I had the honor of representing India at the prestigious World Summit for Entrepreneurs held in Washington DC. In fact, I spoke on woman empowerment and received a standing ovation. I recalled my journey from one herbal salon to a global chain of franchise salons, and how I started a network by encouraging ordinary women to start salons in their own homes in a small way, to enable them to achieve financial independence. Education, of course, is the most important aspect of women empowerment. Mahatma Gandhi had said, “If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate an entire family.”
Yes, in a developing country like hours, education of women is the need of the hour, especially in rural areas. In fact, education helps to highlight a woman’s strength and how much she can do to better the life of her children. I believe that it would help to improve the quality of life of women in the rural areas, paying particular attention to education and health care of women and children. In fact, I feel that special attention should be given to extracurricular activities for girls and women in rural areas. An exercise and diet regime would help both mental and physical health.
Great emphasis should be given to every mother to empower her financially and mentally, so that she can educate her girl child of her rights and also inculcate the values of good health, nutritious diet and education. I believe that woman empowerment means financial independence and selfreliance for women. If women are encouraged to go out to work, the family can benefit from the earnings of two members. The quality of life of their children would definitely improve. I also believe that the development of skills and vocational training are very important for financial independence. I have been committed to vocational training of the speech, hearing and visually impaired, through my free beauty training courses for them.
Today, I feel proud that women have achieved so much. But we still have a long way to go. Woman empowerment is not just about one day in the year. It should be an on-going process, so that each of us can focus on the areas that need change and do our bit. The woman has to realize her own potential and strength as an equal member of society. In fact, the educated and selfreliant mothers can also bring about change in the mindset of society and teach their sons to honour and respect women.
Empowerment is also about women realizing that they should embrace change. Creating awareness is so important, drawing public attention to instances of injustices towards women. Educated women and professionals can work together to focus on issues – like literacy, learning of skills and opportunities for entrepreneurship, through kitchen and cottage industries. They can also participate in programmes on social issues and health care.
The “Pulse Polio” program, for instance, is a successful example. Changes cannot come from outside and by force. It has to come from within the society. The change can be complete when society recognizes that the woman has a separate identity, her own dreams and ambitions and every right to fulfill them. To women, I also want to say “Believe in yourself and your own abilities. Keep learning. Do you dream of being successful? Don’t stop! It is important to dream. Then have the faith and courage to take the first step towards realizing the magic of your dreams.” Indeed, let each woman redefine her place in the world, giving it her own color and fragrance. It would make this world a better place.
The theme for International Women’s Day in 2018 is “Press for Progress.” So this year, let us consider the roles played by women, all over the world, in economic development and social causes. Today is the day to appreciate women for their achievements, so that it inspires all women towards further progress. I feel that each and every one of us can take steps forward in different areas, like education, vocational training, skill development, gender bias, as well as women’s safety and security. We need to come together to help women move forward and realize their limitless potential and strength as an equal member of the family and society. So, this International Women’s Day let us all contribute at an individual level or collectively to Press for Progress!