Hyderabad: “It is not enough to celebrate a special day or mark a day for women,” says Telangana State Governor Dr Tamilisai Soundararajan. In an interview with Deccan Chronicle, the Governor talks on how she had as a young doctor felt the need to get into politics.
“Being a doctor, I felt it was not enough to serve the society, that you also need power,” she says and issues a ‘five-capsule’ prescription for women and the society to ensure equality for women in every sphere of life. She calls for a realization that the way women are depicted by the entertainment industry may be robbing women of their natural right to reject unsolicited advances by men.
Excerpts from the interview marking International Women’s Day:
What can women, the younger cohort, do to be part of a generation that can take us all forward?
The younger generation of women is more intelligent, they act with more responsibility but are also struggling to balance professional and personal lives. They are more caring. We see more young women taking care of their parents, even buying houses for their parents. Yet they are unable to find a balance between home and workplace. They need a clear demarcation between their talent for work and commitment to their families.
What made you turn to politics when you were in college?
I was at the Thanjavur Medical College when I realised that being a doctor alone will not be enough to really work for the people. There was an ultrasound machine that women thought could be used to check if the baby in the womb was a girl. Women used to come and say they did not want another girl. My father was the Opposition leader in the Tamil Nadu Assembly and I asked him to raise the issue of getting a much cheaper AC machine for checking on pregnant women. When the machine came, I thought I needed some power in addition to being a doctor to get such things done by myself. So I entered politics. Another incident that contributed to the turn in my life related to a mother of twins. She was thin and weak. Because the babies were twins, we monitored their health right from their birth. We noticed the boy gaining weight but the girl not doing so. We found the mother was breastfeeding the boy and giving diluted cow’s milk to the baby girl. I thought issues like these needed to be attended to or taken up and awareness spread. This also helped me to decide on becoming a politician.
What can society do to encourage women stand up for their rights?
First of all, society needs a change in its mindset. It should realise that women also have desires, have talent, and want to be independent and have ambitions. It’s important to help change the behaviour of men. Merely focusing on what a woman should do is not enough. A girl’s mistake becomes macroscopic and a boy’s microscopic. This should change. Adolescent girls should be treated as you would a delicate fragile article, and given support.
What are your views on women being depicted as objects of desire in cinema?
You see its impact in acid-attack victims. The male attitude is, “If I want you, you should like me. If I chase you, you should respond. And if you do not respond, I will hurt you, I will throw acid on you and even kill you.” Incidents like Disha are reminders of this attitude. Women are being denied their right to reject. Such attitudes in men are reinforced because of cinema, infused by stories and even literature. All these sections, including elected representatives who make comments that hurt women, have a responsibility to change this depiction and tell the society that a woman has a right to reject, or accept, and that right is hers.
As a doctor, what is your prescription to change the situation?
My first capsule will be Health, followed by a capsule of Hope, a capsule of Strong Mental Makeup, a capsule of Courage, and the fifth will be the capsule, Enjoy Your life.
Women should be brave. They need their third eye to stay open, have situational awareness. Finally, they should enjoy their lives. Life is not for getting depressed. Enjoy your work, family, your dress, and whatever else that makes you happy....