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Women Empowerment: An Analysis BY Prof. Sarita Jain

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Women Empowerment: An Analysis

Empowerment  of  women  is  essentially  the  process  of  upliftment  of  economic,  social  and  political  status  of  women,  the traditionally  underprivileged  ones,  in  the  society.  It  is  the  process  of  guarding  them  against  all  forms  of  violence.  Women empowerment involves  the  building up  of a  society, a  political  environment,  wherein  women  can breathe  without the  fear of oppression, exploitation, apprehension, discrimination and the general feeling of persecution which goes with being a woman in a traditionally  male  dominated  structure.  Women  constitute  almost  50%  of  the  world’s  population  but  India  has  shown disproportionate sex ratio whereby female’s population has been comparatively lower than males. As far as  their social status is concerned, they  are  not  treated  as  equal  to men in all the places. In the Western  societies,  the  women  have  got equal right and status with men in all walks of life. But gender disabilities and discriminations are found in India even today.  Thus this paper will focus on the place of women in the society of India.

Women constituted the key role in the arch of Indian society.  No  doubt  the  Rig  Vedic  Women  in  India enjoyed  high  status  in  society and their  condition was good. They were  provided the opportunity  to attain high intellectual and spiritual standard. But from enjoying  free  and  esteemed positions  in  the  Rig-Vedic society,  women  started  being  discriminated  since  the Later-Vedic  period  in  education  and  other  rights  and facilities  (Saravanakumar,  2016).  Indian society  doubts that  we  are  in  the  midst  of  a  great  revolution  in  the history of  women. The  voice of  women is  increasingly heard  in  Parliament,  courts  and  in  the  streets.  While women in the West had to fight for over a century to get some of their basic rights, (Altekar,1983) like the right to vote, the Constitution  of  India has given  women  equal rights  with  men  from  the  beginning (Devandra,Kiran,1985).  The  Ancient  and  medieval status  of  women  in  modern  Indian  society  regarding Equality, Education, Marriage and Family life, Race and Gender,  Religion  and  Culture  is  maintained  or deteriorated. During  the  Vedic  Age  wife  was  put  in  an  esteemed position.  She  was  considered  as  half  of  the  man,  his trust friend, companion in solitude, father in advice and the  rest  in passing  the  wilderness  of  Life. The  women were  provided  opportunity  to  attain  high  intellectual and spiritual standard. There were many women Rishis during  this  period.  Though  monogamy  was  mostly common,  the richer  section  of  the  society  indulged  in polygamy. There was no sati system or  early marriage. But  from enjoying  free  and  esteemed positions  in  the Rig-Vedic  society, women  started  being  discriminated since  the  Later-Vedic  period  in  education  and  other rights and facilities. Child marriage,  widow burning or sati,  the  purdah  and  polygamy  further  worsened  the women’s  position  The  Indian  cultural tradition  begins with  the  Vedas. It  is  generally believed  that  the  Vedic period is  spread over  from  2000 BC  to 500  B.C.  Vedic women  had  economic  freedom.  Some  women  were engaged  in  teaching  work.  Home  was  the  place  of production. Spinning and weaving of clothes were done at  home.  Women  also  helped  their  husbands  in agricultural  pursuits.  The  Medieval  period  (Period between  500  A.D  to  1500  A.D)  proved  to  be  highly disappointing  for  the  Indian  women,  for  their  status further deteriorated during this  period. Medieval India was not women’s age it is supposed to be the ‘dark age’ for them.   The Ancient and medieval status  of  women  in modern Indian society regarding Equality, Education, Marriage and Family life, Race and Gender, Religion and Culture is maintained or deteriorated. The RigVedic  Women  in India enjoyed  high status  in society.  The women  were provided  opportunity  to  attain  high  intellectual  and spiritual standard. In Vedic India, women did not enjoy an  inferior  status  rather  they  occupied  an  honorable place.  They  had  ample  rights  in  the  social  and  the religious fields  and limited  rights in  the  economic  and the political fields. They were not treated  as  inferior or subordinate  but  equal  to  men.  We  have  honored  our country  as  our  Motherland  “Bharat  Mata”  and  our nationalism  has  grown  up  from  the  seed  Mantra “Vande Mataram”.  

Characteristics of Women Empowerment 

Women empowerment possesses certain characteristics. They are the following: 

1.  Women  empowerment  enables  a  greater  degree  of self-confidence  and  a  sense  of  independence  among women.

 2.  Women  empowerment  is  a  process  of  acquiring power for women in order to understand her rights and to  perform  her  responsibilities  towards  oneself  and others in a most effective way.

 3.  Women  empowerment  enables  women  to  organise themselves to increase their self- reliance. 4. Women empowerment provides greater autonomy to women. 

 5. Women empowerment  means  women’s control  over material assets, intellectual resources and ideology. 

6.  Women  empowerment  abolishes  all  gender-based discriminations  in  all  institutions  and  structures  of society. 

7.  Women  empowerment  means  participation  of women  in  policy  and  decision  making  process  at domestic and public levels. 

8.  Empowerment  of  women  enables  women  to  realise their full identity and powers in all spheres of life. 

9. Empowerment also means equal status to women. 

10.  Women  empowerment  occurs  within  sociological, psychological, political,  cultural, familial  and economic spheres and at various levels such  as individual, group and community.

 11.  Women  empowerment  is  a  process  of  creating awareness and capacity building.

Women Empowerment

Empowerment is about change, choice and power. It is a process of change by which the individuals and groups with  little  or  no  power  gain the  power  and  ability  to make  choices  that  affect  their  lives.  Women empowerment is a stage of acquiring power for women in  order to  understand  her  rights  and  to perform  her responsibilities  towards  oneself  and  others  in  a  most effective way.  According  to K.  Sayulu,  G. Sardar  &  B Sridevi,  (2005)   “Women  empowerment  is  any  process that provides greater autonomy to women through the sharing of relevant information and provision of control over factors affecting their performance”.

Importance of Women Empowerment Women.

  Empowerment  is  a  continuous  and  dynamic procedure  which  allows  women to  take  an  interest  in the choice – making in all financial, political  and social procedures  in  the  general  public  and  improves  their capacities  to  change  the  structure  and  condition  that keep  them  hindered.  The  introduction  of  the  73rd Amendment  spoke  to  an  exertion  for  women’s empowerment which was supported by the state and in which  33%  seat  in  Panchayats  and  in  workplaces  are saved  for  ladies.  Reservation  in  the  Panchayats  was viewed  as  a  noteworthy  milestone  during  the  time spent  empowering  women  in India.  Empowerment of women  is  essential  for  maintaining  economic development  of  the  nation  when  50  percent  of  the populace  comprises  of  ladies.  As  Ex-President A.P.J.Abdul  Kalam  stated  that empowering  women is a essential for making a decent country, when women are  empowered,  society  with  stability  is  guaranteed. Women’s  empowerment  is  crucial  as  their considerations  and  their  value  system  lead  to  the improvement  of  a  decent  family,  great  society  and eventually a decent country.  It has been acknowledged worldwide that country’s advancement is not thinkable without women’s empowerment.  The  worldwide efforts  towards  women’s  empowerment  have  made  a similar  situation  in  India  likewise  where  the empowerment  of women  has received  priority  on  the nation’s  advancement  agenda.  The  year  2001  was proclaimed  as  Women’s  Empowerment  Year,  though prior  plans  dealt  with  just  welfare  of  women.  The National  Policy  for  Empowerment  of  women  was introduced in India in 2001. To actualize it effectively, a National  Plan for  action  for  empowerment  of  women was  implemented  during  2003-04.  A  coordinated methodology  for  Women  Empowerment  with unequivocal  objectives, targets  and  a  time  period  had been  incorporated  in  Tenth  Five  Year  Plan  (2002-07). Since  women  empowerment  depends  not  only  on economic  determinants  but  on  social  factors  also, Government  of  India  has  brought  fourth-three dimensional strategy of social empowerment, economic empowerment  and  provision  for  gender  equality.  The Government  has started   few  activities  including projects  and  strategies  to  guarantee  this  present system’s  success  The  Protection  of  Women  from Domestic  Violence  Act,  2005,  the  Immoral  Traffic Prevention  Act,  the  Prenatal  Diagnostic  Techniques Amendment Act,  2003, Sati  Prevention Act,  the  Hindu Succession Act, National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.  Various  plans  actualized  under  The  Ministry  of Women  and  Child  Development  like  Swayamsiddha, Support for Training and Employment Program (STEP) and so on., Rashtriya Mahila Kosh (provides small scale credit),  Kishori  Shakti  Yojana,  Nutrition  Program  for pre-adult  young  ladies,  are  the  couple  of  out  of numerous  means  attempted  by  the  Government  to improve financial status and  gender equality. Working ladies lodgings and crèches have additionally been set up to help working ladies in increasing financial power and further their societal position. Strengthening  legal system to eliminate discrimination  against women and mainstreaming  gender  perspective  in  development process  are  the  main  objectives  of  the  11th  Five  Year Plan.  The  vision  for  the  Twelfth  Five  Year  Plan (2012-2017) is  to  guarantee  improving the position  and condition  of  ladies  by  addressing  structural  and institutional boundaries as well as strengthening gender equality.

 Women Empowerment in India

Empowerment  of  women  would  mean  equipping women  to  be  economically  independent,  self-reliant, have positive esteem to enable them to face any difficult situation  and  they  should  be  able  to  participate  in development  activities.  The  government  has  been  adopted  different schemes and programs i.e. the National Credit Fund for Women  (1993),  Food  and  Nutrition  Board  (FNB), Information and Mass Education (IMF) etc. to benefit women. The most positive development in last few years has been the growing involvement of women in the Panchayati Raj institutions.  There are many elected women representatives at the village council level.   Women are also involving in human development issues of child rearing, education, health, and gender parity.  Many of them have gone into the making and marketing of a range of cottage products-pickles, tailoring, embroidery etc.  The  economic  empowerment  of  women  is  being regarded these days as a sine-quo-non of progress for a country; hence,  the issue of economic empowerment of women  is  of  paramount  importance  to  political thinkers, social thinkers and reformers.  

Government Schemes for Women Empowerment.

 The Government programmes for women development began  as  early  as  1954  in  India  but  the  actual participation  began  only  in  1974.  At present, the Government of India has over 34 schemes for women operated by different department and ministries. Some of these are as follows; 

 1. Rastria Mahila Kosh (RMK) 1992-1993 

 2. Mahila Samridhi Yojana (MSY) October, 1993.

  3. Indira Mahila Yojana (IMY) 1995.  

4.  Women Entrepreneur Development programme given top priority in 1997-98. 

 5. Mahila  Samakhya being  implemented in  about 9000 villages. 

 6. Swayasjdha.  

7. Swa Shakti Group. 

 8. Support to Training and Employment Programme for Women (STEP). 

 9. Swalamban.  

10. Crèches/ Day care centre for the children of working and ailing mother. 

 11. Hostels for working women.  

12. Swadhar.  

13. National Mission for Empowerment of Women.  

14.  Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) (1975), 

 15.  Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescence Girls (RGSEAG) (2010). 

 16.  The Rajiv Gandhi National Crèche Scheme for Children of Working Mothers.  

17.  Integrated Child Protection scheme (ICPS) (2009-2010).  

18. Dhanalakahmi (2008).  

19. Short Stay Homes. 

 20. Ujjawala (2007).   

Suggestions 

1.  Awareness  programmes  need  to  be  organized  for creating awareness among women especially belonging to weaker sections about their rights.  

2. The first and foremost priority should be given to the education of women, which is the grassroots problem. Hence, education for women has to be paid special attention.  

3.  Strict  implementation  of  Programmes  and  Acts should  be  there  to curb  the mal-practices  prevalent in the society. 

 4.  Women should  be  allowed  to  work  and  should  be provided  enough  safety  and  support  to  work.  They should be provided with proper wages and work at par with  men  so  that  their  status  can  be  elevated  in  the society.  

Conclusion

Women  empowerment  refers  to  increasing  the spiritual,  political,  social,  educational,  gender  or economic  strength  of  individuals  and communities  of women.  Women’s  empowerment  in  India  is  heavily dependent  on  many  different  variables  that  include geographical location (urban /  rural) educational status social  status  (caste  and  class)  and  age.  Policies  on Women’s empowerment exist at  the national, state and local  (Panchayat)  levels  in  many  sectors,  including health,  education,  economic  opportunities,  gender based  violence  and  political  participation.    The Empowerment of Women has become one of the most important concerns of 21st century not only at national level but also at the international level.  Government initiatives alone would not be sufficient to achieve this goal.  Society  must  take  initiative  to create  a climate  in which  there  is  no  gender  discrimination  and  women have  full  opportunities  of  self-decision  making  and participating in social, political and economic life of the country with a sense of equality.

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