Gender inequality is a major issue in our society since the ancient days. Women in olden days were confined to domestic work and had no rights to make decision of their own. They were discriminated and were not given a chance to get educated. They had no legal rights either. They were completely dependent on men for their livelihood, had no identity of their own and were subjected to domestic violence. To overcome all these odds and ensure equal status to women in the society both at home and at workplace, the voice for women empowerment was raised with the first wave of feminism in the 19th century and early 20th century in UK, Canada, Netherlands and U.S.A which focused on de jure inequalities, primarily on gaining women suffrage.
Swami Vivekananda, said that, “There is no chance for the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved, It is not possible for a bird to fly on only one wing. ” Therefore, the inclusion of “Women Empowerment’ as one of the prime goals in the eighth Millennium Development Goals underscores the relevance of this fact. Thus, in order to achieve the status of a developed country, the developing and under developed countries need to transform its colossal women force into an effective human resource and this is possible only through the empowerment of women.
Women empowerment means emancipation of women from the vicious grips of social, economical, political, caste and gender-based discrimination. It means granting freedom to women to make life choices. Women empowerment does not mean ‘defying women’, rather it means replacing patriarchy with parity.
Women population constitutes almost around 50% of the world population. A large number of women around the world are unemployed. Hence the world economy suffers a lot because of the unequal opportunity for women at workplaces. The main advantage of Women Empowerment is that there will be an overall development of the society. The money that women earn does not only help them personally or their family, but it also help develop the society.
From the birth of feminism in 19th century till date there have been notable changes in the status of women in the society. Women are as talented as men. Previously, women were not allowed higher education like men and hence their talents were wasted. But nowadays, they are also allowed to go for higher studies and it encourages women to show their talents which will not only benefit her individually but to the whole world at large. Women Empowerment leads to decrease in domestic violence. Uneducated women are at higher risk of domestic violence than educated women.
In India based on the ideas championed by Raja Rammohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar and Jyotirao Phule who are considered as founding fathers of women empowerment, many social, economic and political provisions were incorporated in the Indian Constitution. Women in India now participate in areas such as education, sports, politics, media, art and culture, service sector and science and technology. Article 14 of Indian constitution guarantees to all Indian women equality before law; Article 39(d), guards the economic rights of women by guaranteeing equal pay for equal work; and Article 42, allows provisions to be made by the state for securing just and humane condition of work and maternity relief for women.
Acts like the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, aims at putting an end to dowry system which is in practice in our society since ancient times, Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, aims at protecting women from domestic violence. Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Place (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, aims at creating a healthy environment and prevent exploitation of women at work place. As per the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Act, all the local elected bodies reserve 1/3rd of their seats for women. Such a provision was made to increase the effective participation of women in politics.
The Government of India has also incorporated various welfare schemes and policies, both at State and Central levels for the empowerment of woman. Some of the major programmes and measures include Swadhar (1995), Swayam Siddha (2001), Support to Training and Employment Programme for Women (STEP-2003), Sabla Scheme (2010), National Mission for Empowerment of Women (2010) etc. All such policies and programmes focus on social, economical and educational empowerment of women across various age groups.
Even though all these provisions are incorporated and implemented in our society due to the deep- rooted patriarchal mentality in the Indian society, women are still victimized, humiliated, tortured and exploited. Even after almost seven decades of Independence, women are still subjected to discrimination in the social, economic and educational field. Women in India continue to face atrocities such as rape, dowry killings, acid attacks, human trafficking, etc. According to a global poll conducted by Reuters, India is the “fourth-most dangerous country in the world for women”.
In order to put an end to all these crimes against women we should all join hands to change the perspective of the society towards women which begins at a birth of a female child. Even today many people in our society prefer to have a male child. There are number of cases reported regarding abandoning of female child. Empowering women socially, economically, educationally politically and legally is going to be a Herculean task. Due importance should be given to proper implementation and monitoring of the schemes planned for women empowerment and evaluation through social audits should be done. Women should be respected by all like any other individual in the society without any discrimination. Even the housewives should be respected and given equal importance as that of working women as homemaking plays an important role in a healthy family. Family is a basic unit of society and women is the backbone of the family hence by empowering women one can strengthen the family the society and nation at large.
Submitted – Spandana Nagesh