2) The women who blazed the trail
3) Microscopic Minority
4) Sad Plight of Women
5) Empowerment is the only answer
6) What is empowerment
7) Women who proved well due to political empowerment
8) Political Empowerment at the National Level
9) Position in Panchayats
10) Reservation in Parliament and Assemblies a myth ?
12)Role of NGOs in social empowerment
13) Steps taken by Govt for social empowerment:
14) Empowerment paves way for glory
INTRODUCTION: “There is no chance for the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved. It is not possible for a bird to fly on only one wing,” said Swami Vivekananda. But through centuries, societies in the world over have been trying to fly on only one wing, denying women their rightful place. The greatest champions of women’s rights have been great men like Gandhiji, Raja Rammohun Roy, Ishwarachandra Vidyasagar, Maharshi Karve and ironically those who have systematically exploited and degraded them have also been of a largely-male dominated society. The very concept of women empowerment shows that society as such has given a raw deal to women – who comprise nearly fifty percent of the population and women themselves have to come forward to fight for their rightful place in all walks of life and prevent their exploitation in every field. Women, who number 498.7 million according to the 2001 census of India, represent 48.2 percent of the country’s population of 1,027.01 million. Let us analyse the ways and means for empowerment of women.
Quite often we are carried away by the roll call of honour – the name of few luminaries who have left their footprints on the sands of time or who are fighting lonely battles – Indira Gandhi, Sirimao Bandaranaike, the first woman Prime Minister of a country (Sri Lanka) in the world, Chandrika Kumaratunga, Golda Meir, the first woman Prime Minister of Israel, Margaret Thatcher, the first woman Prime Minister of UK, Vijayalakshmi Pandit, the first woman President of UN General Assembly and many others. As a supercop, Kiran Bedi even excelled her male colleagues in jail reforms for which she was awarded Magsaysay Award. Now one hears a lot about Nisha Sharma, the UP girl who sent her prospective groom and in-law to jail for making unreasonable dowry demands.
Microscopic Minority: All the names cited here have been empowered women and they made both the society and womenfolk proud of them. But they form a microscopic minority in a country where even after more than half a century of Independence, women are still looked down upon as a lesser species, virtual second-class citizens.
Sad Plight of Women:Attitudes towards women have not changed; in fact, things have indeed gone from bad to worse after Independence. Despite law, such reprehensible practices as female foeticide, female infanticide and child marriage are still prevalent in many parts of the country. Dowry is a plague that stalks every family having marriageable daughters and like AIDS it has no cure. Incidence of sexual harassment, eve teasing, sexual abuse of female children and rape are on the rise. Women form a sizeable percentage of the workforce in the unorganized sector, but most of the labour laws do not cover them. Those who have been to the pilgrim centers of Matura, Brindavan and Varanasi would have noticed the large number of widows living in abject penury. These are the widows dumped here by their relatives from West Bengal and other States. In almost every sphere, the female species is the most vulnerable.
Empowerment is the only answer: Will the empowerment of women mean a difference to their present status? The answer could be mixed, though the positive side overshadows the negative side. with all the social attitudes towards women, an empowered woman is in a far better position than a lay, unlettered and helpless woman. And this empowerment has to cover the political, economic, social and legal fields.
What is empowerment: It is giving lawful power or authority to act. If people were empowered they would be able to participate in the planning, execution and implementation of developmental schemes. Apart from Political Empowerment Economic and Social Empowerment are crucial. Empowerment and development are closely related. Empowerment leads to development, which further leads to greater empowerment.
Women who proved well due to political empowerment:As regards political empowerment we have come a long way. We had an “iron lady” in Indira Gandhi; women like Sarojini Naidu, Vijayalakshmi Pandit Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, Dr. Sushila Nayyar, Sucheta Kripalani have done not a little to mould modern India. There are veteran MPs and Ministers in the Centre and the States. Ms.Mayawati and Ms.Jayalalithaa, have proved to be astute politicians while Ms.Mamata Banerjee has shown that she is still a force in Indian politics, to be reckoned with.
All the same, women empowerment in national and State politics has just been a non-starter. It has taken 56 years and 13 Lok Sabha for the percentage of women members in the House to move up partially from a mere 4.4 percent in 1952 to 8.8 percent in 2004, a figure that is far below the average of around 15 percent in countries which have elected legislatures. Though our dismal record is comparable to Brazil’s 8.6%, Indonesia’s 8.0%, Russia’s 7.6%, Japan’s 7.3%, Sri Lanka’s 4.4%and Bangladesh’s 2.0%. Yet we are far behind countries like Sweden (45.3%). Cuba (36.0%). Germany (32.2%), China (21.8%), Pakistan (21.6%), UK (17.9%) and France (12.2%).
Position in Panchayats: Of course, we made a bold beginning in respect of the political empowerment of women at the grassroots level during the Rajiv Gandhi regime. During his regime, the 64th Constitutional Amendment Bill for reservation for women in Panchayats was introduced. Though it failed in the Rajya Sabha, it was reintroduced during Narasimha Rao’s regime. In December 1992, Parliament passed the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments providing for 33% reservation for women in the Panchayat Rajbodies. In the last decade after the legislation came into force, the women as Presidents and members of the Panchayats have played a signal role in local bodies. Women have stormed male bastions of power not only in the village panchayats, but in the municipal councils and municipal corporations in towns and big cities.
“Women elected to Panchayats and municipal councils because of reservation policy are now asserting themselves,” says Sudha Mohan, who teaches urban studies at Mumbai University’s Department of Civics and Politics. Although women are still under-represented in the national political arena, the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments have increased their access to decision-making at the local level. This has resulted in practical changes, according to actress and Rajya Sabha member, Shabana Azmi. For instance, she said, women in local government tended to take up basic issues like water, health facilities and education even as their male counterparts seemed more interested in building marriage halls and community centers.Large-scale entry of women in local self-government institutions in rural and urban India has changed the face and tenor of the elected bodies. For instance, for a change one can feel the predominant presence of women in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation(BMC). This civic body had approximately five women corporators before the 1992 elections. In 2002, 78 women entered the 227 members house because of the reservation policy.
Reservation in Parliament and Assemblies a myth ? Right from 1996, the women of India have been waiting for the clearance of the Women’s Reservation Bill that would give them one-third reservation in Parliament and the State Legislatures. The Bill was introduced several times since then, but because of the lack of sheer political will, it still remains in the gestation phase. Can we ever expect the menfolk who dominate Parliament and State Legislatures with a more than ninety percent majority to surrender their privileges and positions overnight? On some plea or the other, the move is scuttled again and again. The ball started rolling from the days of the Gujral regime, got stuck up during the Deve Gowda rule and started moving again after the advent of Vajpayee government. There have been ugly scenes in the Lok Sabha when irate members tore up the Bill or snatched it from the Minister introducing the Bill. Nonetheless, almost all parties, even those opposed to the Bill in its present form, do agree that women should be given greater representation in Parliament and the State Legislatures. Ultimately, what form the Bill will take in future when it comes to the Lok Sabha remains to be seen.
Social Empowerment: Political empowerment of women is only a part of the overall mainstreaming of women. At the political level only a microscopic minority of women, at the helm of affairs, can effect the change in the life of women. It is the economic and social empowerment of women that needs to be given greater importance. This could be achieved a lot though education. Education of women means greater awareness of their role in society. Awareness of their rights, better knowledge of housekeeping and better performance of their roles as a housewife and mother. Education and training have opened up the avenues of employment and self-employment in the organized sector. As never before women are working in diverse fields as doctors, engineers, IAS officers, IPS officers, bank officials and in a wide range of sectors in the unorganized sector. In agriculture, most of the operations are run by women.
Role of NGOs in social empowerment:Non-governmental organizations are playing a significant role in the empowerment of disadvantages women. Just a few years after Independence, the Government set up the Central Social Welfare Board, an apex body of the voluntary sector that aids more than 10,000 NGOs across the country, helping women stand on their own through such programmes as socio-economic programme, vocational training and other similar programmes.
Steps taken by Govt for social empowerment: The Department of Women and Child Development has been implementing special programmes for the holistic development and empowerment of women with major focus to improve their socio-economic status. There has been policy shifts from time to time based on the shifts in emphasis. While the focus earlier was welfare and development of women, now the focus is on ‘women’s empowerment’. In fact, the year 2001 was declared as “Women’s Empowerment Year” to bring greater focus on the programmes for women.A programme of Support to Training-cum-Employment for Women (STEP) was launched in 1987 to strengthen and improve the skills for employment opportunities for women below the poverty line, in traditional sectors of agriculture, small animal husbandry, dairying, fisheries, handlooms, handicrafts, cottage and village industries, sericulture, social forestry and wasteland development where women are employed on a large scale. The scheme was essentially designed for the marginalized and assetless women, female-headed households and other poor women. Other major government programmes to empower poor women have been the Swayamsidha launched in March 2001 and the Swa-Shakti Project (earlier known as Rural Women’s Development and Empowerment Project), launched in October 1998. All these projects are designed to empower the lower socio-economic groups in the country.WOMEN DEV CORPN IN STATES
Empowerment paves way for glory: Here give some good points through your analysis
Conclusion: Empowerment by itself may not place women on an equal footing with men. The greatest need of the hour is change of social attitude to women. Take the classic case of dowry. Dowry is still rampant in a virulent form even among the highly educated a girl may be, dowry is still demanded. We have seen the case of Nisha and she and her parent too were willing to pay the dowry. Only when the demands crossed the limits, she fought back. How many girls are there who can toe her line? Women’s empowerment means a lot, but the ultimate goal of the equalization of man and woman would materialize only when her complementary role is recognized by the society.