The 10th webinar of Bold and Becoming was held on the topic “Women Empowerment and Cultural Conditioning”. We had the honour to have the popular TV actress, model, painter and melodious playback singer Bipasha Hayat as our guest. She privileged us throughout the session with her artful oration, humbleness and constructive discussion.
Ms. Hayat shared that women empowerment issues and constraints arise from the complicacies of different social and cultural systems. We need to establish a clear knowledge and understanding about “empowerment” of women. Empowerment is not about the competition of power. It is enabling a human being to use his/her/their power when needed. A common myth is that only the economic establishment can ensure women empowerment. However, the actress shared that finding purpose and meaning in life are equally crucial as well. And our family and our community perform a very important role on that.
To our second question “what are some key reasons for Bengali females to be more emotionally submissive, less confident and to lack degree of autonomy despite being economically and academically empowered?” Bipasha said that our surrounding and conventional family system deeply impacts the upbringing of our females. Nourishment of family shapes a woman’s thoughts about her own empowerment,confidence and ability, she added. The way a woman observes her mother as empowered, decision maker and independent and the way she heeds into the treatment of a husband to his wife are building blocks of her thoughts about her own empowerment. Most of the time, the submissive, sacrificing and compromising nature of our prior generation females casts a misconception about empowerment to the next generation of females.
“Ancient norms and conventions have impacted the advancement of women in many aspects. As such, what do you think is the role of our culture in empowering women to be more self loving, self-respecting and self dignifying?” was our third question. We had a wonderful outcome of this discussion with our guest. It’s evident that culture functions to uplift our souls. Culture creates a sense of art among ourselves. It becomes a part of our lifestyle. Unintentionally it develops our insight and stands us out from others. As such, the practice of authentic and healthy culture is important. It develops an individual’s insight to the extent that it increases his/her standard of lifestyle, which will lead them to promote the culture of self-love, self-respect and self dignity.
In progression to the next question “Studies show women’s tendency to diminish and undervalue her professional skills and achievements starting from adolescence as such women are less self-assured than men– despite of great competence. According to you, what can be done or how can we reframe our subconscious attitudes about our women and others and our own abilities based on their gender?” Ms. Hayat exclaimed that adolescence is a unique stage of human development. In this phase, adolescents experience rapid physical, cognitive and psychosocial growth. This affects how they feel, think, make decisions, and interact with the world around them. The behavior around them shapes their thoughts in this phase. This is a sensitive time in their life. Any negative activity or behavior can mislead them. When a girl observes another woman in her periphery undervaluing her skills, this influences that girl negatively. She might accept that as a normal behavior to nourish. Her mind might imprint this in the makeup of her thoughts in such a way that she starts to undervalue her skills despite her education and finances. It might inhibit the attitude of loving her own-self.
To reframe the subconscious attitudes of adolescents, education and family can play important roles, Ms. Hayat emphasized. They should be encouraged to read books, practice correct culture. Parents need to pay attention to the mental health of their children. Adolescents should have the access to get the right information and be guided with the right opportunities to develop their skills. They must be made aware about gender equality and its aspects.
Bipasha Hayat shared how she overcomes her moments of self-doubt by reading books, and practicing arts and literature such as painting, writing novels, poems. She keeps herself busy in productive work which in turn helps her to develop confidence, courage, self-respect, love and dignity.
Lastly, when she was asked to share one thing she unlearned as an adult and the process of unlearning, she said she has unlearned being reactive and re-learned where to allocate her energy. She also abated her attraction to materialistic things.
The whole conversation waved with art, culture and self transcending our belief on culture and empowerment. Bipasha Hayat beautifully depicted how culture truly influences women empowerment.