Author: Parin Alfi Imtiyaz
One of the most important issues that happen to be a burning issue all over the world is that of women empowerment. A specific environment must be well constructed in such a way that women can realize that they can take their own decisions and by doing it, can contribute in some ways, not only to their own benefit but also to the welfare of the entire society. Women empowerment refers to making women realize their inner strength required for a better standard of living, ensuring equal rights and to refine enough confidence within them so that they can claim their rights. (H.R, 2017) It refers to a process where in adequate measures are taken to strengthen women who have been suffering from various disabilities, inequalities and gender discrimination. (Rao, 2012)
According to Pillai, (1995), “Empowerment is an active multidimensional process which enables women to realize their full identity and powers in all spheres of life.” (H.R, 2017)
Paul Freire (1996) in his book ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’, very well discussed “empowerment” in a very formal way for the first time in 1970. It was then that, after him, many scholars referred empowerment as a kind of human potential. They referred it especially for women empowerment. (Rahman, 2013)
As we trace history, we mostly observe that amongst all the deprived groups and sections of people in the world, women did suffer the worst. They have been the victims of various sufferings, be it be based on one’s culture, or one’s religion. Various atrocities are meted out to them like abuse, molestation, rape, violence, sexual harassment etc. They have faced all sorts of deprivation living in this world.
In the contemporary times too, even though society has been so empowered and modernized to a great extent, a woman is still barred from continuing her education and instructed to leave her job in case there arises questions of compromising her career and her visible labor to take care of her household and her family.
Background concerning emergence of the concept of Women Empowerment
The concept of women empowerment was popularized after 1980s. Women have always been treated as “second grade citizens”. They just ended up being considered to be belonging to the category of weaker sex. Women tolerated and endured this until them themselves involved in a quest for equality. This quest was basically pursued in a constant manner, by the western women mostly.
However, on the other hand Asian and African women were still struggling to gain equal status and opportunities even after 1950s.
They continued to be the victims of innumerable disabilities and exploitation one after another. The current practice of discrimination started to be termed as “Gender discrimination”. The United Nations organised various ways to organize meetings which would serve to alleviate this ugly looking stuff of gender discrimination. It played essential roles in encouraging its member nations to buckle up to achieve the goal of countering gender discrimination.
Soon because of the exceptional efforts made by the UN, the issue of women empowerment got a universal recognition and the year 1975 was declared as the International Women’s Year by the UN. This declaration made way and set down instructions to develop and empower women in every possible way.
The Conferences which were held to empower women are as below:
The Third Women’s World Congress-Held at Nairobi in 1975, in this conference, a document was released which focused on the question of political participation of women. Recommendations were put out implying that 35% of the total seats should be reserved for women and at the block and village level bureaucracy, certain posts should be reserved for women.
The Fourth World Conference on Women-Held in Beijing in 1995, this conference highlighted 12 areas such as women and poverty, health, environment, media and rights etc to help women acquire strength. A resolution on ‘gender equality’ was also passed in the conference.
In the year 2000, a special session of the UN General Assembly was convened in New York to evaluate the proceedings of the programs, concerning gender equality. The Conference basically wanted all the member nations to become conscious about how important women empowerment is and take necessary steps towards the concerned sphere. (Rao, 2012)
The Indian Context
In a country like India, where people belonging to different cultures, communities, race, speak multiple languages, have different sets of mind, women end up facing multifarious challenges and go through various problems here and there. (Mandal, 2013). Men and women were always treated alike and the roles and statuses assigned to them too, have always been alike. Though the women folk urges for equality, they haven’t really lived or have experienced a life exactly on par with men. (Rao, 2012)
Most of the organizations and agencies in India have been organised in such a way that they leave no stone unturned to make a women’s position vulnerable to any of the discriminatory trends in the society. (Sahu, 2018)
“Daughters should take their mother’s jewellery and anything else customarily given to her. It is not possible for women to act independently.” “Her father takes care of her in her childhood; her husband takes care of her in her youth; and her son takes care of her in her old age; A woman is not fit to act independently.” “Women are considered to be devoid of strength and not to inherit property.”
The above quoted words in italics have been taken from a vedic text in India, which reflects vulnerable thinking made towards women.
Impact of the World Conferences in India
All the mentioned world conferences had deep impacts in India. A document named ‘National Document’ was prepared that would make efforts to give it up for ways concerning, advances of the women folk. The document prescribes multiple women development strategies. The year ‘2000’ was declared as the ‘Year of Women’s Empowerment’ by the government being impacted by the 1975 year declaration made by the UN.
The following are some of the plans of action put forwarded by the national document illustrating the significance of women’s development.
a) Increasing the amount of women folk in politics by increasing their political participation- The document lays down recommendations signifying that, for greater political participation of women, 33% of the seats should be reserved for women. Recommendations for the reservations of some power positions for women were also made in the document.
b) Schemes concerning income generations should be increased – The document also put forth the efforts, in making ways for women in the economic front by introducing income generating schemes, thus making provisions which would help in all the rural development programs.
c) Rise of Female Literacy Level- Recommendations were made asking for proper co-ordinations between both governmental and non-governmental organizations, so that they could work together to help increase women literacy level so that the women would be able to make use of this, in certain ways, to make themselves self dependent for life.
Connections between Women Empowerment and the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1993
This Act had two main objectives. One was to provide a constitutional identity to the Panchayati Raj System of India and the other was to turn the dream of application of the ideal “women empowerment’ into reality. According to this Act, one third of the seats in all levels of the three tiers of Panchayati Raj are to be reserved for women. This could be considered as a bold measure towards women empowerment.
It is important to note that although the act did create some amount of political vigilance and cautiousness amongst women, it wasn’t that it had no any disadvantages. It definitely had various disadvantages. However, despite those it did contribute a lot in women empowerment. (Rao, 2012)
Now, we can have a look at some of the schemes that have been put up by the current Modi Government in India to assure women’s empowerment in India.
Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Yojna : This scheme was launched on 22nd January, 2015, in Panipat, Haryana. It is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Women and Child Development Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of Human Resource Development. The Yojna targets increasing vigilance and improvise productivity of the girl child welfare services. Although initially, it targeted to look only into the matters of the declining Child Sex Ratio, but eventually, it included in its purview, gender biased sex selective eliminations. It also went on to disseminate education, protection and survival of the girl child.
Mahila-E-Haat : This platform was launched on 7th March 2016. It is an online marketing platform helping aspiring women entrepreneurs /Self Help Groups/Non Governmental Organizations, to showcase their products, thus providing them a helping hand to reflect their creative abilities. The most interesting thing about the platform is that the system encourages direct contact between the buyer and the vendor. It involves an easy online log in access and has to offer simple payment modes. The business can be handled simply on a mobile phone quite easily. Its open for all Indian women above the age of 18.
Support to Training and Employment Programme for Women (STEP): This scheme came into being with a view to help provide skills so that the women become capable enough to take up some useful employments. Women aspiring to become entrepreneurs are given proper trainings. The scheme functions through a grant provided to an organization including NGOs and other institutions directly. All the women above the age of 16 are eligible to be benefitted through the scheme.
Some other popular schemes that have contributed in improving the lives of women and in advancing their all round development both in the rural and the urban areas include: Mahila Shakti Kendra, Working Women Hostel, Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana and many more. Now let’s analyze the various grounds depending on which women empowerment in India is so very significant:
In today’s world to empower women, is, actually to provide a fundamental right to the women community. Women empowerment can do various wonders starting from cutting short women’s unemployment to proper utilization of their various creative potentialities and capabilities. In India and in the world where half of the population includes women, we won’t be able to make out regarding the intelligence level, a woman holds, until and unless she is empowered. Current modern scenario shows us that modern women come up with important strategies to have approaches and address various technical problems. Thus, granting them access to certain powers can lead them to contribute for the welfare of the society and the mankind. A nation truly progresses when its citizens are well educated and have broadened mindsets. Thus, women empowerment is highly required to help women to get proper education so that they could broaden up their minds and with this mind, could contribute for the progress of the country they are living in. (Rao, 2012)
Women empowerment can lead to a greater way out for the folk providing them the opportunities to showcase their inner talents and skills which remains hidden only because they are never given chances to showcase those. Various atrocities that take place on a day to day basis can be prevented when women are empowered in the truest sense. In each and every step of ‘her’ life ‘she’ is discriminated and fall a prey to vulnerabilities of different nature. Thus, to preserve ‘her’ dignity and purity and to surround ‘her’ with a protective shield resisting any kind of ugly vulnerability, women empowerment provision is a must needed thing. (Rao, 2012)
Women’s poor health is one of the important causes, required to be addressed to prevent women from being dominated and referred to be the ‘weaker sex’. It is usually seen that women work more and consumes very less food as per the needed requirements. Studies and researches reveal that the health of a male child is given more priority than that of a female child. Thus we see women empowerment is extremely important to counter the negligent attitude showed towards the health condition of a woman. (Rao, 2012)
When women are permitted and encouraged to empower themselves, corruption addressed to the women, or generally, to the society, would be lessened and the society will witness peace and harmony amidst chaotic circumstances. Adequate justice would be prevailed in the society letting women vigilant and make them equally equipped to take actions against the wrongs by taking part in various movements to have their voices in various joining groups and civil service jobs, so that they can serve their country as men. Not only this, but when professional women start being competitive as per men in a working environment it will also provide a way out for the men to excel in their work. When women folk starts progressing, certain typical stereotypes regarding men would also start breaking automatically. Hence, women empowerment would not only be beneficial for women but would also help in the progress of a man in the society.
Adding to the significance of women empowerment, it helps the society to get rid of poverty. Empowering women economically signifies proper facilitation of distribution of wealth per household. Need I say that this could be a bold step to eradicate poverty from a nation?
It is very important for every other woman in the world to understand that they first of all should have a faith in themselves that they have that whatever is required to make important life decisions. They must be ready at hand to acquire empowerment to realize the fact that they are no less than any other being in this world. Although we see a new age women is way too empowered but we see that whenever any unrivalled conservative immoral case happens, be it a case of violence or other such similar cases, ‘her’ progresses often skids to a halt. Thus, it’s not very easy to analyze women empowerment, the way it seems to be. We, as global citizens and being a part of the society we live in, should be giving three cheers and shout outs for every other effort and bold step taken to reduce and alleviate the very evil practice of gender discrimination prevailing in the society since ages. It is our duty to realize that the quest for equality is important and requires total justification. The world will definitely be a better place to live in when each one of us would strive to make it better one by empowering the women folk.
H.R, R. R. (2017). A Study on Importance of Women Empowerment in India. International Journal of Current Adnanced Research , 4337-4340.
Mandal, K. C. (2013). Concept and Types of Women Empowerment. International Forum of Teaching and Studies .
Rahman, M. A. (2013). Women's Empowerment: Concept and Beyond. Global Journal of Human Social Science Sociology and Culture .
Rao, C. S. (2012). Sociology- Principles of sociology with an intoduction to social thought. New Delhi: S.Chand & Company Private Ltd.
Sahu, S. K. (2018). Women, Power and Politics. New Delhi: Kalyani Publishers.