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Women and finance have an uneasy relationship. It’s time we changed that – beginning with financial literacy for girls and young women.
Money matters have been traditionally handled by men and in a vast majority of households, financial decisions are still taken by men. Women are discouraged from discussing money and a woman worrying about money is termed as a ‘gold digger’.
Men discuss career, investments and finances, but even in popular culture a modern woman is depicted as drinking and wearing western clothes but she still discusses only men and relationships with her girlfriends. Does anyone remember a scene where girls sit together and discuss investments and property prices? No. Because in real life it does not happen.
I have a group of former classmates, all upper-middle-class well-dressed well-settled women. We meet once in a while and discuss…what? Relationships and old memories. Our finances figure nowhere in our chats. Many women in fact are proud of their financial illiteracy. They take pride in saying, “I do not know anything. My husband handles everything”.
This “I do not know anything” is many times a voluntary line taken, the thought process being, why take the trouble? I come from Kerala, a highly literate state where the women are well educated. But even in this state, women are discouraged from interfering in financial matters. I am labelled headstrong by my extended family for handling my own finances.
But where does this financial ignorance lead to? Women are short-changed in Inheritance matters by their siblings and in-laws and many times by their own children. Often, well-educated women find themselves helpless without a trust-worthy male to look after their finances. And in an ever-changing world, trust is a commodity hard to find.
How can this be changed? By teaching our daughters financial literacy. By opening bank accounts for them and teaching them to operate it. Mere jobs don’t make a woman independent. Earning a salary and placing it in your husband’s/father’s hands does not make a woman independent. A woman becomes truly independent only when she can earn her money and take all the financial decisions associated with it. And this journey must start early.
Operating a bank account, saving, investing must all be a part of little girls’ growing up years so that she grows up as a self-sufficient unit whom no one can cheat.
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