Last week, I was talking to an Indian friend who spends at least 5 hours a day cooking fancy meals for her family.
I asked her, “When did you start loving to cook?”
She said, “Earlier, I never liked cooking. But now that I am jobless, I started trying out various dishes and started enjoying it.”
I then asked, “Then, why don’t you start a food business?”
She said, “I don’t think I can cook for a business. That’s too complicated and troublesome”.
I then asked, “You said, you started cooking fancy items because you are jobless. So, if you had another job, you might probably be cooking simpler food, am I right?”
This led me to think. So, the reason why some women spend more time in the kitchen is because they do not have other jobs. Am I right?
It’s not that simple though!
Keeping aside the above case of my friend who chose to quit her job and could afford to do it, thanks to her husband’s high-paying job; let’s look at millions of women who lost their job due to various reasons including the pandemic or the current layoffs or even due to societal expectations of marriage and child-rearing. How many of them ended up doing the same? Cooking fancy meals since they don’t have other jobs?
In most parts of the world, women have been predominantly in charge of caregiving and household duties, especially cooking food for the entire family. Historically, the human species have evolved this way. While the male hunters bring home the meat, the female gatherers saved it by converting it into fat and other forms of long-term usage items. This role however seems to be not much changed, despite the fact that today ChatGPT and other robots have come up in our lives.
Even today, when it comes to deciding “what’s for dinner?”, everyone looks at the woman of the house for an answer. And women who cook fancy meals get appreciated over women who cook simple dishes. This puts immense mental pressure on women who also go for a job outside. Many end up burnt out trying to balance this Master chef cum doctor cum nurse cum teacher cum home manager role along with their official roles. And as a result, some of them choose to quit their jobs in due course.
You might remember, during the pandemic lockdown, there was a rise in Facebook and Instagram posts with fancy dishes from every household. Just like the “men’s underwear index” in economic theories of recession, it would be an interesting research to find the correlation between such fancy cooking displays and unemployment rates in an economy!
Despite the immense amount of talks and ramifications of the women’s labour force participation and the need for family support, we cannot ignore the aspects of other support needed. Organisations and society in general need to provide a conducive environment to tap the hidden talents of women which otherwise might get spent on making fancy dishes in the small kitchens of the world.
Are we, as a society able to provide jobs to such women? What are we doing to enable this transformation of fancy meals to an easy upma?
Though on one side, we have the imminent fear of Artificial intelligence taking away jobs to millions worldwide, on the other side, we see the high potential of technology and innovation that can enable and solve societal problems. And it’s high time, women are invited, involved, and pushed into solving these problems. Developing countries have to tap the huge reservoir of talent in order to triple the economy and also empower women. Women’s problems can be solved better by women and this is yet another opportunity. I always get fascinated to see how women think so creatively even in decorating a plate of pasta, imagine, how they can design new businesses and solve societal problems!
Women, for centuries, have been hidden from mainstream decision-making and the growth stories of nations. Only in the past few decades, thanks to Feminist movements and organizations like the UN, we have been able to understand the consequences of non-inclusivity and how our socio-political–economical arenas can be fostered to betterment just by adding one ingredient – the women.
This International Women’s day, let’s actualize the UN theme of “DigitALL- Innovation and Technology for Gender equality” by enabling more women to make simpler dishes at home and leave the complicated ones to a chef.
We need simpler and easier breakfast and lunch items to be made in Indian kitchens (and similar nations where women spend a lot of time cooking complicated dishes) which will free our women to spend their creative energies on solving bigger societal problems. We also need enough jobs and opportunities to be created for these women so that they need not spend their time in fancy meal preparation. We need organisations and Governments to provide avenues for nurturing women’s leadership and entrepreneurship so that they generate more jobs for women.
Yes, now, it’s time for the UPMA REVOLUTION!
And, for those who hate “Upma”, all I have to say is this: Start loving it.
It’s needed for our world.
Universal Love and Abundance
(Dr. CeeVee is the pen name of Dr. Chandra Vadhana R,
Founder of Prayaana Labs and Managing Editor, SheSight)