Between 2009 and 2019, India has undeniably witnessed women coming to the forefront of hitherto-male dominated sectors. Today we have even the most apolitical women on the streets, demanding their rights and protesting against a range of issues.
With more awareness and social media connections, women are speaking up against even controversial issues like marital rape and equal pay, making sure that the world knows this: Indian women have arrived and they are here to stay.
MAKERSIndia takes a look at some developments regarding women that India is witnessing today, things that nobody expected at the beginning of the decade.
1. The impact of influencer marketing
Influencer marketing is now the most popular method among lifestyle brands to reach their target customers. Rather than roping in actors, models, or celebrities for advertising, the local way to approach customers is through the people they follow on social media. It gives the impact of word of mouth, but at a larger scale and influence. These influencers need not be celebrities; it could be a mommy blogger with 5,000 followers on Instagram, or a teenager with a YouTube channel for ‘vlogging’.
Interestingly, influencer marketing is one field where women have established themselves above men in India. Influencer marketing platform Zefmo Media surveyed that female influencers were earning more than their male counterparts in 2018.
2. The rise in women entrepreneurship
As part of the startup revolution that India has witnessed in the last few years, there has been a significant rise in entrepreneurship among women in the country. If Kiran Mazumdar Shaw and Shahnaz Husain were the harbingers of women’s entrepreneurship in India for decades before last, 2009-2019 witnessed the emergence of a Falguni Nayar of Nykaa, Ashwini Ashokan of Mad Street Den, Upasana Taku of Mobikwik, and Radhika Ghai of ShopClues, among others.
The challenges of gender bias, lack of equal opportunities, and pressure to juggle work and family are alive and well. But women have been getting better at doing what they do best and at cutting out the noise.
3. The trend of women travelling solo
With people opening their homes to tourists in offbeat destinations and travel portals offering lucrative discounts, travel was definitely one of the buzzwords of the last decade, and will likely continue to be so. Apart from the usual families, honeymooners, and gangs of friends, the last decade has seen great gusto for solo travel among women.
Travelling solo is an experience unlike any other. It opens one’s eyes to a very different way of life, boosts confidence, and teaches valuable life lessons. In fact, solo travelling has been encouraged by platforms like The WOW Club, F5Escapes, and Wovoyage – all of which were launched post 2010.
4. The growth of mobile internet that makes life easier
Internet penetration grew in India from just 62 million users in 2009 to around 500 million in 2019, thanks to wider usage of smart phones and inexpensive mobile data. While this has led to the growth of multiple tech-based industries, mostly ecommerce and on-demand services like cabs and food delivery, the rise in mobile internet has also made life easier for women: whether it is being an entrepreneur from home through apps like Meesho, or buying grocery online without having to spend your Sunday in a supermarket. Then there are apps like My SafetiPin and Shake2Safety that seek to improve the safety and security of women on a daily basis.
5. The fact that homosexuality among women is out in the open
Article 377 of the Indian Penal Code had criminalised homosexuality in India, till July 2009 when the Delhi High Court struck it down. But in 2013, evoking worldwide criticism, Indian Supreme Court recriminalised homosexuality, which led to multiple petitions fighting for the LGBT+ community. In 2018, Indian Supreme Court finally decriminalised homosexual intercourse between two consenting adults. Coincidentally, the lawyers who fought the case – Arundhati Katju and Menaka Guruswamy – came out as a couple afterwards. One year later, more women couples have come out, embracing their identity. Dating apps like Tinder and Grindr, and Secunderabad-based startup Arranged Gay Marriage are opening more avenues for the lesbian community.
6.The fact that cows are safer than women
India has always been considered unsafe for women, with cases of gender-based violence being a routine in the country. But earlier this year, Thomson Reuters Foundation stated in a report that India was the most dangerous country for women – beating even the war-torn Syria. From the Nirbhaya case of 2012 to the Hyderabad gangrape and murder case last month, the world has seen how scary women’s situation in India is. In fact, while the right wing government (which came to power in 2014) is believed to have encouraged cow vigilantism in India, the sad truth remains that being a cow is safer than being a woman, if you are in India.
7. The increase in awareness on menstrual hygiene
Menstrual health is often associated with taboos and traditions in India, which often cause confusion and lead to unhygienic practices. Platforms like Menstrupedia, which was launched in 2012, have been trying to break myths and educate people about best practices in menstrual hygiene. In fact, the past few years have led to an increase in reproductive and feminine health products to – ranging from menstrual cups, environment-friendly menstrual pads, pain relief roll-ons and patches, PCOD drinks, packets for disposing of used sanitary napkins, period-proof underwear, and so on. Additionally, mobile apps like Maya enable women users to track their periods, which enables them to identify changes that can indicate potential health issues.
8. The popularity of women stand-up comedians
Over-exaggerated jokes on “stereotypical women” by stand-up comedians are getting overdone and stale. Someone had to stand up, literally, and crush the cliché, so our women did. Women stand-up comedians, who have established themselves in India in the last few years, are undeniably the breath of fresh air that the stand-up scene in India was longing for.
They are unafraid of taking the stage by storm and bringing a feminist understanding of subjects to the forefront, often dealt with far too casually by their male counterparts. Aditi Mittal, Prashasti Singh, Neeti Palta, and Urooj Ashfaq are among those who tackle social issues, and let the true spirit of feminism make its way into mainstream comedy.