Woman was considered to be “Abala” in the earlier days. The condition of woman was delirious as they have to confine themselves as care giver and homemade. The male was the dominant section of the society as such decision making in all the issues weather personal/ non- personal issues. Woman was deprived of Education and restrained them in the participation of decision making process. No education, sexual harassment, physical assault, mal-nutrition during pregnancy and post-delivery literally reduced the expected life. Whatever may be the economic conditions of the family, the status of woman was tantamount to Abala but at varying degrees. Many a times, even International Agencies have made comment about the status of woman in India. Mahatma Gandhi used to quote that India will not attain true independence unless a woman walks on the street freely without any kind of fear. Realizing the importance of woman as “Shakti” of the family, the government employed various measures from time to time to increase their living conditions. Woman Empowerment is basically through education which inspired them to take part in various activities without any fear, for the overall development.
Woman Empowerment is the process of empowering woman. Woman empowerment is stressed by Mahatma Gandhi on the ground that woman is more fitted than man to make exploration and take bolder steps in non-violence further he stressed emphatically that there is a need to have gender fairness. Many have defined empowerment in many ways. In general, empowerment means accepting and allowing woman who are on the outside of the decision making process into it. This clearly indicates that strong emphasis on participation in political structure and formal decision making in the economic sphere and ability to obtain an income which enable them to take part in the economic decisions.
As already stated woman section of the society had to have lot of pin pricks, harassment and assault are not uncommon. Today conditions may be different as many women could get access to education and opportunities including legal reports to fight against discrimination, hazard and harassment by the male section of the society. Woman empowerment clearly provides access to the opportunities without limitations and restrictions such as education, profession and lifestyle. It includes the action of raising the status of woman through education, raising awareness, literacy and training. Woman empowerment is all about equipping and allowing them to make decisions in the life determining through different problems in the society.
As is known for ages many positions in all economic activities were held by men causing a big gender inequality. United Nation Organization passed serious remark on such inequality besides continuous exploitation, sexual harassment and assault on woman which literally ruined the self-respect. The international agencies have pointed out that there is an urgent need to weed out inequality through the process woman empowerment. Considering the problems faced by women, the drafting committee of the Indian Constitution inserted a article in it. Constitution of India guarantees to all Indian women equality (Article 14), no discrimination by the State (Article 15(1)), equality of opportunity (Article 16),equal pay for equal work (Article 39(d)) and Article 42. In addition, it allows special provisions to be made by the State in favor of women (Article 15(3)).National Commission for Women (NCW) established to examine the problems of woman in India and find solution thereof.
Measures Adopted by Government to Empower Woman
India is a federal structure having both center and states including union territories. The subject comes under concurrent list, therefore, both center and the states have undertaken innumerable measures from time to time to redress the grievances of woman and thereby achieve dignified life in the country.
Education is the key to women’s empowerment. Through it, women have better access and opportunities in the workforce, leading to increased income and less isolation at home or exclusion from financial decisions. With an education, women are able to live their dreams by pursuing their own goals and values. Education increases people self- confidence and enable the woman to find better jobs and they can work shoulder to shoulder with men in particular. Education empowers woman to make choices which improve their children’s health, their well- being and chances of survival.
Government policy of compulsory education for girl’s upto 12 years forced them to get marry only after attaining 18 years. 12 years of education comes under secondary level of education, as such it is regarded as priority sector, hence free education to them. Due to constant support extended by the government the percentage of woman who could access to education is increased phenomenally. As far as higher education is concerned, many girl students have accessed to the subject that they desire under various stream and fulfill their dreams. Government also conducts occupation/ occasion/ technical skill programs for the benefit of woman. However, there are still many barriers preventing girls and women to pursueand complete their education, limiting women empowerment.
Empowerment of woman needs to be made in terms of health as well. Patriarchal nature of Indian society, constrained mobility, limited work opportunities, and low levels of social, political and economic participation leads to negative consequences, such as poor health, disparities in allocation of household resources, medical care and education, and increased burden of strenuous physical tasks. Malnutrition and undernourishment during pregnancy and post-delivery used to climb the toll of mother and infants. In view of high risk of malnutrition and disease that woman face at all 3 stages viz. infancy and childhood, adolescence, reproductive stage. In an endeavor to empower woman Government has undertaken health services also. This primarily include, extending of maternity benefit i.e. 6 months paid holiday to the woman in structured organizations. Further, other programmes such as comprehensive child development program, Bhagyalakshmi Plan, Sthree Shakti Plan, Chetana Plan, Skill Development Program, Prime- Minister Mathra Vandana and State sponsored Mathrushree Program, Sandhya Suraksha Plan, and Manaswini to support widows, and so on. These entire program support woman to tackle health related issues that they encounter.
Political empowerment supports creating policies which would ensure gender equality and agency for woman in both public and private spheres. The government has fixed the quota for woman participation in rural development and local government (minimum 33%) whereas the government is yet to approve similar participation of woman in parliament and legislative assembly which is the need of the hour. Lack of political consensus is considered to be a hindrance in this regard. There are some criticisms against woman participation in the political arena stating that woman is typically associated with child care and domestic responsibilities in their home. Many state governments have increase quota for the women in various jobs mainly to ensure gender equality. There are woman in the country that rose to the level of president of India, Speaker of Lok Sabha, Chief Minister and Governor, besides many have ascended the coveted positions.
- Sports and Games:
The Government supports woman and enable them to take part in the sports and games even at global level. Many of them have demonstrated their vigor and registered splendid performance in Asian Games, Common Wealth Games, Olympics, etc. Besides some of them have places on record their stupendous performance in sports at various events.
Woman will be involved in the program of environment, conservation and restoration. The vast majority of the rural woman depended on locally available noncommercial sources of energy such as animal dung, crop waste and fuel wood. This has caused many health issues for the woman besides, polluting the environment. The government encourages the woman of rural sector and also BPL Card holders to use cooking gas under Prime Minister “Ujwala” Program.
- Science and Technology:
Government encourage woman to get them involved in science and technology. Measure have been put in place to train woman in area where they have special skills like information technology, communication, astronomy, food technology, internal security, etc.
- Mass Media:
Mass Media will be used to portray images consistent with human dignity of girls and woman. Media network ensure equal access for woman in the field of information and communication technology. The media would be encouraged to develop code of conduct, professional guidelines and other self-regulatory mechanism to remove gender stereotypes of men and woman.
- Woman in difficult situations:
Woman in difficult situation include, woman in extreme poverty, destitute woman, woman in conflict situation,, woman affected by natural calamities, woman in less developed region, disabled widows, elderly woman, single woman, woman heading households, those displaced from employment, migrants, deserted woman, etc. The internal security is pressed into action with helpline which extend proper support to that woman.
- Violence against Woman:
All forms of violence against women, physical and mental, at domestic or society including the office will be dealt effectively by following the guidelines of the Supreme Court of India. As and when such incidents are reported employers have to constitute a committee to conduct investigation threadbare the committee shall comprise of the representatives from legal background, woman folk and administrators, which can conduct explorative study giving opportunities to all those and submit recommendations to take action against the perpetrators of such violence. The people involved in trafficking in woman and girls will also be punished under the Law.
- National Commission for Woman:
It is a statutory body created by the Act of Parliament led by a woman as a chair person. It is the responsibility of the commission to visit the places where the woman are put into hardship and suggest remedial measures to improve the life of such woman so that they can lead better life without any anxiety and fear.
Success Stories of Women in India
Today the role of woman in nation building is immeasurable, thanks to the plethora of opportunities extended by the government. In fact, many women have contributed stupendous growth in various sectors due to their commitment and confidence that they have gained through the support given by the government.
- Indra Nooyi
Indra Nooyi is chairperson and CEO of PepsiCo. She has consistently been featured in the Forbes World’s 100 Most Powerful Women list
- Kiran Mazumdar Shaw
She is the founder of Biocon, one of India’s leading biopharmaceutical companies
- Vandana Luthra
Vandana Luthra started VLCC Health Care Limited as a small health and beauty services in 1989 at New Delhi. Presently, the company operates in 323 locations in different parts of the world.
- Chanda Kochhar
As Managing Director and CEO of ICICI Bank, she has shaped the retail banking in the country. Her name is also figured in the Forbes list of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women
- Ekta Kapoor
Ekta Kapoor headsBalaji Telefilms, an Indian television company in entertainment industry.
- Indu Jain
She is the chairperson of the Times Group, which is India’s largest media
- Upasana Taku
She is the co-founder of Mobikwik, one of the country’s leading digital payment wallets
- Shahnaz Hussain
She is the CEO of Shahnaz Herbals, which is one of the country’s leading herbal cosmetics companies
- Kalpana Chawla
The 1st Indian Woman astronaut.
- Lata Mangeshkar
She is one of the legends in film industry. She is a fantastic playback singer and sang over 25,000 solo, duet and chorus backed songs in 20 Indian Languages.
- Sudha Murthy
She is the chairperson of Infosys foundation. She has been extending support to education institutions, hospitals, conservation of wild life, tourism, rural development, etc.
- Prathibha Patil
She is the 1st woman President of India
- Meera Kumar
She is the 1st woman of India to become speaker of Lok Sabha
- Sushma Swaraj
She is the 1st Indian woman to become Chief Minister of a state
Empowerment of Girls Students in Educational Institutions
MHRD has directed all the institutions to adopt the measures so as to ensure safety of girl students from the level of primary education to higher education.
- Woman Cell: It is mandatory on the part of institution to constitute women cell comprising of various representatives as per MHRD Regulations. The cell meets regularly discuss the grievances of girl students and offer remedial measures to tackle such problems.
- Committee for the prevention of sexual harassment is a mandatory process as per the direction of the Supreme Court.
- Transportation Service provider in the school shall be under the scanner.
- Periodic talks shall be arranged to sensitize about the legal punishment to the offenders.
- Separate rest room with newspapers and indoor games may be provided
- Woman counselor should be put in place to conduct counselling for the girl students who are confronting with the intra and inter problems
- Medical attendants should be arranged to ensure better health for girls students
- Priority shall be given to the girl students for their admission to various courses.
- Create awareness to the girl students about the facilities such as scholarships, nutrition, allowances, health care, etc. extended by the Government.
- CC TV should be made mandatory and the footage demands review periodically
- Parents Teachers meeting should be conducted about the safety measures for girl students.
- Sensitize the boys about the punishment to be awarded to the offenders of girl student violence
- Create awareness about the progression of higher education and career growth
Woman, an “Abala” was put into lot of exploitation, domestic violence, indiscriminate treatment, sexual harassment, assault both physical and mentally by the dominant male section of the society. As Mahatma Gandhi’ is saying that the woman is more fitted than man to take bolder decisions in nonviolence. The Indian constitution, realizing the opinion of Mahatma Gandhi, guaranteed equal life to woman without any kind of discrimination. The government of India launched various programmes to empower woman in education, economic, politics, science and technology, research and development, civic administration, internal security, infrastructure development, etc. In response to the initiatives a big junk of women population have raised to the hierarchical ladder. Today, no sector can be observed without the representation of the women. Notwithstanding, domestic violence, harassment, woman trafficking, assault etc. is being reported sporadically. The government should come out with proper legislation to handle such problem with iron hand.