During our brief time in Gujarat, I tried to focus on the evolution of the women’s rights movement in Gandhi’s land after the carnage of 2002. In a society that continues to idealize patriarchal ideals and principles, how are the female leaders, advocates, and activists creating the necessary change to create true gender equality?
Throughout the violence of 2002, women were targeted, above all, symbolically. The rape and mutilation of Muslim women, the burning of the bodies in order to destroy the evidence; all symbolized an attack on the home and honor of the community. Globally, it has been seen time and time again how much destruction of the women is used to be the greatest dishonor of all – the strongest and most lasting way to attack of culture. For me, such a sentiment alone is a style of violence against itself. Yes, society would cease to exist without our mothers, our sisters, and our daughters both biologically and structurally speaking. Yet, to bare the symbolic burden of society to me seems criminal.
Time and time again as I asked of the status of women in today’s Gujarat, I was greeted with the same sentiment. That the women of India are courageous and strong women. Personally, I was not only blessed to hear this but to witness it with my own eyes. Whether the numerous women I met with activists, high-ranking bureaucrats or local tribal women, each and everyone fit the vision of a woman rising up with courage. What remains to be accepted or understood, personally, is a clear and transparent definition of what it means to be empowered in Gujarat. As I research the many roles played by women in Gujarat today, I hope to find a fitting definition to empowerment soon.