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Will 2016 Olympics Make A Difference?

By Sangeeta Robinson, Founder & CEO, Enduring Value Advisory & Practice LLP

Image: All girls school run by Pardada Pardadi Educational Society at Anoopshahr, UP

2011 Census figures present some startling gender related statistics for Mokhra Khas (Sakshi Malik’s village), compared to the rest of Haryana; in the backdrop of the National average. And the story is not a happy one, to say the least. It is also pretty evident that it is the grit and determination of these girls, backed by their respective families that has brought them to Rio. I do hope then, that what has taken place in Rio this year will help awaken a few more parents to the potential that their little girls have.

It is a commonly known fact that in majority of Indian families, the male child gets preference over the female child in all aspects, including nutrition. No wonder then, that more than 50% of Indian women are anaemic, compared to 25% men.  The same story is repeated on the education front, even though, year after year, State and Central Board exam results demonstrate the superior performance of girls. However, even if that is the case; she is not allowed to study further because she has to be married and it is the son who will support the family. I see a deep-rooted problem in this belief!

Traditionally, the Indian society is collectivistic and promotes social cohesion and interdependence; however that is changing rapidly in recent years with joint families being replaced by urban “new-order” structures. What has not changed is our traditional ‘legacy’ approach, so a father who is a Doctor by profession, will want his son to take his legacy forward and become a doctor irrespective of what the child’s dreams maybe. Also, in our minds we expect that the son will also take care of us in our old age. With the changes that have occurred in the last decade or so, we are seeing very different trend across the length and breadth of the country – of elderly parents living alone because their ‘sons’ are working in other cities or countries. Our society needs to respond to this change and move from ‘interdependence’ to ‘self-sufficiency’ and let our kids follow their dreams; irrespective of whether they are boys or girls. We also need to create a social fabric that is supportive of elderly care (another CSR opportunity). So far, the approach has been, “My daughter has to get married and go away so why spend so much on her education when we have to spend on her dowry in any case.” And, ” Our son must get a good job so we must invest in his education, he’s the one who will take care of us in our old age.”

Due to this, what a girl does professionally takes a back seat because, after all she has to get married and take care of the home. In the wake of the Rio Olympics and many other examples across various domains and spheres, it has been proven that girls who have managed to buck this trend, have been able to, in many cases, leave their male counterparts behind; be it in the corporate world, entrepreneurial pursuits, politics, or now even sports!

So can we now recognise the potential of ‘the fairer, weaker sex’ or will we continue to see these as exceptions? Will we consider that if we let our daughters dreams, we may create a Sindhu, an Indira Nooyi or a Kalpana Chawla? Will we think for a moment that if this is what is possible against so many odds; imagine what can happen if we provided them a level playing field (pun!) with our boys? Will we at least give them a chance, to live, to study and prove themselves?

Sangeeta RobinsonFounder & CEO of Enduring Value Advisory & Practice LLP, Sangeeta Robinson has been in the Business Responsibility Advisory space since 2013. Prior to this, she led Sustainability in Tata Teleservices and Tata Power DDL and also led Marketing Communications at IBM India, Tata Tele, Tata Power DDL, Cummins and LML. With over 22 years of experience, she has spent more than 8 years leading, devising and implementing innovative and sustainable, value-creation strategies for the organisations she has worked for and client organisations. Sangeeta is a CII-certified Sustainability Excellence Assessor, an IOD-Certified Independent Corporate Director and certified by GRI to report as per G4 Guidelines.