Payal Gandhi Hoon, coach and founder of Tamarainlp

For our article The Harsh Realities for India’s Working Women we contacted women entrepreneurs in India who have shared their experiences for our 1,000 Stories initiative. We were overwhelmed by the number of women who wrote in and their passionate responses to the problems facing women in India. Below is an edited email exchange with Payal Gandhi Hoon, coach and founder of Tamarainlp, a training company located in Gurgaon, a suburb of New Dehli.

The Story Exchange (TSE): What was your reaction to the rape and the protests?

PGH: My reaction is the reaction of first as a human being and then as a woman – to be deeply saddened with the inhumanly act towards a simple soul that descended on this earth to be hurt and killed not only physically but mentally so brutally. [pullquote]This incident is surely a wakeup call to us all; an unfortunate event but a must invitation to not just go through life in passivity experiencing yet another unfortunate act that fades out of the memory just as soon as it is read about.[/pullquote]

It is a reaction of many questions that run through the heart and mind to see such an act happen in today’s day and age. Much as we marvel ourselves at our progressive and evolved civilization that we have become, the thought that emerges is what it is to forget the dignity and the whole being of another human.

It is certainly not the first time a girl is so brutally evicted of her being, it is not the first time we have heard of a lowly act of hell, it is not the first time when the demons have taken over to no avail.

I ask is it a misfortune to be born a girl and die a woman in this society and be prey to an act as such. A country that holds the gender of being a woman – a mother today faces a grave truth of such heinous act. It is a man who was born out of the very womb of a woman to be disgracing the femininity of another woman – the man who the least would have respected the genesis of his own creation.

This incident is surely a wakeup call to us all; an unfortunate event but a must invitation to not just go through life in passivity experiencing yet another unfortunate act that fades out of the memory just as soon as it is read about. The protests represent the latent rage and frustration and the call for a change not just in systems, people but a mindset; so we can live in a free India in the true sense.

Young India and aware India has spilled out onto the streets to express their determination to not this go in the passing this time. They want their voice to be heard and they want change to happen in the way the socio-political system exists – they want a promise of not just justice but a vision of a county safe for women to come to reality.

The social media spews of concerned citizens commenting on chemical castration, public flogging, life imprisonment, capital punishment, making them suffer each day to repent their doing rather than just persecuting them, change is the persecution policies for such offenders…

We are concerned and hopeful for ‘Hope’ to reign this time; for this time we do not want the life of yet another innocent woman go in vain, certainly not this time.

TSE: Indian women are increasingly working as entrepreneurs, in business and are gaining political power. At the same time, rape is widely unreported and often not prosecuted. Why do you think that is the case?

PGH: The number of women in the Indian workforce has increased in the last few years due to aware family systems. Even still, the population of women is mid heavy and becomes trim as you go up the pyramid. There are only 2% of women who make it to the higher management.

We are society where women are reared with a feeling of shouldering the responsibility of sustaining the family harmony – and it is expected of them to not make a fuss but just manage whatever is. Evidently this expectation has taken another turn for the worse – women at a subconscious level don’t want to confront but to just endure or brush it under the carpet.

There is a lack of awareness for them to manage situations of molestation or rape. The few who do muster the courage to come out in the open are snubbed to maintain their dignity in the society or are ridiculed for inviting such an act. It is unfathomable to the extent the society values play up before human values. She has no one to look to for support.

It is easy to pity and turn a blind eye to the happening – for attention spans are short and there will be something else hitting the news headlines. Why is this country waiting to react till it hits you? Who knows you might be the next one…It is interesting to note that those in power remain unscathed of such happenings and 75% of these cases happen in the labour and working class because they lack basic education on moral science and values.

We are in our own democratic and secular way seeking for the decision makers to not just end it all with sympathy, but are looking to them to make changes in the system and an outlook of this country that will make a man think before even considering an act like [rape].

TSE: What is daily life like for you as a woman in general?

PGH: I belong to the fortunate few strata of the society, where it is a joy to be born a girl, educated and aware of the worldly ways, which might not be true for so many women in the Indian society. My world is that of equality in terms of education, opportunities, pursuing my dreams.

[pullquote; class=”alignleft]Every woman must realize that she is worth it and should not let anyone take that away from her at any cost![/pullquote]
Having escaped from female feticide, to surviving gender bias and inequality, to lack of education, to experiencing child marriage, to sexual harassment, living in an abusive marriage – a woman is still a tower of strength and hope for she gives birth to life.

Every girl in my opinion would have experienced [sexual] advances at some stage in her life and unfortunately most happen within known circles and there is a tug a war to share or not to share; not knowing what it might rake.

It is absolutely imperative to educate and generate awareness for young women of such and encourage them to be aware and BE bold to recognize and avert it. Every woman must realize that she is worth it and should not let anyone take that away from her at any cost!

TSE: Do you feel with this incident some sort of tipping point has been reached?

PGH: This incident has shaken the nation – be it mother, daughter, father, husband, brother no one is at peace – for all are concerned about the safety of a woman in their daily life. We can’t stop living life just because of fear! I ask what is a good time to be back home when such a gruesome act of crime has happened at not late hours but at a normal hour, which can’t be termed as late in the night.

For once the movement continues and this time we are not willing to give in. It is indeed the tipping point in creating a robust system where such offenders hopefully will be given the final verdict – a verdict for India and the world to treat women with respect and not as a commodity.

Enough is enough – what worse could be expected for a decision to be made? I, like many Indians, am certain that this will lead to changes that are much required in social, governance and law and order of this country.