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“Empowerment of women is not just a goal in itself, but key to all global development goals.” Women empowerment refers to increasing the political, social and economic strength of women. It often involves developing of confidence in women in their own capabilities. It is a process in which gender based discrimination against women in all the institutions and structures of society and polity are challenged. Empowering women is also a necessary tool for advancing development and reducing poverty. It contributes to the health and productivity of whole families and communities and to improved prospects for the next generation. Women are still much more likely than men to be poor and illiterate. They usually have less access than men to medical care, property ownership, credit, training and employment. They are far less likely than men to be politically active and far more likely to be victims of domestic violence. Women's empowerment is vital to sustainable development and the realization of human rights for all. Razia Sultana, Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi, Sarojini Naidu and Indira Gandhi are motivating examples of women empowerment in India. Women across the world have fewer opportunities and suffer from exponentially more rights violations simply because they are female. Women empowerment has 5 components • Their sense of self-worth • Their right to have and to determine choices • Their right to have access to opportunities and resources • Their right to have the power to control their own lives, both within and outside the home • Their ability to influence the direction of social change to create a more just social and economic order – nationally, internationally and universally. Literacy rate According to the 2001 Census, the percentage of female literacy in the country is 54% up from 9% in 1951. Violence against women - Violence against women is a major problem and a violation of human rights. It is partly a result of gender relations that assumes men to be superior to women. Lack of access to education and opportunity, and low social status in communities are linked to violence against women. Violence by an intimate partner is one of the most common forms of violence against women. A wide range of physical, mental, sexual and reproductive, and maternal health problems can result from violence against women. Many women do not seek help or report violence when it occurs. Appearance of violence include physical aggression, such as burns, attempted hanging, sexual abuse and rape, psychological violence through insults, humiliation, blackmail, pressure, economic or emotional threats and control over speech and actions. Violence against women and girls has been seen in every continent, country and culture. It is a direct result of unequal gender power-relations upheld by social
institutions. Many societies have now taken measures to prohibit such violence. Yet the reality is that too often, it is covered up or silently ignored. A survey report published in 1999 found that 46% of all men surveyed in Uttar Pradesh admitted to physically abusing their wives. An earlier study found that men consider wife beating as their natural right. Dalit women in UP have to contend with caste-based violence. Women also are victims of communal violence and incidents of violence by state actors. Situation of violence against women in India • Gender discrimination, including physical, sexual, emotional and economic violence, son preference, unequal resource distribution and unequal decision-making powers (in both private and public spaces) • Caste discrimination, especially (but not restricted to) women from specific castes • Communal violence against women • Neo-economic policies impacting women’s lives in diverse ways (specific kinds of jobs for women, market impacting men leading to increasing violence against women) Violence against women • The questions regarding crimes against women are most entrenched, as most of them are committed within the family NCRB records that the highest percentage of crime against women is torture (37.7%) followed by Molestation (22.4%), Rape (11.8%), Kidnapping (8.8%) and immoral traffic (3.7%). 4.6 Dowry Death and 6.5% eve teasing were recorded. • NFHS 3: 1 in 5 women (20%) face domestic violence from their husbands (global statistics between 20-50%) Problems of working women Working women face problems just by virtue of their being women. Working women here are referred to those who are in paid employment. Social attitude to the role of women lags much behind the law. This attitude which considers women fit for certain jobs and not others colours those who recruit employees. Thus women find employment easily in the caring and nurturing sectors such as nurses, doctors, teachers, or in the routine submissive sectors as secretaries or in factory assembly jobs. But even if well qualified women engineers or managers or geologists are available, preference will be given to a male of equal qualification. Gender bias creates an obstacle for women at the initial employment stage itself. When it comes to payment, law declares equality but it is rarely put in practice. The inherent belief that women are capable of less work than men or less efficient than men governs this injustice of unequal salaries and wages for the same job. The age old belief of male superiority over women creates several difficulties for women at their place of work. A woman has to almost always shoulder the burden of household chores as well. A woman could still bear with these problems if she had control over the money she earns. But in most families even now her salary is handed over to the father, husband or the in-laws. So the basic motive of seeking employment for getting independence is non-existent in many women’s cases.
Technological advancement results in retrenchment of women employees. No one thinks of upgrading their skills. Maternity leave is seldom given. It is much easier to terminate the woman’s employment and hire someone else. Women going to work are often subject to sexual harassment. Public transport system is over crowded and men take advantage of the circumstances to physically harass women. Colleagues offer unwanted attention which can still be shaken off but a woman is placed in a difficult situation if the higher officer demands sexual favours. If refused, the boss can easily make life miserable for her. Traditionally men are seen as bread winners and women as house-keepers, child bearers and rearers. This typecast role model continues to put obstacles before the working women. A fundamental change is required in the attitudes of the employers, policy makers, family members and other relatives and the public at large. Why do we need women empowerment? • Empowering the women in the family is equivalent to supporting an entire family • Men being the traditional bread winners, any employment for women means additional income for the home • They make up two-thirds of the estimated 876 million adults worldwide who cannot read or write. • They should be introduced into the mainstream of development. • Educational problems – social, cultural, environmental beneficiaries scheme • Society – Family, dowry, parda system • Gender prejudice – Suppressing the women • Low confidence • Lack of unity – Women vs. Women • Problem related with health – Social, cultural and gender differences • Poverty and Ignorance • Traditional barriers Challenges • Cultural mindset about women • “Superiority” of men versus “inferiority” of women (both within private spaces like the family, and public spaces like the workplace) • “Public” domestic violence (“honour” killings, community courts) • Myth of male marginalisation used to support withdrawal of progressive legislation (like reservations) Problems • Women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours and produce half of the world’s food, yet earn only 10 percent of the world’s income and own less than one percent of the world’s property. • Domestic violence is the biggest cause of injury and death to women around the globe, killing more women aged 15-44 than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents, and war. • 75 percent of the one billion illiterate people around the world are women. Solutions • Increase access to opportunities for women - empower women to avoid abusive relationships, free them to leave behind abusive relationships
• Build capabilities of women - including physical capabilities/ create awareness/ prevention programmes/ crisis counselling & support groups • Increase in women’s participation at all levels: social, economic and political • Awareness of women’s rights – by the State, civil society organisations, as well as the public at large • Gender budgeting and gender mainstreaming within State agencies and civil society organisations Economic empowerment - More women than men live in poverty. Economic differences persist partly because much of the unpaid work within families and communities falls on the shoulders of women and because they face discrimination in the economic sphere. In nearly every country, women work longer hours than men, but are usually paid less and are more likely to live in poverty. In subsistence economies, women spend much of the day performing tasks to maintain the household, such as carrying water and collecting fuel wood. In many countries women are also responsible for agricultural production and selling. Poor women do more unpaid work, work longer hours and may accept degrading working conditions during times of crisis, just to ensure that their families survive. Educational empowerment - About two thirds of the illiterate adults in the world are female. Higher levels of women's education are strongly associated with both lower infant mortality and lower fertility, as well as with higher levels of education and economic opportunity for their children. Education is one of the most important means of empowering women with the knowledge, skills and self-confidence necessary to participate fully in the development process. Political empowerment - Social and legal institutions still do not guarantee women equality in basic legal and human rights, in access to or control of land or other resources, in employment and earning, and social and political participation. Laws against domestic violence are often not enforced on behalf of women. Experience has shown that addressing gender equality and women’s empowerment requires strategic interventions at all levels of programming and policy-making. Intergenerational gender gaps - The differences in the work patterns of men and women, and the 'invisibility' of work that is not included in national accounts, lead to lower privileges to women than to men. Women’s lower access to resources and the lack of attention to gender in macroeconomic policy adds to the inequity, which, in turn, perpetuates gender gaps. Example: When girls reach adolescence they are typically expected to spend more time in household activities, while boys spend more time on farming or wage work. By the time girls and boys become adults; females generally work longer hours than males, have less experience in the labour force, earn less income and have less leisure, recreation or rest time. This has implications for investments in the next generation. If parents view daughters as less likely to take paid work or earn market wages, they may be less inclined to invest in their education, women's fastest route out of poverty. Case studies • In a renowned woman’s college, random and boastful superior “A” openly and purposely showed partiality towards one of her subordinates B, C, D, E and F. The superior tolerated aggressive “D” in many ways by not giving much work,
enduring her irregularity, inefficiency of teaching and accepting the unskilled reasons offered by her. The growth of the department depends on the remaining skilled and dedicated staff. Unless and until attitude of A’s is changed, remaining staff shows lack of enthusiasm to co-operate with “A” because of dissatisfaction, mental disturbances, disinterest, discouragement and frustration resulting in retardation in the growth of the department. It is also a suppressing act which limits the academic flourishing capacity. • Lecturer “A” gained popularity and recognition among students for her academic excellence and teaching methodologies which enabled the students to secure more marks in her subject. This was wrongly construed by the seniors and peer group that this is possible because “A” had the habit of putting more marks without taking proper classes. One Lecturer “B” alleged that A could award marks liberally but not herself. In the present case character assassination is done by carrying a wrong idea and interpretations. Person B not being able to give mark generously might be due to her inherent nature of setting the higher limit of marks itself low while A adopts a different higher limit of mark which in turn influences the pass percentage. Moreover the teaching methods applied, effective mode of taking the information across the students varies. This attitude of B and others in the department causes discouragement of A. Women empowerment in India The empowerment process has already begun. There is a steady improvement in the enrolment of women in schools, colleges and professional institutes. Their health status is better as compared to earlier decades. Women are entering into the job market in increasing numbers. They are showing their skills even in non traditional sectors like police, defence, administration, media and research fields. 26 laws have been enacted to protect women from various crimes. In the political field, the reservation of women is a significant step forward towards their political empowerment. When 33% reservation for women in Parliament becomes a reality, women’s voice will be heard in the highest forum of democracy. Conclusion Empowerment of women is a prerequisite to transform a developing country into a developed country. Today, women are emerging as leaders in a growing range of fields. Be it aeronautics, medicine, space, engineering, law, politics, education, business… we just name the profession and they are there. All that is needed in today’s world is their empowerment. “Women empowerment is very important for the development of the nation. If women become powerful, the nation will also become powerful along with them.” “Just like a car cannot move without wheels, a nation cannot also progress without its two wheels -- men and women.”