Tag Archives: womens empowerment

Maya Angelou: A Legacy of Hope

Maya Angelou  born Marguerite Ann Johnson; (April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014) was an American author and poet, who is best known for her seven autobiographies, based on her incredible life experiences. Her books focus on themes such as racism, identity, family, and travel. Added to this list are several books of exemplary poetry and plays.

When I read her biography, I was dumbstruck by how much she has achieved in a single lifetime with all the odds stacked against her. She was an African American woman, a single mother with two known marriages. (One inter-racial) In addition she had no spectacular college degree or wealth to speak of. Yet in her lifetime she was honored with over 30 honorary college degrees besides winning the Pulitzer Prize, a Tony Award and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Her life was filled with rich experiences, a painful and difficult childhood and words that emerged from her pain were poignant, because they surfaced from her core, her spirit. She didn’t stop at writing, she was also actively involved with the Civil Rights Movement both with King and Malcolm X.  She had the honor of speaking both at Bill Clinton’s inauguration and more recently at the historic Obama inauguration.

One record of her past touched me deeply. At the age of eight, while living with her mother, Angelou was sexually abused and raped by her mother’s boyfriend, a man named Freeman. She confided in  her brother, who told the rest of their family. Freeman was found guilty but was jailed for only one day. Four days after his release, he was murdered, probably by Angelou’s uncles Angelou became mute for almost five years, believing that it was her voice that killed him.  In the silence that enveloped her, Maya developed her love for the written word and the ability to dissect human emotion and drama at a cellular level. Maya Angelou often checked into a hotel and wrote her stories on legal pads. No computers and no typewriters!!

Maya Angelou represents the quintessence of African American writing and her absence will be felt in the literary community. Her legacy is not merely one of literary achievements, it represents hope, to achieve an impossible dream, motivation to maximize ones hidden potential and inspiration to break out of imaginary boundaries and conquer uncharted territories.

Spotlight on Nigeria

Spotlight on Nigeria

This week in the news, the spotlight is on Nigeria where a local Islamic Fundamentalist group, Boko Haram has kidnapped more than 200 young girls . The Twitter hashtag “#BringBackOurGirls” has been trending at various points since the girls were taken, with many users from around the world demanding a swift rescue of the girls. The horror of their plight is worsened in the knowledge that the group plan to use and sell these women as sex slaves.

What is Boko Haram?

Loosely translated from the local Hausa language, this means “Western education is forbidden”. Boko originally meant fake but came to signify Western education, while Haram means forbidden. The group is fundamentally opposed to the education of women whom they believe are born to serve men, to cook their food, bear their children and provide free sex.

Schools were the hunting grounds for new “Jihadis” but as the group escalated into horrific violence, now commonplace in so many parts of Africa, they popularly came to be known as the Nigerian Taliban, despite no official connection with the mother organization. The group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau gloated “I abducted your girls. There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell.

Islam and women

Neither the Koran nor Allah ever expounded any theory of deliberate suppression of women. In fact men only took more than one wife only if they could treat them all equally. Islam is one of the few religions that allows the woman to divorce her husband-Talaq. In fact, the husband has to return the “Mehr,” the bride price paid at the time of marriage. Mr. Abubakar is delusional and is venting his own psychological emasculation by enslaving innocent girls. It is unfortunate that men, Islamic or otherwise contort religion to give rationale for their own inadequacies. Education of women is seen as a threat, as men don’t wish to lose their control, which is a natural corollary when educated women  join the work force and gain financial freedom. Here in the US, women still earn 30% less than men and it makes me wonder, if Hillary Clinton becomes President, will they pay her 30% less? It is regrettable that one needs an incident as horrific as this one to make the world rise from their slumber and examine more fundamental issues. Issues that govern how men view women but more importantly how women view themselves.

World view of women

Women’s issues have preoccupied me and it comes out in my writing. When the Lotus Blooms, my first published book highlights several issues pertaining to women and though set in the 1930s are valid even today.This world view of women as basically inferior is at the core of all violence against women and this disease is rampant, touching every society in every country. Why do we raise our daughters to cook while our sons can play outside? How many women, after a 40 hour work week, cook Sunday dinner while their husbands watch the game with a six-pack of beer handy. Our children learn from our habits and imbibe hidden messages through our body language and the legacy persists. A 30 year old unmarried daughter is a liability who could potentially become an “old maid” while her male counterpart is a bachelor “enjoying life.” Hindu marriages concretize the belief that women are “property” in a ritual called Kanyadaanwhere the father gives his daughter as a gift or offering to her husband. Today, we continue this ritual in our marriages without examining its hidden meaning and what this means for the emancipation of women.

Emancipation of Women

Freedom doesn’t come solely with voting rights and equal opportunities. As long as we treat women differently from men, as long as we assign roles to women, as long as overtly or covertly subscribe to the superiority of men we can never stop the rabid abuse of women. The plight of these Nigerian women should make each one of us examine why world over this patriarchal belief system reigns supreme? Why do women need looking after? Why should  the destiny of women need to be controlled by men?  Are we unconsciously enabling the subjugation of women? Does the very fabric of society, the complex web of inter-gender relationships need to be re examined? And the last rhetorical question- Are we as women in some way responsible for these crimes being perpetuated against us?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on the Power of Womanhood

In an effort to express themselves women sometimes lose sight of the power that they innately possess. Being a housewife/ homemaker all my life, I was at times despondent at not contributing to family income and therefore believing I was nothing financially. It was while I wrote my book that I started appreciating my ancestors; women like Dharmu, Rajam, Nagamma and Mangalam, each wielding and controlling their circle of influence, some with authority and  others with a sense of helplessness. For them, like most women, power was either misused or untapped and they never took the time to seek answers and search  for strength within. 

Yes, I do believe that some women need to be empowered but strongly affirm that for most of us the empowerment is largely from within. We need to start believing in ourselves, stop doubting our place in society and instead focus on channelizing our energy to spread love, peace  and harmony that is our innate nature.

This is what SriSri has to say about women.

In Indian mythology, the female energy is depicted as Shakti  the embodiment of strength against injustice combined with beauty, love and compassion. Shakti is also represented in the trinity of Durga, goddess of valour and vitality, Lakshmi, goddess of wealth and well-being, and Saraswati, goddess of knowledge and art. Women just need a reminder that all these Goddesses are holding such important portfolios (Defence, Wealth and Education) and that they better start claiming their own portfolios too. Women must be proactive. Somebody else has to empower us is itself a sign of weakness. Women are innately powerful and they only need to realise it. Every woman has within her the right blend of strength with grace, courage with compassion, affluence with values, and wisdom with vision. In her lies the seed for a profound social transformation. In many facets of life the world over, the modern woman has epitomised this ideal of Shakti, using her innate strength to create a more humane and just social order. In public life, many women have worked to highlight issues that increase global peace, social welfare and international equity. In economic life, they have worked to make corporations more socially responsible and communities stronger. In literature, they have found new voices to raise social consciousness. Women always make an impact wherever they go. They can shape societies and countries. It is women who can inculcate values in the many people around them. I see women as a source of introducing values into children, the family and society. She is the glue who can keep everyone in the family intact. To keep them together, a woman brings celebration into the home. If the woman of the house is depressed, there can be no celebration. Neither can there be celebration where womenfolk are not participating. Women should be more celebratory, watch over and keep their family and society together. In fact, that is their responsibility. The real strength of a woman is her emotion when she channelises it in the correct way. Womens freedom and empowerment should not take away from their motherhood and their maternal or feminine qualities. The fine female qualities like softness, gentleness, compassion, nurturing instincts should not be lost while becoming powerful. So, women have a challenge to maintain two aspects of their empowerment  being in a certain amount of dominance and retaining the submissiveness, which is a womans beauty. It is indeed a challenge to bring about a balance between feminism and dominance in any field. A truly empowered woman is one who is confident, creative and one who brings people together rather than create disharmony. Only her own sense of insecurity and her lack of confidence in herself can prevent a woman from being truly empowered. I want the women of India to bring back the glory to the country, the culture and its civilisation. Our whole civilisation is based on the woman-force  Sthree Shakti. Thats why we call India Bharat Matha. We never say Bharat Pitha. Our country is named and personified as a woman. Though Bharat is a male name, we associate it with the mother/woman. Strength of a woman is persuasive not aggressive. Strength of a woman is elastic not brittle. Strength of a woman is subtle not obvious

Child Brides: The Practice Continues, lamentably so

The theme for my book is on child brides. Child marriage is an abhorrent practice that deprives children of any semblance of childhood, literally hurling them into roles they are completely unprepared for.  I watch the Indian soap opera,  Balika Vadhu, which showcases the defects and problems caused by such a  system, raising public awareness which I hope will make for serious changes in Indian society. For people in the West this article is an eye opener, performing a humanitarian task by merely creating awareness about their plight. It is my hope and prayer that this will increase the chances of such practices being completely eliminated from our society The world is a small place and women need to speak about this issue and make the change happen. Till such time pre-pubescent girls will continue to be tortured  and die as they battle with a role they are ill prepared for.

My Debut Novel “When the Lotus Blooms”

Dear Friends.

There has been a lot happening preventing the book release on the scheduled date of October 1, 2011. I have since got a book deal from a publisher in India, and the manuscript now sits on the editor’s desk. I should have the updated manuscript by the end of the month and will inform you about the US book release which should take place by November.  I would also like to share with you the exciting news that Dr. Shashi Tharoor has written the Foreword to my book, a huge feather in my self publishing cap. You can read his entire review on my blog. By November 1,2011 my website should be up and functioning. You can access it at www.kanchibooks,com. Please do check out new updates on my blog and visit my Facebook author page at
Please support a first time author and like my fan page
Thanks for your support
Kanchana Krishnan

Say NO to Fifty Shades of Grey!

I love drinking my coffee and watching the morning shows, flipping between NBC and CBS depending on what interests me. Last week, no matter which channel I switched to, every show was talking about 50 shades of gray. It’s almost as if the whole country is in the grip of sex fever. No, I am not a prude. I am not against sex but to watch the media glamorize rape, subjugation and sexual slavery makes my blood boil. It’s a good thing that fads don’t last. If they did, can you imagine what a monstrous society we would be living in with all of us controlling, subjugating, demeaning, and raping each other. This is why I say NO to 50 SHADES OF GREY!!!

Fifty Shades of Grey

Women for years have carried the burden of subjugation, sexual and otherwise and we experience the pain from lifetimes of such assault as PMT: Pre Menstrual Tension. Yes ladies. That irritation, moodiness, desire to simply burst into tears, lower back and leg pain, the cramps, all of which you feel right before or at the onset of your period is a result of impressions from pain from all your past lives. You carry the burden of womanhood which is expressed through all these symptoms. Surprised? You shouldn’t be.

For all of recorded history, as long as men have walked the earth, women have constituted their property. What originated as division of labor became a symbol of subjugation. For years, across societies and cultures women have raised their daughters to become “good wives.” Education was secondary, outdoor games and jobs were for boys. Girls could never work outside the home, where they remained chained for centuries relegated to raise children, provide free sex on demand for their husband and keep the home sparkling. That was fine as long as women never questioned this arrangement and never wanted to enter the workplace which so far was the arena for men.

This did not mean that women were always happy with their lot or that their men were kind and caring. For most women, questioning and wanting something different was met by violence and sexual subjugation, the pain of which then got embedded in their psyche as karmic impressions. For women in the modern world, the opportunity to be treated equally as men at least in the eyes of the law has taken back breaking effort, pain and disillusion. This constant power struggle with men has taken a tremendous toll on women’s psyche and movies like 50 Shades take us back to the middle ages in one mammoth sweep. They virtually wipe out all the effort over centuries made by women wanting to escape sexual subjugation, wanting to express their identity, wanting to be heard. This is why I say NO to 50 SHADES OF GREY!!!

The audience in the US consist largely of middle aged women from the Bible belt. Perhaps you have been repressed and unable to voice your individuality. But seriously, do you wish to “find yourself” through rape? And is rape justified if its perpetrated by a millionaire? To the rest of the audience comprising of “Curious Georges” you might believe that movies don’t affect you but the subliminal messages seep into your subconscious and then surface, hammering messages of inferiority that bomb your self-esteem. This is why I say NO to 50 SHADES OF GREY!!!

In most parts of the world women are still treated as property.

Say NO to Dowrydowry

One woman dies every hour due to dowry related reasons on an average in India, which has seen a steady rise in such cases between 2007 and 2011, according to official data.
In the US, there is an average of 293,066 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year.

Every 107 seconds, another American is sexually assaulted.
In India, if one goes by the latest statistics of National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), every day 93 women are raped in the country.

According to NCRB data, there is a gradual increase in the number of rapes 50 shadesreported in India – from 24,923 in 2012 to 33,707 in 2013.
According to the UNICEF using data between 2005-2013 child marriage still exists: Afghanistan 40% Bangladesh 65% Central African Republic and Chad 68%

What are we talking about here? Virgins being raped every day. And not by millionaires.They are being subjected to sex even at the age of 8 or 10 years. There is no glamour here. This is why I say NO to 50 SHADES OF GREY!!!

Have you ever spoken to someone who has been raped? Have you ever seen the pain they go through ? The effect of violence on their physical and psychological bodies devastates them. They really suffer and can never trust men again. This is why I say NO to 50 SHADES OF GREY!!!

Is lust what we want for ourselves? Will it lead to strong enduring relationships? Is that what we want for our daughters? Are you raising them to believe it’s okay to be raped. And how about your sons? What would you have them do? Forge respectful relationships with women or just randomly rape them?

While promiscuity may give the illusion of freedom, it actually binds you and destroys you from within. One sexual act may feel exhilarating in the moment, but what follows makes the act regrettable. Emotions are dark and confused, and satisfaction is momentary, leaving you spent and listless until the feverishness begins afresh. This is why I say NO to 50 SHADES OF GREY!!!

The only way to handle lust is to understand its nature. See what you feel as lust arises in you and realize how it prevents you from feeling love. You have a choice.

You can live with lust and the tension and anxiety it brings, or you can relax in love.
You can drive yourself crazy manipulating and planning to satisfy your lust, or relax in the ease and restfulness of love.
You can obsess with possession and grasping even though there is nothing to own but a few minutes of pleasure, or you can surrender in timeless and ever expansive, divine love.
You can wrestle with violent thoughts and loveactions or sacrifice and surrender to a higher energy, freeing you from the bondage of base desire.
For heaven’s sake choose love. Teach your sons and daughter to seek relationships of mutual respect and never subscribe to ugly headline seeking fads like 50 Shades of Grey.