Sunday, 27 July 2014

Women Empowerment .

Women face threat to their well-being, not only in India, but all over the world. They are over-burdened with work and have very little influence and power. They get less formal education and their abilities remain unrecognized.

In 2001, the government of India had zealously floated its grand ideas to empower the women of the country by declaring the year as "Women's empowerment year". A few laws have been passed since then, and a spate of schemes with fine names have been floated. But, has there been much improvement on the ground? Many social activists feel that nothing special has happened. Women continue to suffer, be at the work-place, home or on the streets. The increasing incidents of honour killings in some States of India, rapes, molestation and low literacy rate of women is indicative of the fact that much more needs to be done.

While, our legislatures have provided for 50 per cent reservations for women in panchayats and municipalities, they continue to be reluctant to provide 33 per cent reservation in Parliament and State legislatures. The scourge of female infanticide continues to haunt the consciousness of the country. The zealots who feel they know the best what women should wear, what she should be doing and where she should be or not be continue to freely roam the cities and villages of the country.

Over the past more than 65 years, several initiatives to guarantee education to the people of the country have been taken. These have resulted in some progress, but, the efforts have not been consistent. Every time a new scheme is launched, activism comes to the fore. However, after some time the interest of all wanes down. What is urgently required are efforts to continue to arouse strong motivation till the logical end is met. After all, it is not for nothing that it is said that when you educate a boy you educate an individual, but when you educate a girl you educate an entire family.
There is no doubt about the fact that women are the major contributors to the economic output of the country. Unfortunately, while compiling the economic indicators, the contributions of a housewife to the economy are not taken into consideration. Besides, men and women are not equally distributed across the types of work. Women are more concentrated in the primary sector and in unskilled and marginal work. Women also constitute majority of the workforce employed as nurses, paramedics and technical workers. 

In her paper on land laws and gender equity, Prof Bina Aggarwal points that while the male workers have been moving to non-agricultural arenas, women have remained where they were, owing to their lower mobility, less education and few assets. She notes, "firstly there is systematic bias against the women and female children's sharing of benefits from the male controlled resources—women without independent resources are highly vulnerable to poverty and destitution in case of divorce or widowhood. They often need titles to avail credit facilities."

Another blot on our society is the practice of child marriage., which continues to be a reality in many rural areas. Social scientists are of the opinion that it is not legislation but political will to promote gender equality that can help to stop this practice. 

Then, there is the dowry problem. Again, this is a issue that can be better tackled politically and socially than by legislation. The Dowry Prohibition Act has been in force for more than six decades now but it has not been able to eradicate the problem.
It is sad to see the women of the country still being seen as a mere "tool" to various ends by a huge majority of male population. While scores of laws have been brought what has lacked is the will to address the socio-cultural attitudes, and till these attitudes are changed, gender parity will remain a distant dream.

The Indian society also continues to suffer from the phenomenon of domestic violence, which is widely prevalent, although not very visible. Millions of married women are being subjected to humiliation and indignity. Strict laws have reduced acts of violence. However, psychological pressures and means are turning out to be even worse than acts of violence. Here again, the need is to sensitize the men, at a very young age, towards women. They need to be taught to respect them and treat them as equal partners in the journey of life. 

Today, women have made major inroads is almost every field, be it government jobs, banks, doctors or engineers, and have proved themselves to be capable of being among the best, even without availing special measures. However, they remain a minuscule minority in the field of politics. Best of efforts have not been successful to get more women to join politics. The best of women parliamentarians continue to feel sidelined in their respective parties. An interesting point to note is that while, on the one hand, many parties advocate reservation of seats for women in the Parliament, on the other hand, they have done nothing to increase participation of women in their own organisations. The will for a voluntary effort just does not exist.

Thus, special measures to enhance women's political participation is the need of the hour. India's democracy will remain  flawed till adequate space to women is provided in its polity.
To empower the women of our country we need to formulate policies and programmes that improves their access to economic resources, provides secure livelihood, raise social awareness and provide opportunities and facilities to get educated. The decision making capacity of the women in area of sexuality and reproduction also needs to be strengthened. It has been seen that population control and development programmes are most effective when steps are taken alongside to improve the status of women.

The most important tool to empower women is education. Education helps to provide them skills, knowledge and self confidence to participate fully in all aspects of the development process. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserts that "everyone has the right to education". 

According to the United Nations Population Fund, steps that can help in empowering the women of the country include: (a) Establishment of systems to enable equal participation by women through equitable representation at all levels of the political process and public life; (b) Providing equal opportunities to women for skill development, education and employment, as also ensuring elimination of ill health among women; (c) Eliminating all practices that discriminate against women; (d) Improve  the ability of women to earn income beyond traditional occupations, thereby achieving economic self-reliance; (e) Eliminating violence against women; (f) Making it possible, through appropriate laws and measures, for women to combine the roles of child-bearing, breast-feeding and child-rearing with participation in the workforce.