“Own, Embrace, and Claim”
An Indian woman’s personal narrative of reclaiming her cultural and professional identity…!!!
Women are everywhere, from professions and schools to homes and communities. Women’s empowerment is described as fostering women’s self-esteem, ability to make their own decisions, and right to affect societal change for themselves and others. Be it through their choice of career, decisions for their personal life, or their attire. When women have power over themselves in any aspect of their life that is when we can finally say we have achieved the goal of empowering women.
People and groups are empowered when they have a high level of autonomy and self-determination. This allows individuals to act on their own authority and represent their own interests in a responsible and self-determined manner. Everyone deserves the freedom to wear whatever attire they feel comfortable and empowered in, but we still face backlash and have restrictions even on clothing. In my case, I have always been an admirer of Saree. From the very beginning, it has fascinated me to my core and I always wanted to showcase its beauty to others as well.
When I lived in Europe, a manager once forced me to remove my nail paint at work because he thought the hue was too Indian. “This is Europe, we don’t celebrate Diwali here, your nails are much too gaudy, this isn’t India,” he said in the middle of a meeting. In order to put things in perspective, I had my nails done in a salon in Moscow. They were a delicate pink with lotus blossoms painstakingly painted by one of Russia’s top nail artists.
On another occasion, while on a regional assignment in Asia, I was reminded that wearing a Saree is not corporate and that I should avoid Henna (also known as Mehandi) on my hands during a family function since my hands will not convey enough professionalism when I return to work.
I’m wearing a black Phulkari saree in the photo above, which was taken on the occasion of Karwachauth. Rural Punjabi artisan ladies sewed this exquisite Phulkari saree. On the other hand, on the occasion of Diwali, I am dressed in a blue Maheshwari silk saree.
The elegance of these flowing sarees enchanted me.
Above is my picture with henna on my hands while I’m wearing a lovely blue Maheshwari handcrafted design sari with traditional Kundan jewelry. I want to show this to all those who think showcasing and embracing one’s culture is not professional enough.
I want to convey this to all those who are holding back from embracing what they love just because they fear others are going to judge.
None of this has anything to do with my capacity to work to do independent research, hold professional conversations, work in or outside of the corporate sector, attend business school, participate in panel debates, or create a business.
I hope to inspire women from all walks of life, regions, and cultures to find within themselves the courage to wear symbols of their own inheritance and identity. Whether it’s a piece of clothing, jewelry, an heirloom that your ancestors left you or even the right to wear your hair in a way that’s culturally significant for you. When women step into their own, they give an opportunity for their inner Shakti to shine, and when even one of us shows courage, breaks a ceiling or walks our own tall talk – it offers much needed role models for others to follow suit.