Hyderabad: Marking International Women’s Day, Mayor Gadwal R. Vijayalakshmi wants women to unite to challenge stereotypes that limit scopes for women and girls in public life. Says she in an exclusive interview with Deccan Chronicle: “As we have done 112 years back, we must rise in protest against all injustices, abuse and domination to find our democratic and lawful place in society. Education, self-empowerment and right for assertion should be our motto.” Excerpts from the interview:
Q: How do you assess the empowerment of women in India? How patriarchal is Indian politics?
A: Time is dynamic, not static, and we need to adjust ourselves. Otherwise, we will not be able to move forward. Social mindset has remained the same. There is a ray of hope but women are still seen as being weak and are subjected to indignities. Politics is patriarchal, men feel suppressed when women are in power.
Q: What progress have you seen on gender equality in your life and work? What challenges did you face as a leader?
A: As I said, things are changing. We are seeing gender equality occupying its rightful space thanks to the expansion of education and the economic role of women. Yet we have miles to go. When I got this position, some said it was because of my background. But I have never felt being inferior to anyone. Although I have my social and biological disadvantages, truth and honesty besides hard work helped me in seeking and getting an equal place with men.
Q: Is there any significant difference in the leadership of men and women? Why do we need more women leaders?
A: Women have greater patience and perseverance, capacity to carry on despite adversities, and balance things. That makes them good leaders. Take the example of our mothers. Women leaders mean less corruption, less of groupism, fewer internal quarrels. What we need is a strong political and social movement. Unfortunately, the Women Reservation Bill has not been passed by Parliament.
Q: How can we get rid of negative stereotypes of women in workplaces?
A: Women must come together along with their supporters. This is the best way to counter harassment at workplace. Laws are in place to check this menace. Such incidents must be strictly dealt with by law, the society and women themselves. Women of India must unite. This must happen in our state.
Q: Why haven’t women achieved equality, despite legislation in place on gender pay parity?
A: This is mostly because of the mean mindset of men. Besides the greed for power -- political, economic, social -- it put us in competition with the stronger sex; and, true, we have some disadvantages too.
Q: How can women succeed in a male-dominated environment?
A: Education is a must. If you have good education, you can beat any beast on the way. We are stronger and confident when we get a good education and then we can fight for ourselves with an awareness of all the laws and legislation for women.
Q: Your inspirations in life?
A: I am inspired by the prohibition movement organised by women in Nellore and Chittoor against liquor shops, and I especially remember Dubagunta Rosamma, the leader of the movement....