Important Topics: Women’s Empowerment in the Indian Context
Gender equality and women’s empowerment are essential for the development and well-being of families, communities and nations. Due to prevalence of patriarchy women have been discriminated not only in India but in most parts of the world. Violence against women is a part of the system and according to UN, one out of every three women experiences violence. Taking place within the family, it gives pain.
WOMEN: BOTTOM OF ALL HIERARCHIES
Generalization about women in India is difficult because of the vast differences between them, but there are few key points which reflect the grim situation. They are as follows:
- They belong to different classes, castes, religions and communities. Patriarchal structures and ideologies lead to their subordination and gender inequalities.
- In all indicators of social and human development, women lag behind. Sex ratios for women in india is not good comparatively.
- Women’s life expectancy, health, nutritional and educational levels are significantly lower than that of men.
- They do low skilled and low paid jobs, they get lower wages and they hardly own and/or control property and means of production.
- The participation of women in political and social decision-making is abysmally low. They are excluded from jural authority and their number in parliament has never exceeded more than 10%.
- They have little say in the socio-economic, legal and political rules and policy formulation.
- Today girls live with disadvantages, burdens (of neglect, discrimination and of works outside home) and fears (of being aborted, of sexual abuse to rape).
EMPOWERMENT: DYNAMIC AND POLITICAL PROCESS
- Women empowerment requires changing patriarchal thinking and structures, giving women control over resources and bringing them into decision making roles etc. It is an on-going, dynamic and a two-way process (we empower and get empowered) which enables women to gain more access to and control over resources and decision making and gain more autonomy.
- We need to talk about empowerment of feminist thinking and ideology, empowerment of principles like equality, justice, democracy and sustainability.
- Empowerment of women has to be done at all levels and in all sections to make it strong and wide spread.
Women empowerment has to be multidimensional and integrative. This may include some or all of the following:
- Making women’s contribution to society visible (their role as home makers, mothers, labourers, professionals, etc.). Their contribution to GDP has always been major.
- Making women and society recognize the knowledge, capabilities and skills that women have in different fields.
- Creating a social environment which gives women self-esteem and self-confidence.
- Providing opportunities to realize their full potential and educating them which empowers rather than domesticates.
- Enabling women to take decisions about their own lives and enhancing women’s political participation at all levels.
- Facilitating awareness and making facilities and resources available to meet the basic needs of women and girls.
- Helping women gain access to and control over means of production and control over income.
ISSUES NEEDING SPECIAL ATTENTION AND EFFORTS
To point out some areas crucial for women’s empowerment and need adequate attention and effective strategies need to be developed to deal with them.
- Gender gap in the ownership and control over property is an important factor affecting women’s economic well being, social status and empowerment.
- Lack of access to gainful employment is another important issue. Regarding this Amratya sen and professor Jean dreze has come to the conclusion that greater involvement with outside work and paid employment does tend to go with less anti-female bias in intra-family distribution.
- Sharing of household and child rearing work is another area to be looked into because that is where maximum subordination of women is located.
- Control over women’s sexuality is another area which needs to be studied, understood and addressed.
- The ideology which justifies and perpetuates patriarchal structures and practices need to be addressed. Religion is also a creator of patriarchal ideology. There is a need to challenge the religious laws and practices which go against our constitution and deny women their fundamental rights.
EDUCATION AND WOMEN EMPOWERMENT
Education of women is the most important component for women’s empowerment, provided the content and methodology of this education need to be pro-women.
- Strengthen and multiply the ongoing efforts to educate women, which will help them to be the master of their own lives and makers of their destinies.
- Education which gives them necessary analytical skills to understand fast changing realities of life, leading to more competition and ambition.
- The methodology should be participatory and non-hierarchial which make them feel good, build their confidence and in turn empower them.