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International Women’s Day: Stories of women healthcare professionals from the frontline

Women. Often called the pillars of the society, yet more often called the weaker gender. We expect the world out of them, yet look at them in surprise when they do something beyond our expectations.

Truly an Enigma.

This Women’s Day, we decided to speak to a bunch of women who have broken all barriers and stereotypes there are, and have gone on to prove that they can outshine anyone in a field that puts everyone else before them, except their own selves- which is what women are the best at, incidentally. 

 

‘Equality can be achieved if one respects everybody’

At the outset, we spoke to Dr. Veda Padma Priya, a surgical oncologist at MGM Hospitals. When we asked her if there is a dearth of women in the field of medicine, she told us that while that was the case a couple of decades ago, the beginning of the last decade saw a tremendous shift in the entry of women into the field of medicine. Of course, there is a huge section of women who go into non-medical specialisations when they decide to study further, since it is less time-consuming, and allows them to focus on their personal life as well as their professional life.  She firmly believes that equality can be achieved if one respects everybody that they come across, irrespective of what their gender is. There is no need to bring in feminism in the field, any avenue or any workspace, if one is inherently respectful of all genders there are. 

‘Poverty has been a huge motivator’

We then spoke to Dr. Saranya Jaikumar, an Educational Psychologist and a Member of the Tamil Nadu Commission for Protection of Child Rights, about what motivated her the most to get to the esteemed position that she sits at today. She told us that poverty has been a huge motivator, especially in her professional life, since it is a roadblock for when someone wants something but cannot achieve it because of monetary reasons. She also believes that there is absolutely no gender bias when it comes to the field of medicine, since everything that she has achieved in life has been merit-based, all the way. The inner child in her shone through the interview, and since she works with children (has worked with over 600 educational institutions over the years), she admitted that she becomes one of them each time she visits a school. 

‘Gender stops playing a role once you break the glass ceiling’

When we spoke to Dr. Anice Joy, Consultant Neonatologist at Devi Hospital, Kochi. True to her name, she was an absolute joy to speak to, especially with her light-hearted take on various important issues in today’s society. When we asked her if she ever personally faced gender bias, she told us that while she grew up in a family of women, her parents were constantly taunted for having two girl children. Whereas after a couple of decades passed, the same set of the society that criticised them for having girl children began appreciating them and looking at them in awe, when they accomplished big things in life. She believes that gender stops playing a role once you break the glass ceiling and move ahead. 

‘Pent-up emotions are often vented out in unexpected ways’

We then interviewed Dr. Janani, a consultant psychiatrist at Shraddha Psychiatric Clinic, Chennai. Along with being a first-generation doctor from her family, and being a power mom, she has an impressive profile and has been consulting a host of people from various walks of life, day in and day out, for years. When we asked her if women’s health has taken a backseat owing to societal expectations, pressure, and family life, she told us that while a majority of women know their priorities, a lot of them cannot really focus on their own mental health because of the immense pressure that they are burdened with, resulting in them neglecting themselves and suppressing their issues for years to come, until it becomes too late. She is of the opinion that because of a tendency to repress one’s mental health, there are increased chances of their future generations getting affected because of this as well, since pent-up emotions are often vented out in unexpected ways. 

‘Women today have a much wider choice in the field of medicine than men do’

Dr. Priya Radhakrishnan, a gynaecologist, firmly believes that women today have a much wider choice in the field of medicine than men do, because they are much more focused, and have set their sights on specialisations which will let them not only work, but focus on other avenues in life as well. She also says that women are very conscious about what they want, and will not settle for less, thereby making them relentless and hardworking enough to overcome any hurdle that their career throws at them. 

‘There is no exception when it comes to medicine, regardless of what your gender is’

Dr. Sheena Soman, consultant psychiatrist, meanwhile strongly believes that there is no exception or exemption when it comes to medicine, regardless of what your gender is. Whether it is duties, graveyard shifts or workload, it is all the same. She admits that she has been lucky surrounded by colleagues who have been extremely supportive and have helped her during times of emergency. In her personal opinion, Jacinda Adern has emerged as one of the strongest superheroes in recent times, especially with the way she has handled the pandemic and led her country to safety with absolute composure.

Talking to these women helped us understand the various perspectives with which people see concepts like feminism, gender bias, sexism and mental health. Over the course of the interview, we felt truly empowered to be talking to such strong and driven women.

This Women’s Day, we celebrated freedom. Freedom to choose a career. Freedom to step into a life legions different from the regular. Freedom to express one’s opinions without having to attack someone else’s. 

Also, the Freedom to just be. 

 

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