was now ready to make his own mark in the world!

The second day was the Orientation day for students as well as parents. The Chairperson and the Principal along with all the Trainers gave us a thorough briefing about the Institute and the courses. All queries put forth by the parents as well as the students were answered to our satisfaction. An exhibition of designs and models made by the students over the years were displayed and we were taken around. We could see so many outstanding designs and we were told that many of these had been chosen by reputed companies and were already into production.

That night the college had hosted dinner for all the parents and the students. Over a sumptuous three course meal, we met students and their parents who had come from different parts of the country. There was a lot of bonding as everyone shared the same aspirations and interests. There was excitement, laughter and animated conversations going on. It was like one big family bash. We also got to interact with Trainers from different countries. Overall we were very happy and knew that we had made the right choice.

All too soon it was again that time when we had to bid our final adieu to our son. When we came back home it was time to restart our lives which had so far been revolving around our children. It was a fresh beginning and an adventure for all of us on this beautiful journey of life.