A good question to ponder for all you women folk out there – What wealth or how much wealth do we own at this point in our life? Or do we have any wealth at all, in our name? Only 20% to 30% of the world’s wealth is owned by women. When we are at our parents’, many of us are treated as property that must be transferred to a husband’s home. When we enter our husband’s parental homes, many of us are treated as outsiders.
So, where exactly is our home? When a family contemplates buying or building a house, how many women are consulted for their opinion, likes, dislikes, and choices? How many times women are asked to contribute money? If the lady does pitch in, because she is working or because her parents have given her a share, would the deed contain her name? Would the house be both in the husband’s and wife’s names? If she has not contributed any money, would her unpaid labor, to run the household, take care of the family, and enable the man to work and earn money be counted? Would her name be added to the deed?
Our cultural norms dictate that women run the kitchen. Of course, times are changing, and men with a modern outlook, do share household work, however, their numbers are still minuscule. The major onus of managing the kitchen is still on women. In such a scenario, a kitchen is practically a homemaker’s workplace. How many women get to decide how they want their kitchen/workplace to be? Are their choices paid heed to when the kitchen is being designed? We ensure ergonomics when doing up office space so that the workforce can be efficient and productive. Then why not a kitchen, where many women spent almost their entire day, all through the year?
Let’s move to the other parts of the house. Let’s say, the house or apartment is in both, the wife’s, and husband’s names. Despite having our name in the deed, how much space there is that is exclusively for us? Half a bed and a cupboard? Do the others in the family allow us to use their space, their chair, their table or cupboard, or their special corner? When no one is home, we can access the entire house. But once others come in, do we compromise or adjust and give up spaces because the other person prefers it? Of course, everyone needs their own little space. Is the woman’s space the smallest, is what I am probing? Is it that she has the least amount of material possessions?
What happens to us when we concede our space to others? We start believing that we are lesser than the other members of the family. We start believing that we don’t deserve better. We settle for less. We find it tougher to say no, we find it tougher to be assertive and we don’t even realize that, maybe, some of our Rights have gone for a toss. This world belongs to everyone, and so does a home. It belongs to all those who live in it. If we, the women, don’t realize this, nobody else will. We will end up teaching our children the same lessons about inequality. Our sons will learn that women do not need much space or should not voice their opinion and our daughters will learn to live without their rightful space.
Observe how you sit on a chair. Do you occupy the entire chair or barely use up the sitting space? Do you shrink yourself or do you spread your arms onto the armrests? When you walk down the road and a man walks towards you from the opposite direction, next time, observe who makes way for the other. It would most probably be the woman. We are so conditioned to make way and men are so conditioned to have their way, that, if by chance, you do not, the man will be taken aback. Try it the next time. As an experiment, do not give way. First, it would make you uncomfortable to not give way, and second, the man would be taken aback. Try it. These are lessons of space ingrained in us, lessons that will spill into our everyday lives in our own homes and relationships. So, woman, where is your space? With all that sass say – I own my space!
Author Sajitha Rasheed is the founder and chief mentor at Mind Mojo, Center for People Skill Development and Personal Growth