“I measure the progress of a community by the degree of progress which women have achieved” – B. R. Ambedkar
According to United Nations, Women’s empowerment has five components:
- Women’s 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 more just social and economic order, nationally and internationally.
Status of women empowerment over the ages:-
In Rig Veda same status is given to men and women. Women had the right to select their life partners. Women also had the power to take decisions related to them. Also, the Upanishads clearly declare that we individual souls are neither male nor female. However, this tradition of gender equality started declining in the later Vedic age and gender inequality started creeping in the society. Social evils against women like- Child marriage, Sati, Juhar, etc also started. During British time a ray of hope was started by Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Ishwar Chandra Vidya Sagar who raised their voice for women’s rights. The next phase of women’s empowerment started when Mahatma Gandhi emerged in the national picture. Various women like Sarojini Naidu, Kalpana Dutt, Usha Mehta took active participation in the Indian freedom struggle.
Dimensions of women empowerment:
Social and cultural empowerment:
At the individual level: Involvement of women in decision about their activity related to its own self. Then it may be about her health, about household purchase, decision about contraception, menstrual hygiene, sanitation, health, surrogacy, abortion.
At the familial and societal level: Involvement of women in decisions related to their carries, marriage, share in the parental property, lifestyle, choice of dress and friends, behavior, etc.
At the level of Framing and implementation of the law: involve of gender-sensitive law which protects the right of women. Some law which recognizes women right is Dowry Prohibition act, 1961, domestic violation act-2005, section 498 of IPC, etc.
Definition and restriction of women career: women household work is unpaid and unrecognized, more involvement of women in Agriculture, Discrimination in work and wages in Informal sector, most of the career option are restricted by society.
Inequality at the workplace: this inequality in form of wages, maternity leave, sexual harassment at workplace, glass-ceiling effect.
Political Parties and Legislature: Discrimination at party level regarding the number of tickets allocated, political violence against women, gender-based discrimination, or favor based on sex.
- Less number of women legislators, Poor representation at legislatures;
- Executive: Bureaucracy lack representation of women, Police, Armed Forces
- Judiciary: Representation; Discrimination against women, Sexual harassment against women
Women make up 11.8% of the Lok Sabha and 11% of the 245-member Rajya Sabha. Women constitute only 9% of the State Assembly members and 5% of the State Council members. States like Mizoram, Nagaland, and Puducherry have zero women MLAs.
To tackle all these challenges various steps are taken by the government as per the need of time. Some of the steps and related concerns are given below:
Reservation to women:
Women Reservation Bill, 2008 – It provides for the reservation of one-third of all seats for women in the Lok Sabha and the state legislative assemblies.
Women reservation in Panchayati Raj– Article 243 D of the Constitution provides for 1/3rd of the Seats of Panchayati Raj Institutions and offices of the Chairperson at all levels of Panchayati Raj Institutions to be reserved for women. States like Bihar, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, and Himachal Pradesh provide 50% reservation for women in Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs). Some Governments are considering increasing reservations for women in panchayats from the current 33% to 50%.
Women reservation in Police – The government has approved 33% reservation for women in police forces of all UTs through direct recruitment in non-gazetted posts. The states of Gujarat and Bihar have implemented 33% reservation for women in the police force.
Women in Armed/Paramilitary Forces – Indian Air Force has opened new combat roles for women as fighter pilots. The government has allowed direct-entry women officers in all 5 Central Armed Police Forces. It has also allowed direct entry to women in junior rank via direct recruitment and also to women officers via Union Public Service Commission in supervisory combat roles. The government also plans to induct women in 33% constable-rank personnel in CRPF and CISF and 15% in the border guarding forces BSF, SSB, and ITBP.
Though reservations are provided to empower women politically but there are some issue and benefits related to it;
Merits of Women’s Reservation
- It will increase the participation of women members in Parliament and state assemblies which is recently skewed with women constituting only 11.8% of Lok Sabha and 11% of Rajya Sabha.
- Issue related to women’s will get much more priority in the Parliament and can be resolved easily.
- It can also help in making the atmosphere of the Parliament and state assemblies more conducive for debates and discussions.
- Reservation in PRIs for Women offers a successful example of how reservation can be used as a tool for women’s empowerment. Some state recently want to increase this reservation to 50%
Demerits of Women’s Reservation
- It takes away the democratic right of the electorate to elect their representatives as after reservation they have the choice to elect only women candidates at seats reserved for women. It is also against the right to equality.
- It is not guaranteed that the benefits of this reservation percolated to socially backward and underprivileged women, who really need want political representation.
- Many MLAs and MPs who are already having seats in Parliament and state assemblies will try to bring their own wives and other relatives to fulfill the seats. Hence the true meaning of the act to empower women to make their decision is somehow undermined.
EMPOWERMENT IN MEDIA/TECHNOLOGY
- The representation of women in media has always suffered because it is normal thinking that it is a male-dominated job. For example, in movies, women are assigned insignificant or stereotypical roles such as mothers or wives, instead of the main protagonists. Even in advertisements, women are seen in household-related work. Songs are alleged to promote violence against women or somehow justify it. It will also cause the commodification of women.
- Though the recent trends have shown an improvement. E.g. Many women-centric movies have been released which promote gender equity in Bollywood (movies like Raazi, Queen, Hichki, etc.)
- Enabled access and affordability of education, health, skill to each and every woman of the country.
- Provision for employment opportunities especially in the service sector eg. IT, ITES which does not require so much physical work.
- Women-centric technologies or inventions are not given priority or importance. For example, the movie Padman was based on Arunachalam Muruganantham, a social entrepreneur who invented the low-cost sanitary pad-making machine that is costly as compare to commercial pads and easy to use for poor women.
WOMEN IN SPORTS
Sports are mostly characterized by aggression, physical strength, etc., and viewed as male dominant. Women keen on sports not only face opposition family but from society, coaches, and any other section of society. But recent Exceptions are Saina Nehwal, Geeta Phogat, Mary Kom, and Sakshi Malik, etc. who show their presence at the national level.
Issues of pay parity: Discrimination regarding resources i.e. sports infrastructure is not women-friendly. Issues of sexual harassment, lower pay as compared to their male counterpart, for example, the difference in fee of the male and female cricket team of India. Poor representation of women in sports governing bodies; Post-retirement from sportswomen status is not so glorious as compared to men.
At last, the need of the hour is to enable women to realize their potential. While the government must take measures in the field of health, education, employment, awareness for women, etc. It is also important to create awareness and create public values about women in society which will promote women empowerment. If we empower women then we can empower our next generation.
“You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation” – Brigham Young
This article is written by;
Selected as Assistant Commandant (UPSC CAPF 2019)
Also appeared for Civil Services Interview
Email: [email protected]