Yes , it might be for women in India. Rio Olympics 2016 just concluded with a medal tally of 2 for India that too after a long agonising wait. Rio Olympics has seen the largest Indian contingent consisting of 118 sports persons accompanied by as high expectations. After all Olympics is the biggest show on earth. It might just be a fact that the only medals in India’s tally have been won by WOMEN. It couldn’t have been more ironical as India’s supposed pride and honour was saved by 2 women.
India is a country which yearns for a male child. India is a country which struggles with female feticide and a skewed sex ratio of 943 females per 1000 males. India is a country where many girls are killed before being born, if born, many are subjected to lifelong discrimination which can come in many forms, varying from denied access to nutrition, medical care to a denied promotion in a job. In a country where birth of a girl is not celebrated as equally as birth of a boy because girls are perceived as burden to the family and boys as the ones who would bring pride and money to the family.
Instead it has been 2 girls who brought pride to the country, fame and monetary rewards to their families. It is a humbling moment for Indian patriarchal society. Sakshi and sindhu’s victories haves captured the imagination of this nation. It is a powerful moment of realization of something big, a fact that nobody took notice of – fact that even girls can do what boys can do and here something girls have done which even boys couldn’t do. It is a powerful and game changing realization. Country is waking to realization of what could happen if women in India are given access to equal if not better opportunities than men. It’s a moment of reckoning for the unrealized potential of women in India.
How many potential medallist like sakshi and sindhu have been killed even before being born, how many potential medallists are being stopped from realizing their potential by denying these young girls equal access to nutrition, education and freedom to make crucial choices in life such as career and marriage. Having a no choice in life altering decisions such as marriage is a major contributor to unfulfilled dreams of millions of girls in India. Every dream like a sapling requires nurture, support, and care to bloom and become a reality.
It is also a moment to realize the crucial role parents play in shaping life of a young girl. Sakshi and sindhu couldn’t have done it without support of their parents. The parents have done a laudable job for giving wings to their daughter’s dreams. Parents are the first gatekeepers of children’s dreams and aspirations. No child can achieve his or her potential if not supported and encouraged by parents.
My heart swells with pride for achievement of sakshi and sindhu. As a women in India you would face the discrimination in some form or another even if you are of the luckier lot. It might not be as severe as having no access to nutrition or education but nonetheless it is still there and there is no escaping from it.
To me the roots of all discrimination are in the way society looks at women in India. The lack of trust in a women’s capabilities and potential. If state of women in this country has to improve, this perspective has to change. And for it to change, women have to be seen as adding value to themselves, families, country in intangible outcomes like pride as well as in tangible outcomes like money, job, rewards.
Cash rewards worth 3 crore and 10 crore have been announced for sakshi and sindhu respectively. There is immense future potential of income from advertisement deals, endorsement and similar things. These facts need to be highlighted as much as possible because this would open the eyes of people who do not see girls as future source of monetary gains to the family. Society might start seeing girls as valuable as boys as far as economic gains are concerned.
For all those young girls who watched the Olympics and who have interest in sports, Sakshi, Sindhu, Dipa, Lalita are the women role models Indian badly needs. These extraordinary sports women have inspired a generation of Indian girls who have set eyes on bringing many more medals to India in coming Olympics.
Girls have a stronger case to make to fend off hurdles put by society and culture when they set out to realize their potential. Winning only 2 medals and that too by women might turn out to be a good thing in long run for state of women in India. The biggest good which can come out of it might be change in belief that after all women have equal potential and can sometimes bring more results than men given their wings are not trimmed before they are ready to fly.
Rio Olympics 2016 might turn out to be an inflection point for women in India. Keeping my fingers crossed!
You can watch an inspiring poem by Prasoon Joshi on achievement of Indian girls in Rio.He dedicates this poem to the girl child.