How Can We Raise Strong Daughters? 10 Suggestions….

 

As a feminist activist and director of The 50 Million Missing Campaign to end female genocide in India, one of the questions I’m often asked in interviews is “How do we raise strong daughters?”

I have to admit, that there’s a part of me that is always uncomfortable with this question being asked in context of violence on girls and women.  Because what I feel it does, is that in a round-about-way it puts the onus or blame of gender-based violence on the victim.  It’s almost like saying, the reason girls and women get battered and/or killed is because they are weak.  And if they weren’t they wouldn’t.  Sexist and misogynist violence effects even the strongest of women, simply because the system (social, religious, legal etc.) permits it. In fact determinedly perpetuates it.  Victims of violence, be it race, religion or gender based violence, are NOT inherently weak, but are weakened by constant social battering.

So I believe the process of raising strong daughters is to off-set the very social and cultural conditioning and values that are meant to rob us of our strengths and potentials as individuals.  These are ideas and values that many of us, even those opposed to sexist societies, imbibe and perpetuate unconsciously.  Below I talk about 10 such things that we, as mothers, fathers, teachers, and guardians need to be mindful of, in how girls are raised in society, so we don’t rob them of their inherent strengths and potentials.  So that we consciously provide our daughters with an environment where they can realize and proudly assume their powers in full.  And are able to let “their strong woman within” shine through.

1.Teach her to know her Self by listening to her inner voice, instincts, thoughts and inclinations.

2. Teach her to be comfortable with what’s different in her even when it is at odds with what society says she should be.

3. Teach her that she is exceptional in her own way, and that you are going to be by her side as she discovers, explores and expresses her individual identity.

4. Teach her that choices she makes come with responsibilities that she must also assume. But that they also come with the freedom to make a new choice if she finds her first choice to be wrong.

5. Teach her that she has the right to be wrong, and that’s the path of discovery and growth.

6. Teach her that if she believes in herself, and her dreams and goals, she does not need the approval of the whole world.

7. Teach her that she will face harshness in this society, and she will face rejection, and that it does not matter as long as she believes in who she is and what she is doing.

8. Teach her to value experiences and work that allow her to be herself.

9. Teach her to value people who love her for who she is not what she does or has.

10. Teach her to celebrate each time she takes a stand against social or cultural pressure to conform and stands true to what she knows and believes in, even if at the end of the day, she won’t get a public award or standing ovation for it.

Why We Have to Talk Safety Before We Can Talk About Educating Girls in India

Rita Banerji:

The reason The 50 Million Missing Campaign decided to make the post which I’ve re-blogged below is because we realized that the issue of escalating and systemic violence on girls in India is often getting trivialized in how the public, government and organizations are responding to it. ‘Educate them’ has become the automated, unthinking response to increased violence, indeed sexual violence on girls in India. It is almost a refusal to look at the reality of the SYSTEM and its participation in this systemic violence, because even as we say ‘educate them’ we fail to acknowledge that schools themselves, teachers, administrators, school bus drivers, etc are a part of the predatory network.

Where is a girl safe in India today? Not in her home, not on the streets, and not in the schools. For those who say, that this won’t change overnight, I say it’s an opinion that only the ‘unaffected’ can afford to offer, and therefore it is unconscionable! If your daughter was gang raped in school or on the school bus or walking to school, and the administration and police looked away, would you sit back and say “It won’t change overnight. We have to educate society and change its mindset?” No you would not! You will demand immediate safety and justice for your child! So why do we get so tolerant and accommodating in our attitude to the safety of girls when it is not one of our own children who is victimized? Why aren’t girl child organizations campaigns and NGOs, — speaking for the victims and their families instead of mindlessly preaching ‘educate them?’ Perhaps because those of us who recommend ‘education’ and ‘changing mindsets’ as the solution, are not just not among the directly affected people, but also who for some reason believe they won’t be?

What will stop the rapes and violence on girls in India? Ask those who have been DIRECTLY IMPACTED. And then become THEIR VOICE FOR CHANGE!

Originally posted on THE 50 MILLION MISSING CAMPAIGN BLOG ON INDIA'S FEMALE GENDERCIDE:

Prime Minister Modi recently told a nationwide gathering of students, that he intends to make the education of girls a priority for India.  He said his government has put into place many measures to ensure education for all girls, such as building toilets for girls. There are states in India where half the schools don’t have toilets, and this issue certainly needs attention.

RIGHT TO EDUCATIONHowever, The 50 Million Missing Campaign believes that one of the most critical issues that needs to be urgently addressed, is the escalation of incidents of rape and violence on girls while they are in school or while they are on their way to or going home from school.

Schools are now increasingly seen as unsafe places for girls in India.  This is one of the major reasons many families in rural and slum areas are unwilling to send their girls to school, and often…

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Why Does India Fake Literacy?

I suppose it needs to be said that the literacy figures for India are simply abysmal. For women in particular it is about 60%.

But the really bad news is that that isn’t a real estimate of how many can actually read and write in India. When there was a lot of angst expressed over how India houses almost half the world’s illiterates, the government got down to work on it — of course Indian style.

They created a new official definition for ‘literacy.’ By this unique Indian method, anyone who can read and write their name is officially counted as literate!! So Sita who can write S I T A, but doesn’t know the alphabets, can’t read and write anything else, considers herself literate.

Not only that, these women even when they work and earn, have no idea of how much they are actually earning or should be earning. They have no concept of savings, or calculation of change when they go shopping and take whatever change is handed over to them. So among the 60% women literates, 84% (see below) have little or no idea of how to handle daily cash transactions!

There was a Sita who had worked as a part-time domestic help for for me for a year. She was proud to call herself “literate” and insisted on signing the pay register instead of putting her thumb print as is customary for “illiterates” in India. They are called the “angootha chchaps” (thumb printers) — an offensive term.  Naturally no one wants to own it.   I had about 12 ‘signatures’ from Sita, all wildly varying in shapes and proportions. She turned down repeated requests from me to allow me to teach her. She said what she ‘knew’ sufficed her. Of course I or someone was always there to fill her forms, help her with her banking etc. But she was happy and proud to say she could write.  As I suppose is India!

Analyzing the Public Outrage at the Delhi Bus Rape Inspired Fashion Shoot

Originally posted on THE 50 MILLION MISSING CAMPAIGN BLOG ON INDIA'S FEMALE GENDERCIDE:

Raj Shetye’s fashion photo shoot (see below), which appears to be motivated by the brutal 2012 gang rape and assault on a woman on a Delhi bus, has angered many in India and around the world.

click hereIn an interview with The Voice of the Cape (South Africa), the 50 Million Missing founder, Rita Banerji explains why she is not surprised by Shetye’s project. However Rita also says, it is equally important to analyze the public rage and question what it really represents. She observes that rape seems to touch a public nerve in India in a way that no other form of lethal violence on women or girls does, and goes on to discuss why this is because it’s still seen through a prism that views women as sexual resources owned by men. Synopsis below [To hear the full 15 min. interview click on the box above].

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I Don’t Want “Ladies First,” But What’s With These Men?

Originally posted on THE 50 MILLION MISSING CAMPAIGN BLOG ON INDIA'S FEMALE GENDERCIDE:

woman washes mans feetby Rita Banerji

It irritates me when a man fawningly say “Ladies First!” I find it condescending. As a woman I see myself as perfectly able as any man and see no reason for being singled out that way.

Yet, by the same token I hugely resent the “Men First!” approach that I encounter everywhere in India. While walking on pavements, driving, inside homes, and even in offices. It’s that attitude that says, men are entitled to shove aside women and be served first.

It happened again at the bank yesterday and left me fuming. I had accompanied my mother to the bank and she needed some cash deposited. There was a long queue at the counter, so I told her to sit down and I’d stand in line and do it for her. A man came and stood behind me, and then suddenly moved in front and stood next…

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