WOMEN EMPOWERMENT

Dipankar Sarmah
Anamika Deb
 
A successful woman is one who can build a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at her. In the words of Indira Gandhi, the former Prime Minister of India, "woman is the companion of man, gifted with equal mental capacity’. For Jawaharlal Nehru, to awake the people, it is the women who must be awakened. Once she is on the move, the family moves, the village mover and the nation moves.

The subject of empowerment of women has been becoming a burning issue all over the world including India since the last few decades. Inequalities between men and women and discrimination against women have been viewed since time immemorial. Women, since the older times have been treated as second rate citizens of all across the globe. Thus, women quest for equality with men is a universal phenomenon.
 
In the simplest of word, women empowerment is an environment where women can make independent decisions on their personal development as well as shines as equals in society.
 
India as a nation, is revered in a feminine form; i.e. the bharat mata. The first citizen of our country was is a woman. While if we trace some decades back the position of women in India has been very complicated because of the paradoxical statements in different religious scriptures and sometimes in the same text at different places. Some have described their status as 'equal to men’ while others have held not only in disrespect but even in positive hatred.
 
If we look at today's scenario, women appear to rule the roost. Women have matched their shoulder with men in every aspects of life. Women have placed their names in government posts, in political fields, business sector, professional workforce etc. India has given birth to women like Indira Gandhi, Kalpana Chawala, Kiran Bedi, M.C. Mary Kom, Saina Nehwal and many more. If we turn our pages to history, we have Rani Laxmi Bai, the queen of Jhansi and Rezia Sultan who had achieved so much in those days were women were mere objects placed behind the purdah system. But as we know a coin has two sides so thus the life of women. On one side of the coin we could come across different successful events and places occupied by women in today's world. But the other side of the coin gives us a different picture towards women. India is a country where goddesses are worshiped but ironically it is the same country where women's are raped, killed in the name of dowry, acid are thrown on women without even a single thought, female child are killed in their mother womb. It is said that women’s rights are human rights but women are the one in this universe who are the victim of crimes and violence. Women constitute half of the world's population, and contribute two third of the world's working hours but earn just one tenth of the world’s property and own less than 10 per cent of the world's property. According to 2011 census, 65.46 per cent of Indian women are illiterate. If we in statistical terms the contribution of women in economic development is minimum.
 
Gender discrimination prevails in almost all the areas; be it social, cultural, economic or educational. An effective remedy for these evils needs to be sought in order to ensure the right to equality as ensured in the constitution of India, to the fair sex. We cannot move our eyes from the rights and acts passed by the government to safeguard women. Besides the fundamentals rights India government have enacted some special laws for women. Some of them are Hindu Marriage Act 1955, the Widow Marriage Act 1856, Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act 1956, Hindu Succession Act 1956, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 etc. In India the Ministry for Women Development & Child was established as a department of the Ministry of Human Resource Development in the year 1985 to drive the holistic development of women and children in the country. Though women of India have more rights than women of other countries but Indian women still suffer the most. The reason behind been the victim of crimes is because of the lacking in 3 L's of women empowerment. The 3 L's are
 
Learning: Learning here means over-riding the importance of women's education, the foundation upon which everything else must be built. Education is both an elevator and a springboard. It allows people to raise themselves up and to break down the divides that keep them apart. At its best, education is a breaker of shackles- the shackles of exclusion and insularity. It is education that provides the training, the nourishment and the support. Education has always been the wide avenue of opportunity.
 
Labour: What comes after learning is labour. Letting women flourish and achieve their true potential in the world of work. Women represent half of the world's population. Yet they represent far less than half of measured economic activity. Today, there are about 865 million women around the world who have the potential to contribute more fully.
 
Leadership: The final link in the chain is leadership. Letting women rise to the top on their strength of their innate abilities and talents. We all know the problem across all fields of work, the higher we climb, the fewer women we see.
 
Theoretically the Indian constitution implies for right to equality but the irony is that applicable in real life? Are women given equal rights in all aspects of society? If we talk about inequality we could view it right from the birth of a child. The foremost inequality that needs to be addressed is the atrocity committed against females at birth and childhood. Female infanticide and female foeticide is common in India, despite the passage of the Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act in 1994. In case they survive, they are subjected to discrimination throughout their lives. Traditionally, since sons are thought to take care of their parents during old age and daughters are considered a burden because of dowry and other expenses that have to be incurred during their marriage, female children are neglected in matters of nutrition, education and other important aspects of well-being. Inequality begins right from family, parents need to know that the difference is not in girl or boy but the difference is in our attitude towards them. A son can be as good as daughter or even better and so can be a daughter. It’s the individual and their attitude towards their duties. It just that we should give both of them the same opportunities in life and do our best to make them good human beings who knows how to shoulder their responsibilities towards their parents and society.
 
Beside different acts passed by government, the government of India had set up The National Commission for Women, which is a department within the ministry of women and child. Additionally, the ministry is also implementing the SWAYAMSIDHA programme- an integrated scheme for the empowerment of women at a total cost of Rs. 116.30 crores. Core to this programme will be the establishment of women’s self-help groups which will empower women to have increased access to all kinds of resources that they are denied, in addition to increasing their awareness and skills.  This programme is said to be benefited about 9,30,000 women with the setting up of 53,000 self-help groups, 26,500 village societies and 650 block societies.
 
But here lies the question, what exactly is women empowerment? Women empowerment doesn’t mean releasing a document saying that some seats (33%) should be reserved for this particular breed of homosapiens because they are incapable of achievements of any sort of their own merit? NO, it’s an attitude, a belief, a philosophy, a way of life. It cannot be brought about by law enforcement. It has to come from within – just as corruption cannot be removed by laws. The difference between law enforced empowerment and a genuine feeling of love and respect towards women is like the difference between education and literacy. There is a very fine hair like demarcation between these two words i.e. the behavioural pattern of two. To truly understand what women empowerment is, there needs to be a sea-change in the mind-set of the people in the country. Not just the women themselves, but the men have to wake up to a world that is moving towards equality and equity.
 
A man and woman are made by god to complement each other neither is in any way inferior to the other. Women are as useful and important to society as men – neither more nor less. Neither man nor women are the better halves of either but are the other half of each other.
 
It is sad that vested interests and sick mentalities all over the world have discriminated and shown women as the weaker sex whereas if realities have to be seen women are much stronger, physically as well as mentally. Real empowerment as we need it today can be brought only if we educate ourselves and our children, to respect women and not by passing a legislation. Women should not look up to the male to give them empowerment, they need to achieve it, snatch it or earn it. Women should make themselves important enough to contribute positively and gainfully to the development of society. Put a barrier, occlude my way, taunt me, tease me, scare me, but I will rise! I will conquer you all and reach my Everest. – A WOMAN.
 
 
About the Author: After completing M.A. (1st class 1st) in Sociology from Dibrugarh University and M. Phil. from Assam University, Silchar, Dipankar Sarmah qualified UGC SET and DCA from C-DEC, Pune. He is currently working as Assistant Professor of Sociology at M.D.K.G. College, Dibrugarh. Earlier he taught at Jorhat College and many other institutions. He has to his credit 18 books on sociology and allied subjects...[Read more]
 
 
 
Anamika Deb: Anamika Deb is currently pursuing her graduation degree in Sociology from MDKG College, Dibrugarh, Assam. She wrote her first write-up in an edited book titled, Youth Development in India which was dedicated to the Prime Minister of India...[Read more] 
 
 

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