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Indian women balancing divine feminine with modernity

Wednesday December 08, 2010 02:09:16 PM, Madhusree Chatterjee, IANS

New Delhi: The emerging voice of women in India is one of strength, economic sustainability, positive energy, achievement and erudition - that strikes a fine balance between modernism and tradition.

According to a cross-section of power women in the capital, what sets the contemporary Indian woman apart from the rest of her gender throng across the world "is their ability to combine the traditional concept of the divine feminine with challenges of a modern life".

"Basically, the women's struggle in India is for space as opposed to their struggle for power worldwide. India has its strength in capacity. For us 'shakti' is not power - but the capacity to do things," arts and women's rights activist Rekha Mody, the founder of non-profit group Stree Shakti told IANS here on the sidelines of the Stree Shakti awards for women's empowerment Tuesday night.

"Indian society is sustained by 'stree shakti' - there is a divine power in women that empowers them without comprising on family or individual situations," she added.

If the 1970s was the decade of women's welfare, the 1980s was the age of development, Mody said.

"The decade of 2000 is one of empowerment. (Congress president) Sonia Gandhi is taking ahead causes of women in India. The world is on the brink of change," she added.

Union Tourism and Urban Poverty Alleviation Minister Kumari Selja attributed the rapid progress in women's empowerment in India to the fact that "more and more women were availing of opportunities in the country".

"Women are coming forward and are willing to take on challenges. They are ready to take on leadership roles. I think women are rediscovering themselves. Politics is just one sphere where women can prove (themselves) - they have to realise their worth in all spheres," Selja said.

For athlete Krishna Poonia, a gold medal winner at the New Delhi Commonwealth Games, "the new women achievers of India were coming from the country's villages".

"If you look at women medallists at the Commonwealth Games, you will find that majority of women - representing states like Punjab, Haryana and Karnataka - were from the villages. All the women in the Indian wrestling team for the Commonwealth Games were from villages," Poonia said.

She said "education and media were responsible for the emancipation of women in villages".

"Every home across villages in India boasts of a television which shows big achievers. It is a motivation - girls are inspired to take up sports as a career. Women are becoming a force to reckon with in India," Poonia said.

Acclaimed artist Anjolie Ela Menon links empowerment in India to "economic and social status of women".

"At the higher end of the spectrum, women have always been empowered in India because they have access to education and status - which includes economics. They have been coming out of self-imposed 'ghunghat' (veil) automatically to become empowered," Menon said.

"But at the lower end of the spectrum, women are off than ever primarily because they have always been struggling against poverty," she added.

The artist said: "Girls in India were still married off at 12 only to be raped by their husband."

She said social empowerment at grassroots depended to a great extent on "equating child and incestuous rapists with convicted murderers".

Kristin Engvig, founder of the global women's network International Women's Centre, said "something special was happening for women all over the world".

"It is as if everyone has started to wake up all over the planet. There are many needs that can be grabbed and translated into projects," Engvig told a packed house of women.

She believes that art, culture and communication can be used to resolve social, economic and political issues - and bring women from all over the world on a common platform to promote world peace. And bring feminine global and sustainable vision to work, communities and life.

Her network has brought together more than 8,000 professionals from 90 countries since it was established in 1997. Engvig works with the Indian group, Stree Shakti, to empower Indian women.





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