Women for Women

Women for Women


Behind every successful woman is a tribe of other successful women who have her back

Sneha (name changed), was struggling in an almost broken marriage. Her husband had cheated on her twice in their married life. Her marriage life had deteriorated due to her husband Anil’s infidelities. The first time she caught him, Sneha threatened to leave home with their children. However, upon being convinced by immediate and extended family and friends, Sneha decided to give Anil a second chance. Things were never the same. The second time Anil cheated on her with an office colleague. Sneha decided to walk out of this relationship as she valued her self-respect more and realised that she wanted her children to grow up in an honest and less stressful environment. Angrily, Sneha packed her things and walked out of a house, she had so painstakingly built over the years. She barely had some cash and a few clothes and was not sure of where she wanted to go. A good friend offered her and her children a place to stay for a few days. Sneha was smart and a survivor. She wrote an e-mail to some of her close women friends – requesting for help in cash and in kind. This e-mail got forwarded to several women’s groups and help started to pour in for Sneha with many praising her bold decision. Enough help came in for Sneha – to be able to rent out a small flat and pay an advance deposit for 3 months, pay pending school fees of her children, set up a cosy home and kitchen and restart her life with dignity. Today, Sneha is a successful entrepreneur and her children are doing very well in life.

She is very thankful to her tribe of women, who helped her when she needed it the most. Every day in our lives, we come across such stories of hope and positivity, where women support women to bring in positive change.

However, all stories are not positive. Enough tales of women being harassed by other women are heard about as well. These tales are usually by-products of pre-existing conditioning and stereotypes. The “mean mother-in-law”, “the entitled sister-in-law”, the “non-conforming daughter-in-law”, and “women colleagues sparring with each other” are some of the stereotypes that have taken over the soaps on TV. Such serials propagate the idea that women can never be friends with each other or support each other.

Read more: How Media Influences Women’s Empowerment

This form of constant subliminal conditioning by various media platforms leads women to internalise unconscious biases such as other women are out to get them, are jealous of their success or that other women will jeopardise their growth opportunities. Hence, all of their actions are driven by this perceived reality – making women doubt the intent of other women. To break this long-existing myth, women need to showcase a more positive impact of “women supporting women.”

Read More: The Meaning of Self-Image for Girls

The #MeToo movement is one such global phenomenon that swept over the entire world, uniting women as never seen before. This movement grew stronger with thousands of women across the world – joining the fold; irrespective of colour, race, religion or sexuality. A common theme and shared helplessness, highlighted the core of this movement. This is what strengthened the bond between women from different countries, who had not known each other earlier, yet rallied for one another.

Across the world, a gazillion stories of harassment, abuse, and hurt started to appear on social media. With this movement began the downfall of many men, who had abused their positions of power. It was a show of strength and solidarity between women, as never witnessed in the past. The #MeToo movement coupled with the potency of social media brought to the fore a new ray of hope. Women started to appreciate the importance of being there for other women. This caused a paradigm shift in the way they would trust and treat each other. Women started to realise that supporting each other was uncomplicated and easily doable.

A study published by the Harvard Business Review quoted that many successful women in executive positions benefited from a close inner circle of female friends. This close circle of friends shared information about the approach of an organization towards its women employees, insights into the recruitment process as well as strategies needed to ace interviews. Organisations with strong women-centric policies have started to realise the importance of peer-to-peer support. These internal networks help female employees with growth and networking, workplace safety, support through crises, and in general in finding a voice within an organisation.

Read More: Corporate Social Responsibility And Women Empowerment

The corporate sector in Hyderabad through the Society of Cyber Security Council is one such organisation that has several corporates as members of the group. Female employees working for these corporations are selected and trained to be Margdarshaks by the Police Department. These employees are connected through social media with each other and support other female employees in managing personal/professional difficulties, and transportation problems, and ensuring their overall mental well-being and safety.

Rakhi (name changed), an IT professional was in an abusive and violent marriage for many years. Not knowing whom to turn to during these times, Rakhi was in extreme distress and this had started to affect her work. During a conversation with a Margdarshak in her organisation, Rakhi mentioned her reason for being so distressed. The Margdarshak handling Rakhi’s case reached out to the network of Margdarshaks across the city. An immediate intervention by the police was organised. Her husband was given a warning and subsequently sent for counselling. He had to give a written undertaking where he promised not to lay a finger on her. He realised that he was powerless and that an entire group had Rakhi’s back. Soon, Rakhi filed for divorce and moved to another city with her child to live a better quality life.

Building these circles of trust of women who have our back, in or outside of an organisation, may seem to be a complicated task but is not necessarily so. With social media being a powerful enabler, hordes of support groups, professional and non-professional networking groups as well as groups offering financial, personal or any beneficial advice, have sprung up on social media. Each of these groups have thousands of members from all parts of the world and are based on similarities and common passions. The geographical lines have started blurring as women are beginning to find wisdom and support from each other.

Read More: The Impact of Domestic Violence on Women’s Mental Health

Naina (name changed), had an autistic child and was struggling to manage and understand his condition. She joined a Facebook group for mothers and asked for support in understanding her child’s condition better. A whole lot of mothers with autistic children reached out to Naina and extended advice and rallied around her to help her. Like Naina, there are so many mothers who need guidance and therefore so many of them are turning to women supported groups for their needs.

Another area of collaboration is for economic empowerment of women. The social media is full of networking groups. These groups are created for a variety of reasons such as business networking, entrepreneurship meets skill development etc. Many women who drop out of jobs after the birth of a baby or marriage; no longer want to be dependent on their spouses. So, in order to continue with an assured source of income, many of them become entrepreneurs. Not only do they run successful small businesses, but they also support other women getting into this space. The life of an entrepreneur is fraught with several challenges. However, if the right mentor/networking group comes one’s way, women entrepreneurs can tap into expertise and collaboration offered by other women to bring stability to their work.

Read More: The Pathologization of Female Emotions

Supporting another woman is simple and does not require any special skills. It however, requires great determination to fight against ingrained conditioning as it resurfaces from time to time while showing solidarity to another woman. The trick is to be completely non-judgmental. Before helping or guiding another woman, it is critical to make a promise to one’s self that “no matter what happens, I will not judge a woman for her actions. I will try and understand her reality and become more tolerant, even if she does not understand the support being given to her”. Slowly and steadily, this trait becomes a part of your thinking process and you end up unlearning the ingrained behaviour over some time. Once you become non-judgmental, you will realise that your help, guidance or support is also greatly appreciated and your objectivity shines through. It is critical not to give into stereotypes that have been perpetrated in society. Stereotypes cause a mind block and people are then unable to support another women as people should be doing.

Read More: Top 10 Self-Help Books for Women to Read in 2024

According to a UN Report,

“if women want to have better control of their lives, it is imperative that they support each other without conditions attached.”

This will lead to economic empowerment thereby boosting the nation’s GDP, chances of better employment opportunities, growth at work and meaningful participation of women who have found their voices leading to the multiplier effect on all activities that are undertaken by them.

It would be unfair to end this article without mentioning Lijjat Papad. The brainchild of 7 women, this enterprise grew multi-fold and now employs 43,000 women with an expanded product portfolio. Lijjat papad is a fabulous example of how women supporting women can have a massive impact.

It is a testimony to the fact that when women come together – nothing is “impossible”

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