Women Empowerment: Where We Are and Where We Want To Be?

Submitted by : Harshit Ladva

Women Empowerment is a word that has frequented news channels,social networking sites and election campaigns in India of late.

Despite what reports may say, there still exists a wide gap between the goals enunciated in the Constitution, legislation, policies, plans, programmes, and related mechanisms on the one hand and the situational reality of the status of women in India, on the other.
When we talk about empowerment , either of women or of a specific class of people, we essentially have to consider these four spheres – Social empowerment , Political empowerment ,Economical empowerment  and Cultural Empowerment.

Why Social Empowerment ?
Gender disparity manifests itself in various forms, the most obvious being the trend of continuously declining female ratio in the population in the last few decades. Social stereotyping and violence at the domestic and societal levels are some of the other manifestations. Discrimination against girl children, adolescent girls and women persists in parts of the country.

Social discrimination is also evident from the fact that cases of eve-teasing are on a constant rise. Higher drop-out among school-going girls also indicates that people often choose sisters and daughters to make the sacrifice.
It is not a healthy sign when widows are ostracised and women in un-organized sector have to return to construction site right after giving birth to a child. When so-called religious gurus and self proclaimed learned saints demean women and religious places treat them as outcasts and unequal , it is accepted without much thought.

Why economical empowerment ?
This can further be divided into three spheres :- Educational , Financial and Professional.

Education goes a long way in empowering women financially. As mentioned earlier India is plagued by high school drop-out rates among girls. However the scenario is changing in urban areas but the picture of the rural area is still not encouraging.

Now people may argue that women are already financially empowered in India. Is it so ?
The earning daughter-in-laws and wives have little say in decisions of investments and buying of properties.

Even today in India’s un-organized sector, female labourers receive half the wages of their male counterparts. Maternity leave is an un-imaginable offence in such sectors. Even though India has large number of female workers in all spheres, women in India, at large, are still not financially independent.

Professional Empowerment is a loosely defined term. I refer to it in the context as how diverse are the fields of employments and how safe are they for women (in India, that is)? How many lady truck-drivers do we have? Is there any female government contractor who builds bridges? How many women run transport and travel agencies? Do we really want women to be just doctors and engineers and designers?

In 67 years of Independence and among 42 Chief Justices of Supreme Court of India, we never had the chance to see a lady grace the highest judicial appointment of the country. I think women’s potential is under-utilized in India.

Why Political Empowerment ?
Indian Polity depicts what I call “quintessential example of disguised empowerment“. To all those who  argue that India already has had a female President, a female PM, more than one female CMs I would like to counter back with following numbers:

Also ask yourself when was the last time your mother or sister independently  took a decision which affected the whole family ?

Why cultural empowerment ?
India, for once, doesn’t lag behind. From Sita to Savitri and Draupadi to Durga , we have innumerable  female icons and ideals in our mythology. Festivals like Navratri and Vasant Panchmi are celebrated by worshipping female gods.

Still India breeds people who thinks it is okay to ogle girls in public places even if it makes her uncomfortable. Still India breeds political figures who think women are the root cause of rapes.

Still India breeds hypocritic newspaper who try to demean a women , who is one of the already empowered women in education and finance , when she voices her concerns about cultural disparity between both the genders. ( The word ‘cleavage’ got more footage than the letter ).

Silver Lining
It’s not all bad. Government is trying very hard, if not sincerely, to solve this issues in our country. Ministry of child and women development is dedicated for the cause. Here I enlist few schemes and legislations that government has undertaken.

  • Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Andolan.
  • Due importance in “Millennium Developement Goals “.
  • National Commission for Women.
  • Swayam Sidha Program.
  • Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls (RGSEAG) – ‘Sabla’.
  • Kishori Shakti Yojana (KSY).
  • Nutrition Programme for Adolescent Girls (NPAG).
  • Integrated Scheme for Women Empowerment (ISWE).
  • National Mission for Empowerment of Women.
  • Rashtriya Mahila Kosh – (National Credit Fund for Women).
  • Gender Budgeting and Economic Empowerment of Women.
  • Rajiv Gandhi National Creche Scheme.
  • Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY).
  • Conditional Maternity Benefit (CMB) scheme.
  • MAMTA card for health facilities.
  • Hostels for working women in every district.
  • Adivasi Mahila Sashaktikaran Yojana (AMSY).
  • Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidhyalaya (KGBY).
  • Anganwadis for widows.
  • Mukhyamantri Amrutam Yojana.
  • Janani Suraksha Yojana.

And by the way, what are we doing ?

Oh yes, I forgot, we are busy posting selfies and quotes of Malala Yosufzai (without knowing why she received THE prize) on Facebook and Twitter.

I have some ideas how you can move forward.

  • Join any NGO.
  • Volunteer to teach at any remand home near your locality atleast once a week. Teach a subject you are comfortable in.
  • Visit Old- Age homes and ask all grandpas and grandmas what they want personally.
  • Adopt a girl-child’s education (preferably rural girl-child). Tell her parents you would sponsor her education through out. Get her a bachelor’s degree from government college at least.
  • Do a “KANYADAAN“. Sponsor some poor girl’s wedding and bring happiness to her paternal household.
  • Buy a vehicle for some poor girl who goes to higher secondary or college far away from home – either cycling or walking or via public transport.
  • Go to a village. Pick a family or a neighborhood. Sponsor construction of  a “TOILET” and oversee its building. Teach the importance of sanitation to that family.
  • Take a girl child to a book store. Buy her her textbooks. Buy her all the books that she points at.
  • DIWALI is near. Distribute some sweets at a near orphanage.
  • Adopt a girl-child after your marriage. Love her like your own flesh and blood.

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