Introduction to Women Empowerment In India Essay
For all practical purposes women empowerment in India began after independence in 1947. The process of women empowerment in India received the first stimulus through the constitution of India. Women empowerment India can be defined as the enhancement in the capacities of women in order to live a fulfilling human life. Some of the key parameters for women empowerment in India can be seen as:
- Health (General, Sexual and Reproductive)
- Education and Awareness
- Status in the family
- Household decision-making
- Economic activities
- Participation in community decision making bodies and national politics
- Gender norms and women’s motivations for their choices
- Participation in decision making
- Self Awareness and Self Confidence
Apart from these, women empowerment in India also depends upon the capacity to make effective choices and the enhancement of capacities stimulated by the opportunity structure provided by formal and informal institutions. This opportunity structure can be in the form of:
- Regulatory frameworks and
- Norms governing behavior
- Opportunity structure determines who has access to assets and whether they can use their assets.
The 2011 census accounted for 48.5% women of the total population in India. In a traditional society with lack of education along with the changing dynamics of the society, women empowerment in India has become not only relevant but also very important. Women empowerment in India is a critical aspect to achieving gender equality. By this both men and women have equal power and opportunities for education, healthcare, economic and political participation and personal development. In this women empowerment in India essay we shall probe all the relevant aspects, challenges and prospects.
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History Of Women Empowerment In India
It is not that women have always been marginalized in India. This can be seen as:
- During the Rig vedic period, women used to participate in the assemblies called ‘Sabha’, ‘Samiti’ and ‘Vidhata’. So some elements of political empowerment were there unlike the contemporary societies in the world. Apart from this, women have also been associated with the composition of many Vedic hymns.
- After the 4th century A.D. i.e. during the Gupta Age the status of women started declining. This was a serious setback to women empowerment in India which continued for almost the next 1500 years.
- With the advent of British rule things started changing as a modern system of education was introduced. With this efforts were made for women’s education as well. First such school specifically for women’s education was started by J.E.D. Bethune in the 1850s.
- Social reformers and some organizations of the 19th century also played a key role in women’s education and widow remarriage. They laid the foundation of women empowerment in India. Some of the noted social reformers were: Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Savitribai Phule, Jyotiba Phule, Dayanand Saraswati, Karve etc.
- The most conspicuous contribution to women empowerment in India came with the inception of the Constitution of India. Based on its provisions a plethora of laws and schemes have been formulated.
Importance Of Women Empowerment In India
The march of the nation will be incomplete if women empowerment in India is neglected. There are a plethora of institutional mechanisms in the form of Constitutional provisions, Government Plans and schemes in place. But many challenges still remain. The importance of Women empowerment in India can be seen as:
- Ensures a holistic development of society.
- A human resource can be created which has remained unutilized since ages.
- New sources of income generation can be created.
- Future generations can become enlightened and educated if women are empowered.
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Factors Affecting Women Empowerment In India
There are many factors that affect women empowerment in India. These can be seen as:
- Gender Discrimination: Gender discrimination is a big issue not only in India but also around the world. Remember after losing the Presidential election Hillary Clinton had said “I hope some day the glass ceiling will be broken’. In India women are discriminated against and this poses a serious challenge to women empowerment in India. Women must be given due admiration and prominence. Also they must be allowed to take part in all levels of decision making.
- Education: If there is one single factor that conspicuously stands out as a catalyst to women empowerment in India then that is education. Education has a direct bearing on access to employment and earning a livelihood. Moreover when a woman is educated the entire family gets educated. An educated woman is aware of her legal and personal rights which itself adds to her security and enlightenment. Education is the first line of defense for a woman to withstand life’s imperiling circumstances which she faces in a tradition bound society like India. To ensure girl education, gross enrolment and retention ratios must be taken care of.
- Mass Media: Mass media over the years has emerged as a major tool for women empowerment in India. Mass media has the potential of propagating issues related to women and bringing about a transformation in the attitudes of husbands and in laws.
- Institutional support: Government schemes, NGOs and corporates can bring about a significant change in the attitudes of women and society. Rulings related to marriage, succession, divorce, adoption, dowry and moral safety or protection against sexual harassment need to be strengthened and implemented for serving the goal of women empowerment in India.
Political Empowerment – Women Empowerment In India
Political empowerment is one of the most important aspects of women empowerment in India. This objective was sought to be achieved by means of constitutional provisions and statutes. Women, since independence have been underrepresented in the political institutions in India. On one hand India had 1 woman prime minister (Indira Gandhi), 2 women presidents (Pratibha Patil and Murumu) and a couple of women chief ministers like Mamta Bannerjee, Mayawati, Jayalalitha, Vasundhara Raje Scindhia and Uma Bharti but otherwise the record of women representation in Indian politics has been dismal. However in the past 3 decades there has been a significant push in the direction of women representation in politics. Additionally, there has been a significant increase in the number of women’s rights organizations and advocacy groups working to increase women’s representation in politics.
Constitutional Provisions For Political Empowerment
- Article 243D(3): Inserted by the 73rd Amendment Act, provides that that not less than one-third (including the number of seats reserved for women belonging to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes) of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Panchayat to be reserved for women and such seats to be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in a Panchayat.
- Article 243 D(4): Provides that not less than one-third of the total number of offices of the Chairpersons (Sarpanch) in the Panchayats at each level be reserved for women.
- Article 243T(3): Inserted by the 74th Amendment Act 1992, provides that, not less than one – third (including the number of seats reserved for women belonging to the scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribes) of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Municipality to be reserved for women and such seats to be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in a Municipality.
- Article 14: Provides for equality before law and equal protection of laws. Thus it is impossible to make any official discrimination against women.
- The Women’s Reservation Bill was introduced in the parliament by the Deve Gawda government in 1996 which provides for 33% reservation for women in Parliament and State Legislative Assemblies. The bill so far has managed to pass in the Rajya Sabha and has been lingering around in the Lok Sabha for the past so many years.
Formal economy in India has a very dismal women’s representation so far. Majority of the women workforce are in the informal sector, domestic labor and agriculture related activities. However in the past few decades there has been a push to ensure women’s participation in the formal sector. Both central and state governments have implemented a number of schemes and programs. These have increased women’s participation in the formal sector of the Indian economy. In the digital and online business era, many women entrepreneurs have come up and now there are many women owned businesses. Some of them have grown as well e.g. Biocon, a pharma giant owned by Kiran Majumdar Shaw. This is a significant step towards women empowerment in India.
Constitutional Provisions For Economic Empowerment
- Article 16: Provides for equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the state.
- Article 39(a): Provides that the state to direct its policy towards securing for men and women equally the right for an adequate means of livelihood.
- Article 39(d): Provides for equal pay for equal work for both men and women.
- Article 42: The state to make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief.
Government Plans And Programs For Economic Empowerment
Over the years the Government of India and the State Governments have launched a series of schemes and programs to catapult the process of women empowerment in India. These can be seen as:
- STEP Scheme: It stands for ‘Support to Training and Employment Program For Women’. Launched in 1986-87, it aims at employability skills and competency to women in the age group of 16 years and above to enable women to become self-employed/ entrepreneurs in the fields of Agriculture, Horticulture, Food Processing, Handlooms, Tailoring, Stitching, Embroidery, Zari etc, Handicrafts, Computer & IT enabled services along with soft skills and skills for the workplace such as spoken English, Gems & Jewellery, Travel & Tourism, Hospitality.
- Hostel Scheme: Launched in 1972-73, it aims at providing hostel facilities to working women in cities, smaller towns and also in rural areas where employment opportunities for women exist. The scheme seeks to promote availability of safe and conveniently located accommodation for working women who need to live away from their families due to professional commitments.
- Mahila E-Haat: This is a bilingual portal launched by the Ministry of Women and Child Development. Its a unique direct online marketing platform leveraging technology for supporting women entrepreneurs/Self Help Groups/ Non Government Organisations for showcasing the products and services which are made, manufactured or undertaken by them.It received the SKOCH GOLD Award as it was adjudged as one of the “Top 100 Projects in India”.
- Mahila Shakti Kendra: Also launched by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, this scheme is envisaged to provide an interface for rural women to approach the government for availing their entitlements and for empowering them through training and capacity building.
Women empowerment in India will never be complete unless there is a social empowerment of women. There are a number of constitutional provisions and legislative enactments that have stimulated the growth of women empowerment in India. In recent years there have been some judicial interventions and judgements also that have helped the growth of women empowerment in India.
Constitutional Provisions For Social Empowerment
- Article 14: Equality before law and equal protection of laws
- Article 15: No discrimination against any citizen on grounds of sex beside religion, race, caste etc.
- Article 15(3): The state to make special provision in favor of women and children.
- Article 39A: To promote justice, on the basis of equal opportunity and to provide free legal aid by suitable legislation or scheme or in any other way to ensure that opportunities for securing justice to all irrespective of economic inequality or other disability.
- Article 46: The state to promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people and to protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.
- Article 51(A)(e): To renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women.
Government Plans And Programs For Social Empowerment
- Beti Bachao Beti Padhao: Launched in January 2015 in Panipat Haryana, the goal of the scheme is to celebrate the girl child and enable her education. The scheme also aims at rectifying the sex ratio and empowering girls. The campaign aims at ensuring that girls are born, nurtured and educated without discrimination to become empowered citizens of this country with equal rights. The government introduced many innovative activities under this scheme like Digital Guddi-Gudda Board, Udaan-Sapneya Di Duniya De Rubaru, My Aim My Target Campaign, LAkshya se Rubaru, Pahal-Ek Kadam Nari Samman ki Aur, Ghar ki Pehchan Beti ke Naam, Bal Cabinet, Introduce Pink Cards and many more.
- One Stop Centres (OSCs): These centers aim to support women affected by violence in private and public spaces, within the family, community and at the workplace. Women facing physical, sexual, emotional, psychological and economic abuse, irrespective of age, class, caste, education status, marital status, race and culture will be facilitated with support and redressal. They also aim at addressing issues related to sexual harassment.
- The Scheme of Universalisation of Women Helpline is intended to provide 24 hours immediate and emergency response to women affected by violence through referral (linking with appropriate authority such as police, One Stop Centre, hospital) and information about women related government schemes programs across the country through a single uniform number.
- UJJAWALA Scheme: It is a Comprehensive Scheme for Prevention of Trafficking for Rescue, Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Victims of Trafficking for Commercial Sexual Exploitation-Ujjawala. The primary aim of the scheme is to prevent trafficking and promote rescue and rehabilitation of victims.
- Swadhar: The scheme aims at providing a supportive institutional framework for women in difficult circumstances in order to enable them to lead a life with dignity and honor.
- Nari Shakti Puraskars: Since 2015. The government gives these awards to eminent women and institutions who provide exceptional service for women empowerment in India. It will also provide an opportunity to the current generation to understand the contribution of women in building society and the nation.
- Nirbhaya Fund: It is a fund which can be utilized for projects specifically designed to improve the safety and security of women. It is a non-lapsable corpus fund, being administered by the Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance. As per the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Finance dated 25.03.2015, the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) is the nodal Ministry to appraise/recommend proposals and schemes to be funded under Nirbhaya Fund.
Parliamentary Enactments For Women Empowerment In India
- Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
- Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005
- Gender Based Violence like the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013
- Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013
- Maternity Benefit Act in 2017 – Increased maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for the private sector.
- India has been a signatory to Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) since 1980 and ratified it in 1993 with some reservations. This convention is a part of the International Labor Organization (ILO) of which India is one of its founding members.
Role Of NGOs For Women Empowerment In India
Non Governmental Organizations have played an important role for women empowerment in India especially in the rural areas.. The Ministry of Women and Child Development collaborates with many NGOs to bring about a qualitative change in the lives of rural women. NGOs are instrumental in implementing various government schemes and conducting research work. Some of the notable NGOs can be seen as:
- Ashadeep Mission: It works for women with mental disabilities. The Navachetana home run by Ashadeep rescues women with mental health issues and provides them with shelter, food, and medical care. The mission also helps the recovered women to reunite with their families.
- Foundation for Mother and Child Health: The foundation works for health and nutritional requirements of women and children from poor families. Their primary focus is on preventive health, balanced nutrition, and child development practices in underprivileged communities.
- Maitri: The organization works on social and health problems and public health concerns through education, community outreach, networking and legal advocacy. The organization has been addressing the issue of violence against women, running a victim support program and providing support to abandoned elderly widows in Vrindavan.
- Apna Ghar Ashram: It works for the destitute and disabled women across 17 cities. The organization is a recipient of many State Government awards.
- Action Aid India: Works for women’s rights and saves women from domestic violence. Started in 1972, it shelters the poor and excluded women.
- Apnalaya: It works for women empowerment in India by helping them to overcome the social, political, and economic barriers and empower them to live with dignity and honor.. They provide sewing classes and train women who otherwise have not been given the choice or opportunity to become financially independent. 209 women have economically benefited from Self Help groups organized by Apnalaya.
- Majlis Manch: Provides legal help to the victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse by its program ‘Rahat’. The all-women team of lawyers and social workers meet with victims and explain the process and procedures involved in a court case. The victims are also enlightened about all the legal, public, and private schemes that they have access to.
- Seven Sisters Development Assistance: It’s a famous organization working in the North Eastern states. Its motto is to create a just and equitable society in the Northeast by eliminating poverty. The organization has two programs, leadership programs for the educated youth of North East India and empowering poor rural women through livelihood activities via Self Help Groups (SHGs). Since it was established in 2011, SeSTA has mobilized nearly 8,000 women to form 700 Self Help Groups (SHGs).
United Nations And Women Empowerment In India
The Human Development Index was extended in order to accommodate issues related to women. The 1995 report emphasized on empowering women as it was required for the overall human development. To study the statistics related to human development and the share of women, two indices were introduced:
- Gender Development Index (GDI) that takes into account inequality in the achievements between women and men and
- Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) which measures the extent to which a woman has influence in decision-making in politics, in professional life and in organizations.
India is working hard to improve its ranking and scores in these indices.
Conclusion On Women Empowerment In India
On the whole women empowerment in India has a long way to go. Significant efforts have been made since independence, but challenges still remain. The ultimate remedy for women empowerment in India is education. There must be more budgetary allocation by Central and State governments in this regard. Women empowerment in India is an inherent part of social change and this will take time. India has completed 75 years of independence but women empowerment still remains elusive. Given the present circumstances India has a long way to go.
– Health (General, Sexual and Reproductive)
– Education and Awareness
– Status in the family
– Household decision-making
– Economic activities
– Participation in community decision making bodies and national politics
– Gender norms and women’s motivations for their choices
– Participation in decision making
– Self Awareness and Self Confidence
Political empowerment, social empowerment, economic empowerment, decision making, life with dignity and honour.