WARANGAL: She courses through difficult paths, darkness around her, but brightens the lives of many around her. The deepest of forests, the harshest of weathers, the sharpest of thrones fail to stop her from reaching out to the people in need.
Congress MLA from Mulugu, Danasari Anasuya alias Seethakka, known among the poor as the 'Iron Lady of Telangana' has created a special image for herself in state politics too. A Naxalite for 11 years before she took to politics, Seethakka spent more than 100 days during the Covid-19 lockdown season supplying essentials to remote Adivasi hamlets.
On International Women's Day, Seethakka shares some of her views on the present-day woman in a conversation with Deccan Chronicle.
Q. How do you assess the level of empowerment of women in Indian society?
Women started fighting for their rights in 1909 but the level of empowerment envisioned at that time has not been attained even after 100 years. Women are coming out of their homes and working on par with men, but they are facing new troubles. Previously, it was women labour but today’s educated women too are facing gender bias at the workplace. The way today's children are brought up is the main cause.
Q. What about the negative stereotypes of feminism at workplaces?
Girls should be taught to remain mentally strong and boys must learn that the opposite gender is equally competent. Women can aim for the skies. But such an environment should be created for them from the very start by parents.
Q. Why haven't women achieved equality despite legislation in place on gender pay parity?
There were the days of landlords and slaves. Today, despite so much development and legislation, the woman is still seen as the one meant for household work even as she earns income on par with her husband.
Q. What change have you seen on gender equality in your life and work?
Being an Adivasi child, I have not experienced gender bias. Such feelings are seldom present in Adivasi households as both women and men go out to earn the daily bread. Though my parents are illiterate, they sent me to school and my elder brother went to work. We see more of gender bias in educated families. Young minds should not be suppressed and must be let to fly.
Q. What challenges did you face as a woman leader?
I did not face any bias as a woman leader. I worked to my capacity without citing excuses to run away from responsibilities. If we work hard, there is no scope for anyone to criticise. Even if they do, I can retort strongly. If you take a step forward, the society recognises you. But if you take a step backward, you will raise a question mark on yourself.
Q. Isn’t there a need for more women in leadership?
Women must learn to stop thinking that their lives are restricted. Tradition and culture must be restricted to festivals. Our talents should be of help to society. A 'strong woman' image is emerging as a single woman is managing her household and bringing up children all alone. They are holding on to the opportunities and working hard, putting their talents to best use and tasting success in various fields.
Q. How would women go about succeeding in a male-dominated environment?
We must work hard to succeed in any field. There are many who discourage us but the family must be supportive. One must always think of taking two steps forward.
Q. What are your thoughts on the laws on women and of courts asking a rapist if he's willing to marry the victim?
This is a wrong perception. Today he marries the girl he raped. Tomorrow if he rapes another woman, will the court ask him to marry her too?
Q. Your inspirations in life?
I used to read biographies including those of Indira Gandhi and Chaganti Nirmala. I read about Phoolan Devi when I was studying in Class V. The way she faced society despite all the hardships moved me. Reading such books and also watching movies on the lives of such people helped me understand what power a woman holds.