A Gynec’s perspective of pandemic | Dr Gitanjali

A Gynec’s perspective of pandemic

Latha*, a 37-year-old woman comes into my clinic one day with tears in her eyes. She has just lost her husband to COVID and like so many unfortunate women, finds herself with depleted finances and no way to support herself and her 13-year-old son. She is desperate to find a job as a receptionist but married at 18 and with no prior experience, she is finding it hard going.

COVID has left many scars on all of us, has brought so many changes in our world, from the way we work to the way we travel, to meeting friends and family. One of the most heart-rendering effects is these so called “COVID widows”- women who have suddenly left with no leg to stand on. Who followed the rule book – listened to the words of their parents and go married early, discontinuing their studies, listened to their husbands and in-laws in their marital home, not questioning any financial decisions. In fact, being unaware of most financial transactions in the family. And now, find themselves with the rug pulled out under their feet.

To be clear, I am not against being home makers, but it should be a choice that is left to them. Not something forced on them by a lack of education or skills, or by societal expectations. Women being home have a lot of advantages for the children, in providing stability and attention during their crucial and growing up years. They should have full knowledge of the state of the family’s finances and be able to stand independently. This is only possible if the woman has a strong support structure.

I am also not against early marriages. As a gynaecologist, I encounter the problems brought in by late marriages, and the decision to have children later in life, almost on a daily basis. Infertility is on the rise and is in part caused by these issues. However, they should not come at the cost of a girl’s future. Forcing her to give up education and career for the sake of marriage, is setting her up for failure. Parents willing to spend on marriage ceremonies, dowry and wedding guests are not willing to invest the same money in securing their girls future. Marriage is not the solution to all ills, it is not anymore a way of ensuring financial and emotional security. Life is uncertain, and at times brutal. If there is one lesson we can learn from COVID, it is this. There are no guarantees in life, neither for the rich nor for the poor. Teaching a woman to be independent and being able to stand on her own feet during crisis, is the way to ensure her survival.

Does it sound like wishful thinking? Maybe. But true change is possible, only if we all as a society start acknowledging what is wrong within our systems. And take small steps towards change and move towards a better future for all our girls. Let us give women the true position they deserve in society. No more paying lip service towards venerating them as ‘Devi’s, let us make them true ‘Devi’s in every household.