Fusing journalism and TB – telling the stories as they are

What does women’s empowerment really mean?

with 2 comments

On the face of it, this post has nothing to do with TB. And yet, it has deep connections. Let’s look at how many lives of women TB claims across the world. According to a report published by The Lancet, globally, 700 000 women die from tuberculosis every year; this disease kills more women than do all causes of maternal mortality combined. Does this have to do with empowerment or the lack of it? Maybe both.

At a recent blood donation camp held in Bangalore, where I was a participant/volunteer/potential donor, a majority of the women who volunteered to donate blood were found ineligible. These were young women, none more than 28-30 years; they were upwardly mobile young professionals and fitted perfectly into the profile of financially independent, empowered women. And yet, all of them were found to either have low haemoglobin count, low blood pressure, or were underweight. And to stretch an argument, they could at some point of their lives find their health compromised enough to be infected by TB, which lurks around people who provide an environment conducive to its spread. In this scenario, it doesn’t take much to imagine the plight of women who are poor, have to work harder and longer hours at lower wages. They have to also be content with eating leftovers if any, or go hungry. And to top it all, they get least priority for healthcare within their families.

So we come back to empowerment. Have we really understood women’s empowerment? For the woman, does it merely mean salary cheques at the beginning of a month and the freedom to be militant and aggressive? Shouldn’t it also mean the freedom to make informed decisions about what is good for them, negotiate for better health and living conditions, and the right to stand up and be counted?

Women are directly responsible for perpetuating the human race; they nurture families, and above all, they have a duty to keep themselves healthy. Shouldn’t empowerment actually mean the ‘means’ to enable all of this for themselves? Have we somewhere missed the woods for the trees while commuicating messages about women’s empowerment? Are development agencies listening?

Does this connect with TB? It sure does. TB loves people without empowerment, or the wrong kind of empowerment!

Bharathi Ghanashyam

Source for figures on women and TB: Published online May 19, 2010 DOI:10.1016/S0140-6736(10)60579-X

Written by JournalistsAgainstTB

May 7, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Posted in TB and Media

2 Responses

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  1. My goodness BG! you really got me thinking here!

    I don’t think women’s empowerment has anything to do with the freedom to be ‘militant and aggressive’ but rather the freedom to be treated on an equal footing with men.

    I’ve seen instances of ‘upwardly mobile’ women, some of whom earn more than their respective male partners, but have no say in major financial decisions concerning their own money.

    I doubt that women’s empowerment has reached or impacted urban women the way it’s reported by media. for example, why do bollywood actresses end their careers once they’ve tied the knot? Indian masses still have a problem accepting a confident, proud woman making her own decisions about her career once she’s married. because after that, she’s expected to follow the rules of her husband.

    the discrimination is so deeply entrenched, i wonder if it will ever be removed.

    Anu Kalgudi

    May 9, 2011 at 10:02 am

    • What about the right to and the awareness about keeping oneself healthy before anything else? What about demanding to be counted for the very vital areas such as health? That’s empowerment according to me.

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