Indian Women, Stress and Indian Cities!

I recently read an interesting study article published by CNN sent to me by a Belgian friend, who, unfortunately, happened to meet me in Pune at my busiest time of the year! All through our lunch together, I was either receiving calls, responding to calls or furiously writing emails on my Blackberry. And when he found this article on Indian women, stress and their time commitments, he immediately forwarded it to me.

Here is the article in a nutshell:
"(CNN) - A recent study released by the Nielsen Company that examines the consumer and media habits of women in emerging and developed countries has found that women in India are the most stressed.
The Women of Tomorrow Study, which examined 6,500 women across 21 different nations from February through April 2011, found that an overwhelming 87% of Indian women said they felt stressed most of the time, with 82% claiming they had no time to relax. Indian women are not alone. The vast majority of Mexican (74%) and Russian (69%) women surveyed also reported feeling stressed."

The list that the article gives throws some very interesting inferences. A list of 21 countries surveyed in order of most stressed women shows that most developing nations top the list, while the developed nations come lower down.

1. India (87%)
2. Mexico (74%)
3. Russia (69%)
4. Brazil (67%)
5. Spain (66%) 6. France (65%)
7. South Africa (64%)
8. Italy (64%)
9. Nigeria (58%)
10. Turkey (56%)

11. U.K. (55%)
12. U.S.A. (53%)
13. Japan (52%)
14. Canada (52%)
15. Australia (52%) 
16. China (51%)
17. Germany (47%)
18. Thailand (45%)
19. South Korea (45%)
20. Malaysia (44%)
21. Sweden (44%)

As usual, I read through the article and my first question was - do the cities that we Indian women work in have anything to do with the levels of stress?

Some light was shed by the article on this which stated that " . . . worldwide, women play multiple roles that contribute to their stress levels, but that the social infrastructure allowing them to navigate these roles differed between emerging and developed markets. As a result, women in emerging markets tended to be more stressed than women in the developed world, with women in India, Mexico and Nigeria feeling the most time-pressured."

The Economic Times suggests that, in the case of India, companies and workplaces have developed whilst society has remained static, requiring women to juggle a modern career and busy home life as well as conform to traditional standards.

In addition to the pressures of the society in stereotyping roles of a woman, I also felt that the physical context in which women work is exceedingly designed for 'men'. Where workplaces and homes are far apart in our cities, there is a distance barrier between children, their activities and the working mother! Add to this, the stress of travel on Indian city roads!

How on earth, can an Indian mother manage her morning dabbas, work, professional meetings, childrens' pick up from school, drop off to classes/hobby places and come back home and often (if not always) cook, without feeling 'time pressured' and 'having no time to relax'?

I see that a design and planning of a city and its mobility infrastructure can surely reduce the time pressure burdens on Indian women. If I were asked to create a list for the City Commissioner as a working mother to reduce my stress, what would I put on it?

1. Safe roads for my children to walk to school (saving of precious morning 15 minutes to drop the child to school)

2. Better traffic management and efficient transport (saving of 15 minutes getting to work in the morning rush hour)

3. Preferably some mode of transport that is fast, safe, hassle free and where I can sit and read and not have to negotiate my two-wheeler amidst a chaos of traffic (huge burden of stress off the back)

4. Planning of grocery stores, vegetable vendors en route to home / work place, so that I can shop on the way, perhaps while waiting for a bus/metro (saves time and effort of coming back home and going out again for basic necessities)

5. Some efficient transport system by way of which my children (older than 10 years) can find their own way to their respective tuition/hobby classes and back home (a HUGE reduction of the burden of short trips of picking up and dropping off)

6. Better traffic management and efficient transport (saving of 15 minutes getting back home in the evening rush hour)

And perhaps, not something that a commissioner can do, but 7. A Husband that HELPS! :-)

However, as planners and policy makers are we working towards bettering our cities to suit this 'mother', who the study shows to be stressed more than any of her counterparts across the world? In a country where girl feotus are aborted and the men are increasingly growing in proportion, can we even think of a city life and design that caters to women?

Something to ponder over, I think.


  1. Absolute agree with you. Its the lack of planning and want of proper infrastructure which hurts the most along with other factors. If we had planned cities to go with the developments in technology and infra. a considerable amount of stress can be reduced not just on the part of women but the society as a whole.

    Nice blog :)

  2. Interesting Blog!
    No doubt infrastructure and city planning are to be blamed. But the bigger problem is of implementation of systems and the growing population.
    In my opinion, stress is not just about the infrastructure but also about time management, deciding priorities, change in attitude and especially a support from home.


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