Women Empowerment in India: Burning issue

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By RITESH SINHA

GURGAON : As the whole world celebrated March 8 as Women’s Day women still are significantly under-represented in decision-making at all levels. For centuries women were not treated equal to men in many ways. They were not allowed to own property, to have a share in the property of their parents, to vote, to choose their work or job and so on. Now that they have come out of those dark days of oppression there is a need for strong movement to fight for the rights of women and to ensure that they get all the rights which men have or in other words a movement for the Empowerment of Women.

The status of Women in India has been subject to many great changes over the past few millenniums. In spite of the various measures taken up by the government after Independence and even during British rule the Women haven’t been fully empowered. We may be proud of women in India occupying highest offices of President, Prime Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker, Leader of the Opposition or women like Ms. Chandra Kochar occupying highest positions in the Corporate Sector but the fact remains that we still witness dowry deaths, domestic violence and exploitation of women.

The female feticide is not an uncommon phenomenon. The male female ratio although improved over last few years is still far from satisfactory. It is 940 women per 1000 men for India but in some states it is as much lower as 877. While the country has grown from leaps and bounds since its independence where education is concerned, the gap between women and men is severe. While 82.14% of adult men are educated, only 65.46% of adult women are known to be literate in India.

Investing in women’s and girls’ education is one of the most effective ways to empower them. While the economic benefits of educating girls are similar to those of educating boys, recent findings suggest the social benefits are greater.Women have the potential to change their own economic status and that of their communities and countries in which they live yet usually women’s economic contributions are unrecognized, their work undervalued and their promise undernourished. Unequal opportunities between women and men hamper women’s ability to lift themselves from poverty and secure improved options to improve their lives. Education is the most powerful instrument for changing women’s position in society.

Male involvement in women’s empowerment has been of recent concern, many women working in the field remain unconfident, uncertain, antagonistic and very hostile to the idea that men might be or are partners in the fight for gender equality. Personally, for the empowerment of women to be achieved, the role of men can never be overemphasized due to the fact that the lives of men and women are intertwined such that whatever affects one directly or indirectly affects the other. It is worth noting that men even in the most traditional and patriarchal societies believe and support women’s empowerment and would want to see their mothers, sisters, daughters and wives live in a society where equity and justice is paramount. The lives of men and women are interdependent and any benefit from women empowerment will go a long way to benefit both.

Governmental Organizations are formal agencies working for the empowerment of women. But this work requires multidimensional approach and hence a large number of voluntary organizations / NGOs have gained increased attention in the field from grass – root level to national & international level. Their role is so impressive because they work with missionary zeal and commitment. The working style of NGOs is open, transparent and personal. So, they are more effective in this direction.DLF Foundation has also been extensively working for the women empowerment with a focus in the rural India.

The Foundation regularly organize sessions in villages of Haryana and nearby areas where residents are given meaningful insights to the need for gender equality and on the notion that women are also entitled to live with dignity,with freedom from fear and at par with their counterparts. Health camps are organized at regular intervals for the villagers especially women to understand the health risks that they are prone to and guide them to inculcate healthy habits by maintaining certain hygiene standards in and around their surroundings.

Cancer awareness camps are also being organized to sensitize women about the disease and empower them with the information and prevention measures.Skill development is also one of our flagship initiatives that works for empowering women in India. Special training programs are formulated to enhance the skills of the women. That has identified the three most basic areas of skills, on which the courses have begun. One of them is focused on providing training for computer knowledge. That has helped women to become computer literate as well as benefit from latest improvements in technology today and flow of communication.

The initiatives taken under skill development programme has also managed to provide training in sewing and tailoring. Several sewing machines have been set up at the training centers to empower women in rural communities. Apart from that, beauty courses and training centers have been opened so that women can start their own business. All these training programs have equipped today’s women with skills providing livelihood for a more secure future.

The entire initiative taken by DLF Foundation keeping focus on girl and women’s livelihood, which is the most relevant need in the villages today. To spread awareness on menstrual hygiene and capacity building of women along with it, establishment of a micro enterprise for manufacturing sanitary napkins is underway wherein women are made aware of the health benefits of practicing good menstrual hygiene and sanitary napkins made by the micro enterprise will be sold as well leading to income generation.

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. It is better that this is embraced earlier rather than later, for our own good.The Government and we, the people have responsibility towards women empowerment. And we can achieve this ‘Millennium Development Goal definitely.  One day will come, when gender inequality will only be present in the history books.

(Author  Ritesh Sinha is Director, Programs DLF Foundation)

India CSR News Network

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