Women Empowerment lessons from movie Dangal

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“Maari chhoriyan  chhoron se kam hai ke”

Translated in english it means – ” Are my girls any less than boys?

What a line. If one line can transform lives, then it has to be this line which summarizes the core of this inspiring story. It is this belief of Mahavir Singh Phogat, the erstwhile wrestler that changes the destiny of phogat daughters and of future generations of women wrestlers. This is such a powerful line and shows through movie the potential of outcomes when girls are believed to be equal to boys. The movie Dangal which is a biopic on women wrestling champions -Geeta and Babita Phogat is special because it depicts an inspiring journey of a father and his girls who dare to dream and make that dream come true even when all adds were stacked up against them.

Odd # 1 Family lives in  socially regressive Haryana infamous for skewed sex ratio, female feticide and khaps.

Odd # 2 Lower middle class family with limited resources and more vulnerable to societal pressure. ” What people will say” matters in that world.

Odd # 3 Choosing a uncoventional career which is unfavorable to women – wrestling. Traditionally wrestling has been a male domain and when you imagine a wrestler, you imagine a man. It was akin to imagining the unimaginable, doing the undoable.

Geeta won gold at commonwealth games and has been the first woman wrestler from India to qualify in Olympics. The legendary story of Mahavir Phogat making wrestling champions out of his daughters is told through a high-profile motion picture – Dangal and has also many lessons for women empowerment. Let’s take a look at them:

Lesson # 1  Children’s(specially girls) destiny lies in hands of parents to a larger extent.

While it is true everywhere and for all children, this is particularly true for Girls in India specially in small towns, in regressive societies and lower socioeconomic families. The eureka moment was when the father realises that his daughters have potential and the gender doesn’t matter in fulfilling his dream of making his child an international wrestling champion. What matters is that parents believe in gender equality and provide girls equal opportunities and choices. It was a girl who was being married off at young age and was unhappy about it makes young Geeta and Babita see that how lucky they are to have a father like Mahavir who has not thrown them into life of early marriage/domesticity and is giving them a shot at life same as any son would have got. Indeed if it was not for a social barriers breaking father like Mahavir Singh Phogat, Geeta and Babita’s destinies would have been same as other girls of their age, place and time. There would have been neither the inspiring story nor the movie to write about.

Lesson# 2 Social Barriers, Stereotypes and glass ceilings have to be broken once and they remain broken for all.

While the movie mainly covered the journey of Geeta’s making into a wrestling champion and it mirrors the life of similar other women wrestlers. Why Geeta’s story is significant because it was she and with her Mahavir Phogat who breaks first time the social barriers  and gender stereotypes.  On every step of the journey , a stereotype or social barrier was broken and prevailing rulebook was challenged :

  • Girls starting physical training to be wrestler.
  • Girls shunning traditional wear for boys clothes – shorts and Tee
  • Girls cutting the long hair for boy cut. Even mother cried here.
  • Cooking non vegetarian food in a vegetarian household. Mother too resisted this.
  • Wrestling with boys in dangal.
  • Mocked by school friends, neighbors, sports officials and who not.

When Babita or other girls would have gone through same path, it must have been somewhat easier for them as the glass ceiling was already broken and rule book already changed. It was now under imagination that a girl can also be a wrestler. That’s why it is so important for any glass ceilings/ barriers/stereotypes to be broken first time as it paves the way for others who would walk the same path. Somebody has to break the social barriers and barriers remain broken for all. It not only serves the person breaking it but indirectly empowers all who come after them and that’s why their stories are celebrated and lauded.

Lesson # 3  Conviction. Focus on goals. Self Belief. Hard work. Sacrifices & trade-offs.

Evergreen recipe for success. Father’s conviction in his own dreams and in turning that dream into reality led to convictions of all around him, mother and daughters themselves. There were also sacrifices made. The phogat girls didn’t have normal childhood or any other regular pleasures of children of their age in pursuit of a larger goal in life.

Lesson # 4 Success changes everyone’s negative attitude into positive

The same society which was mocking the phogat family starts respecting them and welcomes the champion Geeta like a hero and she becomes pride of her village. Even though society and others will discourage girls from pursuing their dreams or any unconventional career but if you achieve success, fame and money, the same people will not only accept you but also respect you. Success changes people’s perspectives and persepctives matter.

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Real Mahavir Singh Phogat with his girls and medals. Source: Rediff.com

Night before the final bout of commonwealth games, father tells Geeta that this fight is not only with opponent but with the ” mindset” that girls are not equal to boys and this mindset is root cause for gender inequality, denying girls opportunities to life, career and choices. Cheers to Geeta who proved his father’s belief in her right but she couldn’t have done if it had not been for his father, the real hero of this story, Mahavir Singh Phogat- a brave man, an inspiring father and a social barriers shattering figure not only for his daughters but for all young girls and their parents in this country. Salute to him for believing that “maari chhoriyan chhoro se kam hain ke”.

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