Saturday, May 06, 2006

Training Women to become Leaders by Kiran Bedi

This is a "cut and paste" of a Kiran Bedi Op-Ed piece that appeared in the Tribune on Sunday May 07, 2006. She has never been afraid to take the issues head on and I admire her courage and strength to stand up for what she knows to be right. Hope you will enjoy reading this...

Training women to become leaders
by Kiran Bedi

This fortnight was full of creative happenings for me from which I drew greater learning and inspiration. The happenings were: (a) Listening to Muslim women in a training programme, (b) An interaction with over 120 officers, men and women, in one of our premier civil services of the country, and (c) the release of a police manual for police trainers on gender issues.

In all the three events, the common thread happened to be women at different levels of development in our society. Let me first come to the Muslim women: I witnessed the closure of a training programme for Muslim women, sponsored by a Trust and supported by large-hearted Muslim donors, and a bank from overseas. It was indeed a heartening experience to see where the Muslim women’s needs too were slowly coming into focus. The feedback revealed a world of a difference the training programme had made in their attitudes. Perhaps a first such exposure for all of them.

Many of these women attending/sitting in the training room were with veils on their faces, while I was amongst them in my police uniform. They listened to me with great respect and awe. I wondered how much more time will they take to shed these ‘curtains’ (as I see it) from their faces…

I wanted to ask them (but did not, due to the presence of men) if they were keeping themselves camouflaged because of the absence of personal courage or fear of men or being shy of elders or strictly faith?

Well, this is India with all its diversity of circumstances and opportunities. But I was quite surprised to see that the Self Help Group (SHG) programme for women was still alien to them, when it has become a success in micro credit schemes for women all over the country. It had been specially mentioned and supported by our Finance Minister in this year’s budget speech. Apparently, women end up “shopping or sobbing” with all kinds of soap operas on the television, than for acquiring knowledge and information. I told them that while such training courses were of immense importance, today the media has educative value too if they so choose to pick. The remote is in their hands. This is one huge segment of Indian society which truly needs greater attention of the government and the non-government sector.

In the Question and Answer session, one of the answers which was probably difficult for them hear was, when they asked me, “What has made work and home possible”? I said, “ Small family. I decided to give birth to one child and not more.” For most of the women sitting in the audience, this was still a distant dream. But then, they were not alone.

My second happening confirmed this when I got to speak to probationers of a premier service of our country. After I finished my interaction with the officers, one of the women officers who accompanied me in my car to drop me back, asked me “Madam, how will my juniors take my orders if I assert? Or if I make a mistake? Or if I tell them not to do a particular thing in the manner they are used to doing? Will they listen to me as a woman?

I shot back instinctively and said, “of course they will? Yes, a lot depends on how you prepare yourself. How well you train yourself. How well you keep yourself informed or how confident you become? And certainly how willing you are to learn even from your juniors: Knowing that they could know more than you”.

She went back wondering the tough and long journey of professional life that lies ahead of her. More so as a woman. She was not behind a veil.

Yet not sure of her still, even when she had academically qualified for the premier service of this country. I wondered was she an isolated case? No she was not…!

Now on to the third issue: concerning a matter of training men to respond and enforce matters which concern women’s safety and security. I was invited to present a critique on the Manual being released for Police Trainers. I found it to be a very useful training manual, brought out by the Center for Social Science Research, Delhi. The manual is an excellent road map for police trainers to train police trainees on gender issues, particularly domestic violence and trafficking in women.

But the pertinent question I did ask was — while the trainers have this material to train, who are the trainers? Where will they come from? Because so far training in police is still not a priority issue. Those appointed to training feel discounted.

Unless police training becomes a priority for police leadership, well written manuals will remain unutilised. In fact, if a collection of state police training policies is made from all states it may be an eye opener. Some states may still not have a well declared training policy. Delhi Police itself did not have one, worth being called a policy, till just a few years ago. (I framed one and Police Commissioner Ajai Raj Sharma approved it).

So much for fighting terrorists? Naxalites? Cyber crimes, Communal riots? Crimes against women? Any one listening?

1 comment:

Mansoor Qaisar said...

nice blog & nice posting as well..... keep it!!!!!!!!!