Monday, February 28, 2011

A Matter of Opportunity and Access … ?

Would corruption ever become a thing of museums?
Quite unlikely ...

I believed and though somewhat cynical now, still tend to believe that corruption and women have some distance between them. Women’s rights advocates have often argued that women are trained to be carers and givers and therefore more likely to bring these characteristics to the governance and political systems. Experiences from Panchayati Raj (the local governance system) in India also proved that women have a higher sense of responsibility and care about the community well-being more than their male counterparts. Several case-studies also exist to show that women are less self-oriented and more likely to put community interests before their personal interests. 

My experiences involving women in decision-making positions, however, tell me not to hold binary opinion about women and men vis-à-vis corruption. While it is true that I have found more women than men willing to stick to ethical conduct, which is especially critical for transparent and fair decision-making, women and ethical behaviour are not synonymous. The assumption is that a governance system with gender equality and leadership of women will lead to a reduction in corruption, in my opinion, is farfetched. Whether rural or urban, or lower, middle or upper class, given the opportunity and similar sort of support network, women – not all as not all men – demonstrate similar tendencies and practice of corruption. Corruption among men is more visible, perhaps because they are in majority in most of the institutions, and because they have greater access to decision-making opportunities as well as decision-making networks. Men are also more active in the social networks and at the informal decision-making venues, which are largely male dominant. Some of the women, who I know as having opportunities and access to networks that tolerate or promote corruption, are no different.

Individual confidence, too, I feel, is a factor that influences gender differential in corruption. Women and men are brought up differently. Even when they are taught the same or similar public morality, the social or family’s tolerance of digression is gendered. That is, societies and families are more tolerant of corrupt men than corrupt women. This guides the girl-child/women’s level of confidence with regard to being a wrong-doer. I believe that with equalization of responses towards corrupt women or men, there’s likely to be equalization of dishonest or opportunistic behaviour.

Yet another factor is that women, by virtue of being the sex that gives birth, have unique needs and responsibilities. This reality makes them prioritize certain collective needs, like health services, education, water and sanitation, safety and security, community recreation, etc. When women get into positions where they can make a decision on the public spending or can influence the decision-making, they tend to prioritize services or actions which have a positive impact on social services and poverty alleviation. This minimizes spending on schemes/projects created, by and large, with an eye to embezzle public funds.

Most women do not have an easy career compared to their male counter-parts. In a male dominant organization, often they have to work much harder to be at the same level as men and often at a lower remuneration. Women, therefore, are more likely to be careful about their conduct no matter what their attitudes are.

In view of the above, it can be said that affirmative action policies to promote gender equality and to increase women’s representation and decision-making in politics, governance, economy and so on, in the short run, are likely to reduce corruption. It would be unwise to argue for affirmative action designed to increase the role and participation of women, and for gender equality on grounds of public morality and individual integrity. More women than men are mindful of their public behaviour practice today but to rely on innate goodness of women will be equal to setting ourselves to fail. The arguments and struggle for increased representation and enhanced participation of women should be made from a rights and equality perspective. It will be wise to strengthen transparency in public/institutional decision-making, and accountability and oversight mechanisms with a belief that increased equality in opportunities, confidence, gender role changes, and access to vested interest networks, women are as likely to be corrupt as men.

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Saturday, February 26, 2011


The surface of emotions
Aligned with ego and formed
An intricate organ
Without the outline of a body.

Yet, powerful with agency to manoeuvre
The inner workings clear yet invisible
Inward imposed on outward
Without in-flesh to project the reality.

The point to point destruction
Achieved without giving away
The deception of calm
The façade of justice prevailed

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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Fears That Consume Our Lives

We are humans after all and it is all right to be afraid but afraid of things that we need to be afraid of. Why is it that most of us try to lead or chart our lives in a manner that seems value-laden but inside so many of us are hollow; we cheat at any given opportunity, would lie to cover-up a wrong-do, or malign somebody else, abuse or exploit, misuse other’s resources, and power and access, when we have them. The fear that consumes our lives is not that we may not be leading a useful and value-based life. The fear that dominates is that what we really are will come out in the open. This leads to the other corrupt attempts at buying goodwill, silence and respect.

Fear in itself it not a bad thing. It can be an important factor in determining how we can be useful and how much we can accomplish within one lifetime. In this process, mistakes can be made but if the mistakes were not linked to negative characteristics or behaviour, the true acceptance of the mistakes will not be such a big issue. However, if the mistakes were linked to hollowness of our character, it would lead to a fear of making mistakes and getting exposed. Otherwise, the mistakes will be the points in life from which we could learn and move on.

It is also futile to indulge too much in gratifying the self because of the fear that tomorrow could be the end of the lifetime. This leads to a mad rush to please the senses by indulging in meaningless adventures, thoughtless attempts to conquer the nature, and do all the ‘Dos’ without knowing that really makes a life worthwhile or pleasurable. If the fears were to be that the life is unpredictable we lack the knowledge and resources to make it worthwhile for ourselves and the others, whether it is short or long, it may lead us to a lifestyle that makes us capable of intellectual and emotional growth in the present and encourages us to lead a sustainable lifestyle that would keep that growth on track in the future.

We often tend to brand ourselves as this or that type of person and the fears of losing that brand identity are so high that we end up putting all sorts of blindfolds and pressures on ourselves to appear true to that brand type. In the process we restrict ourselves from different information, experiences, knowledge that enrich life and bring growth in it. If the fear were that we may no longer be dynamic, it would push us to receive and share experiences and knowledge and help us explore lives that are harmonious and integrated with the others.

Often we undermine or ridicule others’ thinking, their way of living even when it is most harmless, and emotions because we lack a sense of security in ourselves. We may appear confident and to the others we may appear arrogant but that arrogance is often nothing more than intellectual insecurity deep down. The fear of our intellectual inadequacy getting exposed keeps us in the company of those who would indulge us and even when we are being the most obnoxious will make us feel like a messiah. Such people, perhaps, see through our insecurity, and therefore, are able to exploit it. By not accepting that we may not be the most intellectual or better than the others, we allow ego-centric growth which eventually takes away our capacity to learn and to develop relationships of selfless bonding and care because we start seeking ego gratification from every person who is in our lives or who we encounter in our lives. A fear of getting trapped in an intellectual or physical coterie, on the other hand, could help us develop genuine friendships and egalitarian relationship.

We also fear change though we are under a constant change. We feel that that we can cope with the changed circumstances or meet self-needs or of the others without making a change in the way we think or live. We cling to what we are used to, no matter how harmful to the self or the others, superficial or useless that may be, and fail to evolve. Change then becomes a burden. Instead, if we were fearful of not being honest about our changed circumstances, we would try to do something about that by making a valid and effective change in the life.

A useful life is not far from a fulfilling life. A life cannot be useful unless it is useful to the others and the others do not imply the ones who indulge our egos. A life cannot be useful unless it is open to experiences, and capable of evolving through constant learning. And a life cannot be fulfilling without being sought out by genuine emotions of the others which will come to us only if the first two factors are present. Hardly anybody reaches out with emotions to somebody who acts in a certain useful way to maintain a particular self-image.

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The 6th of the February: A Day of Zero Tolerance


International Day of
Zero Tolerance of FGM

The proprietors of passion
Wage a war to conquer lust
Open in an understanding
The source of unquenchable bodily wants
The culprit is somewhere outside
Someone who instigated desire

They say:
Using a force unravelled
She imposed a desire on renunciators
She the subject of ‘animal’ instincts
Lacking in the nuances of control
Enabled violence against herself

They claim:
She fashioned herself as the object of regulation

And so
The war goes on against her body. 

Watch a video on FGM. Help End it! 

The 6th of the February is the International Day of
Zero Tolerance of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
Watch the UNFPA-UNICEF Video
FGM is practiced by the elders using crude tools like blades, knives and pieces of glass as well as by some professional doctors and nurses using professional tools. Up to 140 million women and girls are affected by it Nearly three million girls are mutilated each year. Women and girls from both rich and poor families are either forced to go through it or convinced to go through it because otherwise they would not be regarded as a respectable woman/girl and would not be entitled to their basic rights like the right to inherit property. FGM is a heinous crime. Stop it!

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