A Feminine approach to individual/society interactions
An economy at the service of the society. What relationships between Individual and Society?
V International Conference PEKEA
We all agree that, in all cultures and societies, women have, in different ways, been marginalized and silenced. In the traditional and conventional acceptance of the notion of Dharma in India, women are considered as partial individuals subordinate to the authority of the father, the husband, the son and religious law, i.e. they are never recognized as individuals. Though she has no status as an individual, when it comes to critical issues of survival like any economic crisis and environmental disasters woman suddenly is accepted as an individual to bear the burden of all existential difficulties.
Recent years have witnessed countless discussions, seminars and consultations on the issue of gender and poverty with specific focus on "feminization of poverty". The concept of this "feminization" is linked to a perceived increase in female-headed households and increasing female work participation in the informal sector, both urban and rural. Women have found themselves burdened with economic responsibilities, but they lack access to productive resources to enhance or supplement their efforts to respond to the situation. In the rural context, women are often conventionally and unilaterally associated with the agricultural sector and reduced to the role of the nourisher, while the innate qualities of women’s wisdom are totally neglected. Most so-called poverty alleviation measures are not responsive to women’s socio political needs in a globalized world.
In the light of this, it is heartening to see the manner in which marginalized women have bravely stood up to all forms of oppression and have guided the course of development; their choices being not only for their own sake but also for the betterment of their communities. In their quest for solidarity it is important to notice that it is not despair that binds them. Women are lead to naturally realize that, although they are from different ethnic backgrounds, hope is the common thread that binds them all; the hope that makes them challenge the culture of violence- the violence that uprooted them from their original environment and the direct violence on body, mind and materials. This common thread does not arise with a vengeance, but grows from the awareness that the challenge rests on a deep attitude and practice of non-violence.
At a micro level in many developing countries, mutually supportive groups created by individual women, have become a common platform for personal and social change. It has shown me that the focus was not only to improve their individual living conditions through economic activities, but also to affirm their self-esteem and confidence, and to become proactive in assuming the challenges collectively.
There are several examples of collective movements of women who challenged the established order through non-violent solidaristic action across the world. In India for instance, we have the Chipko movement (1), the Narmada Bachao Andolan (2), etc. In the North-eastern state of India, Manipur, women have always been known to have an independent, decisive say in social affairs. So, when the state was declared a disturbed area in the 80’s and atrocities including rapes by the Armed Forces became a serious issue, the ’Meira Paibes’, members of an informal collective of mothers, took to the streets, fighting for civil rights and peace. The protest against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act took shape in the women’s markets of Manipur where their networks were first formed. It shows that individual women traders are able to transform into a collective non-violent force to challenge such powerful violent authority.
Even through the worst forms of gender discrimination and violation of their rights, women have boldly taken up their responsibilities, asserted themselves and successfully demanded their economic, psychological and moral rights to not only equality but also equity. Whenever their deeper consciousness is stimulated, women are awakened to an extraordinary transformative vibration, the natural expression to their latent positive strength. In spite of the complexity and harshness of the struggle, their hearts are still filled with love and compassion though their bodies are being worn out.
Viewed globally, from the start, the feminine approach never limits itself to the individual merely. Its concern is always all encompassing, always motivated by hope and the transformation of the community or society towards better and more equitable horizons. The feminine non-violent approach to individual-collective relationships has a transformative capacity in contrast to the dominant patriarchal paradigm. The behavioural patterns of patriarchy are the upholding of hierarchical structures, power and coercive authority, refusal of dialogue and subsequent direct or indirect violence. Even in spite of a long history of frustration and indignation inflicted by patriarchal oppression, women understand the need for a peaceful and constructive dialogue to facilitate the interaction of the individual and society.
A major characteristic of feminine notion of responsibility goes towards the harmonious interaction of the individual and the collective, and to society at large. It is a wonder that, in spite of having been historically oppressed and humiliated by the patriarchal cultures of mankind, women continue to demonstrate incredible and inexhaustible psychological and spiritual resources of compassion and solidarity that are an example, an asset and a hope for the peaceful and harmonious becoming of one and all.
Panel of participants to the session: