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Women In The 21st Century And Their Stories

In view of International Women’s Day, Outlook traces the stories of women who are unapologetic about who they are.

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Women protesters in Delhi's Connaught Place demanding Women's Reservation Bill. Photo: Getty Images
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It was in 2023 when the first-ever comprehensive account of women’s earnings and their labour participation was unfolded to the world through the work of a noble laureate in the Economic Sciences, Claudia Goldin. It’s the 21st century and understanding women’s role in labour is important for society. Although Claudia’s research has been based on the US trends, the same holds for India, and across sectors. In line with this debate and to foster the ‘economic inclusion’ of women, the United Nations has also emphasised ‘Invest in women: Accelerate progress’ as this year’s theme for Women’s Day.

While we lay focus on Indian women, there’s no doubt that the societal stigmas, prejudices and historical discriminations like a gender pay gap remain prevalent. But with the advent of time, these factors have not deterred women from moving forward in life. It’s the 21st century and women in India continue to fight to reclaim what’s theirs.

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For example, today, most Indians say that “women and men make equally good political leaders,” and more than one in ten feel that women generally make better political leaders than men, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey of nearly 30,000 adults throughout India. Only a quarter of Indian adults believe that men make better political leaders than women.

In September last year, the Women’s Reservation Bill was passed after 27 years. The struggle for a seat at the table has been long. We go to the table being us. As women who want to redefine, reconfigure and reset the narratives.

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Over the years, Outlook has searched for these women across places to tell their stories and representation. In the story --- ‘A Different Gaze: How Women-Led Panchayats In Rajasthan Bring Ground-Level Changes’  ---  Abhik Bhattacharya wrote about how in leading panchayats in a state with a poor sex ratio, women sarpanches have managed to bring about gender-inclusive changes.

In another example, we have known that women who speak up are inevitably dee­med to have defied the social order. In the case of working women in the informal sector, losing a job is the most deterring factor stopping them from coming forward because the design of the informal sector, for instance, construction, is based on proprietorship. Yet, women continue to rise through an oppressive regime and assault. Such voices have found a place in Outlook’s previous issue - 'Still I Rise’.

In the light of International Women’s Day, Outlook takes a look at women who go against societal prejudices of how women should act or present themselves and remain unapologetic about who they are.

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