Australian Diary – Women empowerment

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By. Andrew Richard

Watching Manushi Chhillar being crowned Miss World, I was struck not just by her beauty; but what really bowled me over was something I have recognised in Indian women for many years. Compassion for the less well off.

Of course many contest winners talk about nebulous concepts like world peace. However this 20 year old had a very specific goal; she wants to start a chain of not for profit hospitals.

For years people have asked me what’s so great about India, and for years I have been answering, the women. Some friends accused me of being sexiest.  So early on I learned to skip over the obvious, that the world’s most beautiful women emanate from the sub continent.  I preferred instead to talk about the character of the Indian woman in general.

There are the obvious measurable levels of education among the middle class, where in general girls get similar opportunities to boys. From Bengal to Kerala, from Kashmir to Tamil Nadu. In short, they are the best educated group in the world. Added to their level of education is their compassion for the massive underclass of India.

All of this is wonderful, but there is one glaring factor of Indian life that mystifies the outside world. However, before I expand on that. One of the world’s all time great misogynists; Chairman Mao said ‘women hold up half the sky’. China’s modern economic miracle has been achieved with the 50% input of its female population. This may have been an unintended consequence of the one child policy. Through necessity or foresight; China surged as educated women entered the national workforce.  A survey of the world’s self-made female billionaires, found that the top ten were all from mainland China.

So back to India and it’s clever women. In 2012 a UN agency produced a report that said that only 8% of female graduates were still in the workforce five years after graduation. It would appear that whilst India does recognize the many qualities of its’ female population, it appears reluctant to harness female brainpower for the advancement of the nation.

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