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Thursday, January 21, 2010

What is meant by Women Empowerment and why does the world need to empower women?

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The couple of word “Women-Empowerment” may be defined as a multidimensional social process that helps women in gaining control over their own lives. It fosters capacity in them, for use in their own lives, their community, and in their society by acting on issues that they define as important. It is multidimensional in the sense that it occurs within sociological, psychological, economic and other dimensions. It also occurs at various levels such as individual, group, and community. It is a social process in the sense that it occurs in relationships to others.

The empowerment of women comprises five components- women’s sense of self worth,; their rights 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; and their ability to influence the direction of social change to create more just social and economic order on national and international levels.

In many societies of underdeveloped or undeveloped countries women have direct links with the local environment. They work in fields and run household affairs. They can be seen collecting firewood and forest- food products etc. and carrying drinking water from far off places. Since women depend on natural resources for their survival, they gain through experience, sufficient knowledge about the protection and management of those resources. In spite of all the work and sacrifice they do for the sake of their families and the local environment, women are most neglected and unprivileged in many societies of the world. They have not been given right to speak or take a decision in important matter pertaining to families, societies and environment. The gender inequality, exploitation, domestic violence and depletion of environmental resources have forced women to stand for their share of human rights and for the protection of their local environment.

Women and girl children are deprived of their social, economic, and political rights. In spite of their hard work and even during their ill health, women have to suffer on all fronts in many societies especially in poor and undeveloped countries. Many parents do not like girl children due to dowry that has to be paid by parents for their marriages. The system of dowry is a big evil which prevails in many of the Indian societies. Modern technologies have enabled us to know the sex of a child developing inside the womb of its mother. Many parents kill an unborn female embryo if it happens to be a female. This is called as female feticides. Under law, it is a criminal act. Due to it, the sex-ratio in many countries has become imbalanced.

All types of suffrage, humiliation, social negligence and deprivations have forced women to stand and demand their share of human rights. A number of oppositions and women-movements have forced the world to change attitudes and to make specific provisions for their rights on national and international levels. The Intergovernmental Women Suffrage Alliance 1904, the International Congress of Women1888, Equal Rights International1930s; Coalition of International Women’s Organizations 1935, the United Nations’ fourth World Conference on Women 1995 are some of the movements that have been started for the empowerment and rights of women across the world.

In India, a National Policy for Empowerment of Women was formulated and adopted by the government on 20 March 2001 so as to bring about advancement and empowerment of women and to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women and to ensure their active participation in all the spheres of life and activities. A Statutory Body named the National Commission for Women was constituted under the National Commission for Women Act-1990. This commission reviews provisions relating to safeguards for women under the constitution as well as under other laws. The commission takes up petitions from women for the redressal of their grievances. It also carries promotional research for the advancement of women. To facilitate credit support to poor women for their socio-economic upliftment, a Rashtriya Mahila Kosh has been set up on 30 March 1993 under SR Act, 1860. The Department of Women and Child Welfare, Government of India, undertook massive Awareness Campaign and sponsored both the Radio and Television spots for generating awareness among masses through its programmes entitled “Akash Hamara Hai” and “Lalli”.

Today, the empowerment of women has been recognized as the central issue in determining the status of women. The government of India set up a National Commission for Women through an enactment by Indian Parliament in 1990 to safeguard the rights and legal entitlement of women. 

The 73rd and 74th Amendments of Panchayat and Municipalities for women, lays a strong foundation for their participation in decision making at the local levels. According to the National Policy for Empowerment of Women-2001, India has also ratified various International Conventions and Human Rights Instruments committing to secure equal rights of women. Key among them is ratification of the Convention on Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1993.

Key words : women, empowerment, self reliance, CEDAW

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