Women’s Economic Empowerment: Financial Independence and Happiness
Here’s to stronger, ambitious, content and empowered women.
The Oxford dictionary defines empowerment as “the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights”. While the Indian constitution bestows upon the women six fundamental rights, I believe that in most circumstances, women are not in control of their lives enough to make free-willed and rational choices. A major part of this empowerment is derived from being financially independent. To understand the importance of this thought it would be only advisable to look at the women who are financially dependent.
We are aware of the patriarchal society that we live in and hence are naturally, socially and psychologically conditioned to make choices while keeping in mind the men-folk of the family and the prospect of being answerable to them in major instances. This I believe is problematic in the larger context of a woman’s position in the society. For example, women generally chart out their career paths in such a way that the destination is marriage. Following this, they inevitably take a break to fulfil the expectations of attending to the needs of the family while surrendering themselves to the financial care of their husbands. Although the notion lacks statistics one could always look around to find many women making this choice with the guidance of the society. This presents a grave picture in the context of a report released by the Union Health Ministry stating that approximately 31 % of married women experienced physical, sexual, or emotional violence by their spouses. In addition, domestic violence remained “the most complained of” issue as stated by the Ministry of Women and Child Development from 2015–2017 in their annual report. Both these highlight that financial dependence on husbands only results in a state of helplessness further preventing them from moving out of tensed relationships. Although we have laws in place which let women be able to support themselves, the implementation is poor.
While this is the dismal state of the dependents, there is a large number of women working across several sectors to earn their livelihoods. A paycheck or a daily wage gives a sense of achievement and confidence to make further choices without any obligations or burden. The idea of splurging on travels and shopping, making business investments or supporting one’s family during medical emergencies without worrying about borrowing money is a huge boost to the one’s self-worth. Financial independence fills oneself with confidence and the strength to control situations. This is helpful on the account of divorces which women would easily opt for if they had the financial resources to start afresh.
More importantly, financial independence allows a woman’s voice to be heard, get exposure in the world and various options to improve interpersonal relationships. Isn’t it a great boost to your morale on accounts when family members, colleagues or friends turn to you for opinions because of an understanding that these have been informed by your experiences and independent choices. The independence further instils a sense of responsibility that ensures the sustenance of their finances for the future. As this inspires other women to make such choices, it will reiterate the importance of education and vocational training to be able to earn this independence with certainty.
From the several stories I have personally heard as well as the ones I read while writing this article, these are the reasons why I believe women should strive to be financially independent:
- To support oneself during unfortunate life occurrences such as health emergencies or death.
- To support oneself and one’s family by paying bills and sharing the ever increasing cost of living.
- To be able to pay for further education or make investments in dream projects.
- To be able to buy oneself opportunities to learn, explore and save for future goals.
- To be able to feel happy and content with one’s choices.
In this regard, there’s a famed quote by Ayn Rand which informs us about the importance of happiness and its derivation from the freedom to choose our goals and achieve them.
“The pursuit of happiness means a man’s right to set his own goals, to chose his values and to achieve them. Happiness means that state of consciousness which comes from the achievement of your values. Now what can be more important than happiness. Happiness means a profound guiltless, rational feeling of self-esteem and pride in one’s own achievement.”
The need to be free and maintain a list of goals for this lends a sense of purpose to life and its achievements and outcomes will result in complete happiness.
Feature Image Credit: Rutgers.international
Shivani Gayakwad is a Volunteer Researcher at One Future Collective and a researcher for Compliance, Forensics and Intelligence at Control Risks India. She has expertise in South Asian politics and interest in women’s menstrual health and financial independence.
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