Status of Women Empowerment in India

“To call woman the weaker sex is a libel; it is man’s injustice to woman. If by strength is meant brute strength, then, indeed, is woman less brute than man. If by strength is meant moral power, then woman is immeasurably man’s superior. Has she not greater intuition, is she not more self-sacrificing, has she not greater powers of endurance, has she not greater courage? Without her, man could not be. If nonviolence is the law of our being, the future is with woman. Who can make a more effective appeal to the heart than woman?”

-Mahatma Gandhi

I believe the true progress of a nation can be measured by the way its women our treated. It is really unfortunate that women have been the subject of constant oppression, dogma and even ridicule the world over in recent centuries. However, we have seen considerable progress being made in the world on women empowerment since the 19th century and the world is improving for the women folk with every passing day albeit a little slowly. Women are one of the most self-sacrificing, caring and sensitive creations of the Almighty in this vast universe. In a world of constant in-fighting, it is a woman who acts as a warm sanctuary for a man after he returns home. In the role of a mother, sister, daughter and partner, she is the one who stands unwaveringly for her dependents at all times. I’m sorry but I can’t say the same about every man! Be it a politician, business tycoon, common man or a stone-hearted terrorist; no one can deny the fact that it is the love of a woman (mother, daughter, partner or sister) that keeps his world sunny and she is his inspiration to not let the ugly side of the world get too deep inside his head. I doubt if a man could have shown courage in the face of horrendous adversity as was displayed by the Pakistani girl Malala Yousafzai against the militant terror outfit Taliban!

GDP, HDI, MDG, etc. are together incomplete for measuring the progress of a nation if we don’t include the parameters to measure women empowerment and security.

I am writing this post to highlight the problems and significant strides made by India in the last few months towards women empowerment. In the only country where God is worshipped in the female form, it is rather depressing and heartbreaking to see the current state of affairs pertaining to women security. But there is light at the end of this arduous tunnel towards women empowerment in India as you can analyze from the developments below.

Problems

  1. NSSO Survey: 60% of the rural households have no toilets. Women are helpless in this regard and have no other option but to defecate in the open, which is a high risk activity as many victims of assault are abducted when they go out to relieve themselves.
  2. GER (Gross Enrolment Ratio) of women in India is 17.9% (2010-11)
  3. UN Report: Gender violence a persistent challenge in India.
  4. Women account for only 10% of the seats in the Indian Parliament.
  5. World Bank IFC Report: Women-owned businesses in India face financing gap of 73% of the total demand, even when the women-owned MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) constitute 10% of the total MSMEs in India. The newly established Bharatiya Mahila Bank will help bridge this gap now.
  6. Sex ratio declining in India. From 927 in 2001 down to 919 in 2011 for the age group 0-6 years.
  7. UNICEF Report: 77% of the teenage girls (15-19 years) endure sexual violence by their spouses in India.

Developments

  1. To ensure the socio-economic development of women in rural areas, the National Mission for Empowerment of Women is promoting a model intervention project. At the heart of the project — launched in 21 districts nationwide, including Pali in Rajasthan — is the women’s centre, Poorna Shakti Kendra, established in villages, for offering services to women at the grassroots. Working with the motto, hum sunenge nari ki baat(we will listen to women’s voices), two women coordinators or Gram Samanvayaks in each Kendra will help women get pensions and voter identity and Aadhaar cards.
  2. The guidelines on treatment of sexual assault victims issued by the Department of Health Research advises healthcare facilities not to refuse treatment to a victim of sexual assault and doctors not to use the term ‘rape’ in their medical reports as it is a legal definition and does not constitute medical diagnosis. The guidelines also warn medical professionals against performing the “finger test” and mentioning that the victim “is habituated to sexual intercourse,” the usual practice examining physicians follow. “This is unlawful interference with her privacy and unlawful attacks on her honour and reputation and is violation of her human rights and has no medical/scientific significance. In a prosecution of sexual assault, where the question of consent is in issue, evidence of character of the victim or of her previous sexual experience with any person is not relevant on the issue of such consent or quality of consent,” it says.
  3. MMR (Maternal Mortality Rate) comes down to 178 per 1,00,000 live births. India is inching closer to achieving the Millennium Development Goal of reducing MMR down to 109 by the year 2015.
  4. Government orders implementation of the multi-sectoral programme to address the maternal and child under-nutrition in 200 high burden districts in the 12th Five Year Plan. The multi-sectoral nutrition programme would address the maternal and child malnutrition in 200 high burden districts by bringing together various national programmes through strong institutional, programmatic and operational convergence at the State, District, Block and Village levels. The scheme will cost ₹ 1,213.19 crore for the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17)
  5. GPS and CCTVs to be installed in public transport. The ₹ 1405 crore project is part of the Nirbhaya Fund. The project is to ensure women’s safety. The scheme will cover 32 cities and towns which have a population of over 1 million.
  6. High Level Committee on the status of Women in India (Pam Rajput Committee) recommends 50% quota for women in decision-making bodies. It said the Parliamentary Committee on the Empowerment of Women must examine the gender implications of all proposed legislation and the National Commission for Women, as an apex body responsible for and answerable to 50 per cent of the population of India( i.e. women), must go beyond ‘reactive interventions’ to fulfil the proactive mandate of studying, recommending and influencing policies, laws, programmes and budgets to ensure full benefits to the stakeholders.
  7. Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar will launch a martial arts school to give self-defence training to women free of cost (:-)
  8. Through a government scheme in New Delhi, women autorickshaw drivers are being given preference while providing licences in a move aimed at ensuring that women commuters feel safe while using public transport in the city.
  9. Bihar ex-CM Nitish Kumar had started a government scheme to provide free sanitary napkins to schoolgirls in Bihar to boost girls’ education and stem the dropout rate in higher classes. Also, tie-ups with local SHGs (Self Help Groups) would be made to manufacture the napkins which in turn will boost women employment in the rural areas. The cost of the scheme has been projected at ₹ 32 crore per annum or ₹100 per girl student per annum.
  10. The Nirbhaya Fund has been made permanent and non-lapsable to ensure funding for the dignity and safety of women. Also, an additional ₹1000 crore have been added to it by the Government.
  11. The Cairo Programme for Action was adopted in 1994 at the UN International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). A new report by the ICPD says that since the adoption of this programme, status of women in the world has increased significantly:-
    1. Matermal Mortality Rate has gone down by half.
    2. Skilled birth attendance has increased by 15% since 1990.
    3. More women have access to education, work and political participation.
    4. Fewer adolescent girls are having babies.
  12. The Supreme Court has declared that allegations of a woman kicking a daughter-in-law or threatening divorce would be considered under “cruelty” under Section 498A of IPC. Maximum punishment is 3 years in jail besides fine.
  13. Participation of women in banking on the rise in India. From 18% in 2004-05 to 38% in 2011-12.
  14. U.N. Women’s Safe City Programme launched in New Delhi. This Programme builds on an ongoing partnership with the Delhi government, U.N. agencies and civil society organisations, especially with Jagori — women’s group. It will help to strengthen the commitment of the Delhi government to women’s safety. “This contribution from the governments of Japan and the United States is important to build a safe and inclusive city in New Delhi, where women and girls can live a life free from violence, and can exercise their fundamental rights and freedoms, including their right to the city,” said John Beed, Director of the USAID Mission in India. The Delhi Programme is a part of U.N. Women’s Safe Cities Global Initiative that spans 17 cities in developing and developed countries. It aims to prevent sexual violence in urban public spaces through strategic alliances with communities, grassroots women, local governments, service providers and safety sector.
  15. Girls have been constantly outshining boys in CBSE, ICSE board results as well as competitive examinations since the last few decades.
  16. West Bengal’s girl child scholarship scheme “Kanyashree Prakalpa” is receiving global praise. UNICEF and many organizations have hailed it. The scheme provides scholarship to girls who are economically backward to continue their studies. Under the scheme, annual scholarship of ₹500 is provided to girls in the age group 12 to 18 years and a one-time grant of  ₹ 25,000to pursue higher studies once the girl reaches 18 years of age. UNICEF has provided technical assistance to the scheme. Apart from increasing enrolment in the schools and preventing child marriages, the scheme also reduces trafficking of young girls.
  17. Bangalore Police has directed all schools in the city to install CCTV cameras compulsorily in their campuses and GPS and CCTVs in all school vehicles.
  18. Gender sensitization and inclusion will be at the core of the new education policy to be drafted by the Union HRD Ministry in collaboration with the Union Ministry of Women & Child Development. The Government will ensure that the textbooks are made free of gender biases. The last education policy was drafted in 1986 and this is high time to review the policy and remove these impediments of gender bias from our school curriculum.
  19. Bharatiya Mahila Bank (भारतीय महिला बैंक) was inaugurated on 19 November 2013 on the occasion of the 94th birth anniversary of former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.  Although initially reported as a bank exclusively for women, the bank allows deposits to flow from everyone, but lending will be predominantly for women. India is the third country in the world to have a bank especially for women, after Pakistan and Tanzania.  It was formed with a vision of economic empowerment for women. While the Bank focuses on the entire pyramid of Indian women, special attention is given to economically neglected, deprived, discriminated, underbanked, unbanked, rural and urban women to ensure inclusive and sustainable growth. The Bank with a team of professionals with rich experience and expertise has designed and developed new products and services to suit the needs of women of all segments including Self Help Groups, women entrepreneurs, salaried women, HNIs and Corporates. The Bank also conducts programmes on financial literacy, skill development, training for women of all segments of the society so that women in turn generate more income, more jobs and growth opportunities and contribute significantly for the economic growth of the nation. Mrs. Usha Ananthasubramanian is the Chairman and Managing Director of the Bank. The Bank has been allocated with an initial capital of ₹1000 Crores.

Jai Hind.

-Ribhu V.

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