Women empowerment is something we talk a lot but implementation on the ground seems far away from reality. In ancient times, women were enjoying equal rights like men in society whether its related to acquiring education or learning fighting skills. There was a time when they were treated as slave even. Post-British rule, in new India, national leaders and thinkers made and implemented policies for reforming the women’s current situation to give them equality in all aspects, and that helped them to grow spiritually, economically, professionally, literacy and they got awareness about their rights. Despite all this, still women face harassment and gender discrimination issues in our educated societies.
WOMEN EMPOWERMENT AND OUR SOCIETY
The government of India is running 7 schemes for women empowerment like Mahila-e-haat, Beti Bachao and beti padhao, one step center scheme, working women hostels, swadhar greh, Step and Nari Shakti Puruskars. You must be thinking this moment, wow, government is doing a lot for women’s empowerment, but do not you think so that we must ask this question to ourselves that why they need all these schemes in 20th century. Answer is, they are surrounded by those mindsets who have strong believe that their gender is superior to women. In today’s date, most educated and influential families women, who are educated and working, cannot take decision independently for investing their money in bank’s fixed deposit without consulting their male family members even now, so question of discussing about decision authority in women from rural area or middle-class family does not arise. This is just an example to understand the condition of women in our society.
Women empowerment cannot be measured by providing education and equal rights in getting job be it government or private sector. Women empowerment is more than this. Empowering women means to make them self-dependent to take their life decision by themselves. They can discuss or consult before taking decision, but they should not be forced to impose our ideas and suggestion to implement or execute. They should have right to take their own decisions. People learn from their own mistakes but if we will provide them always shield, they will not be confident enough to face obstacles. We must give them opportunity to learn from their even mistakes like we men learn too. This freedom of taking decision will empower their skills to take decision and strength to face their consequences even. Women deserves freedom to enjoy their chosen lifestyle without assessing them. They should be treated equally like boy. Women should not be told to stay at home in late evening or night because they are unsafe outside, but men should be taught to respect and behave properly. Our society always tells women what to do or what not to do so that they could be protected but we do not teach lesson of morality to our boys to behave properly in front of women of any age. If we restrict women to think twice before taking steps outside in late evening or going to night shift in office, we are not empowering them by thought but giving them stressful life to manage. Why do not we ask our boys to behave properly and build psychological pressure on them by educating them values of moral acts. Why only women are there to suffer with all these daily learning doze like going outside for party, what to wear or not to wear, making friend zone and many more things. We must empower their thought process too else women cannot work freely in their professional or personal life so whole exercise of women empowering will not reach to their expected destination. Empowering does not mean that we make schemes and rule for guarding women’s right, but we must try to develop a culture in society to fix those bad practices of our society so that we will not be requiring any policy anymore. We must focus to fix issues behind illness instead of paying all attention to control the disease. Such approach will automatically fix many challenges of women.
WOMEN EMPLOYMENT AT WORKPLACE
As per one study published by statista.com; In 2019, about 20.7 percent of women were in the labor force across India, down from approximately 30 percent in 1990. This data is itself indicator of challenges in life of women at workplace. There can be multiple factors which is affecting and reason behind such a big fall in employment of women but majorly is, organization avoids hiring female employees at workplace to refrain themselves to implement schemes like maternity act, women safety rules, cab facility for pick and drop of female employee in case of late working hours and to avoid sexual harassment cases at workplace. This approach is restricting women to perform better at workplace, and this is big loss to nation as well such practices is wasting our talent. That is the reason, we are facing talent issues in our nations too. Government must ensure that women is getting equal opportunity at workplace in terms of wages, promotions, and safety. Organization must be bind by law to recruit female employees at workplace in equal proportion, and that is the only way we can create better environment for female to grow at workplace. There are few organizations which are working hard to make life easy for their female employees at workplace by providing them parents care leave, menstrual leaves, maternity leaves, providing work from home during illness of family members and other benefits like establishing POSH committee and its execution to protect them.
As per Forbes India, Women hold 17% of board positions in corporate India, but only 11% leadership roles, and that happen when companies act, 2013 says it is mandatory to have at least one woman on company boards, but representation of women at workplace should not be limited to paper. We must provide women a platform to perform and translate their skills into action without being gender biased. We have many names if we want to recall in mind when women achieved those accomplishment which was earlier seen as not cup of tea of women.
WOMEN LITERACY RATE IN INDIA
Women education is important for our society and family. In last decades, women are doing great in studies, and they are securing first position in board exams too and challenging male domination which is good for nation. However, we need more improvement to empower girls to acquire education. We need to encounter ground-based challenges like lack of proper infrastructure at schools that discourage parents to send their girls to school to study like lack of proper drinking water, toilet facilities and inadequate teachers etc. are major challenges to fix. Government campaign and CSR activities by corporates at rural area can motivate parents to send their girls to school for studies after understanding the value of education in our life else generally parents taken out their girls from schools for the sake of family responsibilities. Early marriages and dowry system are also major threat to women education. Parents at rural area are not much financially sounds so they always try to focus on early marriages of girls to get rid from financial liability of girl. Such mindset needs to be educated to think beyond to analyze worth of education in life of their girl for whole life. We must generate awareness about worth of education in our life. Education gives women to power to think and make them capable to take decision for their good. Women empowerment without proper education to girl is only dream. Government is making all required step to reform the situation but initiative from us, being a part of civilized society, is demanded and expected to come in front to motivate and support this reformation. We can see the change, but it will start from us only.
WOMEN EMPOWERMENT STARTS WITH SANITIZATION
We must encourage women or girl to speak about mensuration issues and problem they face alone. This is not taboo to hide but this is concerning matter in terms of health and hygiene. According to a new report by the National Family Health Survey, 62 per cent of young women in the country use cloth for menstrual protection. Women aged 15 to 24 use cloth during their periods. In Bihar, 82 per cent of the women on cloth during their period. Aforesaid figures speaks loud and clear that CSR activities and government’s campaign may bring awareness in women and in mindset of society. Illiteracy level in Indian women especially in rural area is something which is becoming barrier to fill this gap. There are some NGO which are trying to reach out more and more girls schools to educate them about menstruation, especially when they are going to have their first period. Since long time, menstruation is seen as taboo to discuss. It is believed the women having periods cannot enter in kitchen or temple, surprisingly, still most of us believe and follow being a part of urban- society leave about rural area. This is natural process of female body but treatment to biological process brings feeling of guilt in women or girl at early stage of life, which invites many menstrual disorders issues. Being unaware of whole reason behind this monthly process, they find themselves different from other gender. They shy to discuss their health issues which led them to serious disease at later stage or sometime early stage. So here, we need to educate them so that they can become our change agent to communicate and educate other females by promoting awareness campaign.
We need to understand and accept that when we talk about women liberalization or empowerment to them, we are not doing any favor for women, this is their right which is being suppressed by our society since long time. We are rectifying our blunders not doing anything special for them. They do not need any special treatment, but our society needs psychological treatment for sure so that they could understand the value of women in our life. Every time we cannot treat the disease, sometimes we must identify those reasons which are spreading the disease. Equality in gender will bring balance in our eco-social system. Women should not be treated specially but genuinely for sure. If women empowerment schemes and activities is existing in our society that indicates existence of negative mindset in our society. So, if women need empowerment, then such mindset people also need treatment. Balance should exist in society.
By Ankur Gautam, ( A Human Resource Professional with 17 year of experience of industry who worked with organizations to develop strategic policies to develop better and influential diversity and inclusion programs. Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/iankurgautam/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/Iankurgautam)