WOW | Coffee Break
In this edition of Coffee Break, WOW celebrates the spirit of today’s strong women. Anushka Shrestha interviews five successful females from different walks of life to know their perspective on what makes an independent woman.
wow photo file © Ram Tandukar/Gokul Shrees
MEET THE FABULOUS FIVE
Smriti Karanjit Manandhar
Asst. Professor/Head- Student Development, King’s College, Westcliff University, USA
Director, Radisson Hotel
Nishma Dhungana Choudhary
Founder of UG cakes, Entrepreneur
Miss Nepal Universe 2018
How important is a man’s bank balance and/or status to a woman today?
Eeda: Men and women complement each other. The status of a man affects a woman and vice versa. A family is run by both. Their responsibilities and duties are equally shared. Hence, the bank balance and status of both parties is important.
Smriti: Whether it’s a man or a woman, having a better status and bank balance should be important to the individual himself/herself rather than just for the partner. For me, it doesn’t really matter if a woman or a man has better status and bank balance. Both partners should perceive each other’s success as a matter of pride and not feel inferior.
Bidhata: Women are now working and can rise up their own wealth and social standing so finding a man to elevate one’s status isn’t necessary. However, a woman with high status will likely try to find a man who is equal to her.
Nishma: If it is to get married, the only criterion that is required is love and respect for each other. A six digit salary does mean a responsible partner.
Nikita: Living in the 21st century, fighting for women rights, education and opportunity but eyeing a man’s bank account means we are shaming the whole concept of feminism. Man’s integrity, his values and morality matter more than his status. Also, his understanding, support and ability to uplift his partner matters more than his bank balance.
Manita: I think when choosing a partner in general, for both male and female, both attributes are important and they have become even more so as Nepal heads into industrialisation. Now supporting a family with only one salary has become difficult, and women are also working and earning income, and both men and women are starting to put more emphasis on a prospective partner’s economic and social status. As a feminist, I do want to take this moment to defend the female gender on their mate selection trend. When selecting a mate, women tend to choose through an evolutionary lens because they have a higher parental investment. Women are driven to seek men who will be able to provide the necessary resources for the family’s survival, especially during crucial times like pregnancy. It’s no secret that mate selection in almost all parts of the world has found women prioritising certain traits: higher socio-economical status, well-educated, ambitious, and attractive appearance. Women mostly choose to marry men with higher status or income because their own ability to earn had and still is constrained by their disadvantaged status in a male-dominated society. Marriage is a way to upgrade the economic status of women. However, research shows that we will see a paradigm shift in mate selection as societies shift towards becoming more gender-equal, women’s mate selection preferences will shift as well.
What matters more for you in your partner: financial status or social status?
Eeda: Financial status can be built in any term of life, but social status takes years of hard work. Once down, it is very hard to revive. Hence, for me, social status is more important when I look for a partner.
Smriti: If you look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, social status and self-esteem rank much higher. Financial needs are important for survival and fulfillment of needs; however, social status earns respect. Thus, although financial needs and social needs are not mutually exclusive, I will still want my partner to have social status over financial.
Bidhata: Social status. As this for me is a simple index of income, education and occupational prestige. The financial status of a person does not guarantee certainty but a person with social status gravitates to be someone who is certain, someone with a clear vision and concrete mindset who makes decisions and sticks to them, a go-getter basically.
Nishma: I would say a mix and match of both. More than having a large bank account, I would go for with a big heart and dignified life.
Nikita: Social status with independent financials. There is no second thought that men with high social values are sexy. Yet, having a plan for the future, his ability to secure his family in need, and his independence is what makes a man complete.
Manita: What matters most is to have a partner who is talented and ambitious. If my partner is both of these things, the status he would gain would be through his achievements, not from how much money he has in his bank account or his caste. For me these things are irrelevant.
Are savings important?
Eeda: Indeed! Savings act as a backbone in human life. It gives confidence and empowers a person. Having good savings can make life secured. Even in case of an emergency, it is savings that actually come in handy.
Smriti: In a country like Nepal where social security is so volatile, it is always good to keep the safety net secured for unforeseen situations. Savings will give you security in case of health emergencies, higher education for children, and have a better life post-retirement.
Bidhata: For me, savings are important for emergencies and for going on vacations.
Nishma: Lately I have realised having money and not using it wisely can land you in problems. But only keeping it in your savings is another big blunder with finances. So use it wisely and smartly rather than just save is my choice.
Nikita: I love spending on experiences. Travelling, investing in fitness, books and food is what makes me happy and I believe it’s important to invest in things that make you happy. But having said that, saving a certain amount of your income for the future is equally important. Knowing our finances, realising how we spend it and taking steps to secure for the future will definitely help contribute to making major life plans.
Manita: Everyone needs to save funds for emergencies, vacations, education and retirement. You can never predict what type of catastrophe will come about so it’s important to set aside some money for emergencies. My personal favourite is the vacation fund as it is so important to take time off to getaway and relax the mind. Saving up for university is a must and education is a top priority for me. During high school, I worked as a waitress to save up money for university, something I am very proud of. I believe in saving for retirement as I want to still be independent in my old age and not be a burden to my children. It’s important for me to have saved money for an elderly care centre and my medical expenses.
What makes a woman independent?
Eeda: There are various factors that make an independent woman. First, I would say is the confidence which is a result of education and skills. An educated woman with skills is empowered to get work. Secondly support from the family is very important.
Smriti: Education, family backup, leadership skills at work and home, and a well-paid job.
Bidhata: Her choices and her ability to follow through those choices with self-reliance, confidence and self-preservation.
Nishma: We need to broaden the concept of independence from just finances. It is more than having a bank balance. My biggest independence is having your own opinion on things. We often fall to the social norms that we don’t agree to. That is complete dependence to the unwritten rules. I deny that. It is very important for us to go beyond someone else’s idea of our life, be it with our clothes, appearance, career choice, hair colour, rights etc. Women are often guided to follow certain rules which are completely irrelevant. So for a woman to be independent she must acquire her confidence in all aspects of life.
Nikita: A woman is already independent since the day she was born, we just need to realise it. Independence for a woman begins right when she gains the sense of making choices of her own. Be it in choosing her own educational path, career path, or the love of her life.
Manita: I believe opportunities, the free will to choose them, and the confidence to pursue these helps to make a woman independent. Opportunities for education, career, suffrage, health care, relationships, and life experiences. An independent woman should show responsibility towards these opportunities, she must be assertive, and most important she must always care for herself.