TV Empowering Women in Rural India
Televisions are becoming more and more popular in India, and especially in rural India. Nearly 77% of the population in India live on a measly Rs 20 a day, but majority of household would still have a television set. If a poor household thinks TV is a necessity, then it also means that majority of them get influenced by the soap operas.
TV Changing Lives of Rural Women
A study conducted across 2700 households in five states in India by Robert Jensen of Brown University and Emily Oster of the University of Chicago showed that soap operas are making women from villages more liberated and changing their narrow-minded outlook to life.
According to the survey – Rural Indian women don’t have a lot of control over their lives. More than half need permission from their husbands to go shopping. Two-thirds need their husbands’ permission to visit friends. Spousal beating is common and accepted: Sixty-two percent of women believe that it is sometimes acceptable. Thirty-four percent of the women surveyed believed a husband could hit his wife if she neglected the children, while nearly a third believed that showing disrespect and going places without permission warranted a beating. One fifth of women believe husbands are entitled to hit them for cooking a lousy dinner.
So how do you change this mindset. Obviously education would be the answer, but TV has played a major role in changing the attitude of rural women. It is hard to believe that those stereotypical inane soap operas actually changed lives of people? The emancipated female characters in these shop operas are well-educated, work outside the home, control their own money, and have fewer children than rural women.
With more rural women watching TV their attitude underwent a drastic change in terms of educating the girl child as well, removing gender bias etc. In fact one man questioned during the survey said, “Since TV has come to our village, women are doing less work than before. They only want to watch TV. So we (men) have to do more work. Many times I help my wife clean the house.”
Such exposure to urban life through soap operas provides them with an alternative model of what role they can play in the society. After all TV is not an idiot box, it acts as an empowerment box for rural India.
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