Women Empowerment in India: A psychological view Women Empowerment refers to increasing the spiritual, political, social and economic strength of Women. It involves increasing their power over decision making, social participation, economic opportunity and economic participation, political participation, access to education and health. Gender equality and women’s empowerment are human rights that lie at the heart of development and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals by UNO. Worldwide, in agriculture & animal care the women contribute 90% of the total work force.
Women constitute almost half of the population, perform nearly 2/3rd of its work hours, but receive 1/10th of the world’s income & own less than 1/100th of the world property. • Among the world’s 900 million illiterate people, women out number men two to one. • 70% of people living in poverty are women. • Lower sex ratio i. e. 933. • The male child perceived as an asset for the landless rural labourer, a dowry earner for a greedy middle class family and a simple matter of pride for the mother. Women are relatively less healthy than men even though, they belong to same class. • They constitute less than 1/7th of the administrators & managers in developing countries. • Only 10% seats in world’s parliament & 6% in national cabinets are held by them. The Constitution of India guarantees to all Indian women equal rights, no discrimination by the State, equality of opportunity for work, equal pay for work and protection of dignity. The year 2001 was declared as the year of empowerment of women.
In 2010 March 9, one day after International Women’s day, Rajyasabha passed Women’s Reservation Bill, ensuring 33% reservation to women in Parliament and state legislative bodies. There are laws, laws and laws. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act. The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, Dowry prohibition act, Child Marriage Restraint Act, The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act etc etc. Still in India women are discriminated and marginalized at every level of the society.
Gender disparity is high, crimes against women are increasing and violence against women is all time high and in most cases go unreported. Dowry related problems and death is increasing and is profoundly manifesting in the urban population. Workplace harassment of women is another phenomenon which is rapidly increasing as more women join the workforce. Early age marriages are still taking place in large numbers. According to UNICEF’s report, 47% of India’s women aged 20–24 were married before the legal age of 18, with 56% in rural area.
The report also showed that 40% of the world’s child marriages occur in India. India, the world’s largest democracy, has only 60 women lawmakers in the current 543-member Lok Sabha, while there are 24 women MPs out of 240 members in Rajya Sabha at present. Everywhere women face barriers that hinder their ability to start or expand their businesses—challenges that CIPE is also working to address. Women often lack access to finance, to markets, to training, mentors, and networks, and to technology.
They also frequently face discriminatory regulations, policies and practices that are often deeply entrenched. Sometimes they lack property, inheritance or land rights. A review of government’s various programmes for women empowerment such as Swashakti, Swayamsidha, Streeshakti, Balika samrudhi yojana and another two thousand projects reveal that little has been done or achieved through these programmes. Women’s access to formal financial services remains limited. Women’s empowerment cannot take place unless women come together and decide to self-empower themselves.
Self empowerment should be all round in nature. Somewhere we have to make a beginning and it’s always better if we make the initiation at our own self. We can strengthen this mass movement for the “rise of womanhood” by bringing about the necessary changes in our own life as felt by our inner self. CHANGES: Two levels: 1. Individual level 2. Structural level Individual change: women become actors for change, able to analyze their own lives, make their own decisions and take their own actions. Women gain ability to act by building awareness, skills, knowledge, confidence and experience.
Structural change: Women and men, individually and collectively, challenge the routines, attitudes, conventions, laws, family forms, kinship structures and taken-for-granted behaviors that shape their lives – the accepted forms of power and how these are perpetuated. Gender stereotypes and societal perceptions of females and their role are often the biggest barriers to change, because they shape women’s perception of themselves. Across all strata of Indian society, people still believe that women are capable of performing only certain types of jobs and that marriage must take precedence over career.
This mind-set, common to both men and women, must change. We must focus on the girl child and help her escape the traditional stereotypes that stifle her potential. Take women in science as an example. The prejudice is that women are less capable of understanding science, despite all the evidence to the contrary. Psychological studies suggest that self-efficacy is one of the most commonly cited constructs for behavioral change. Self efficacy means ‘belief in one’s own competence and ability’.
Low self-efficacy beliefs of women stem from the limited and disadvantaged positions women have in society. This makes any behavior change towards self-empowerment difficult if it merely relies on verbal persuasion. Own successful experiences, role models, positive feedback and persuasion raise the level of self efficacy. The best way by which self-efficacy is acquired is by combining persuasion with role modeling and successful experience in a supportive and appreciative environment. Micro credit schemes such as self help groups can give them successful experience.
Governmental and non governmental organizations and progressive and resourceful women in the society need to come forward to help less privileged women in as many ways as possible, be the role models for them and persuade them to bring inner change. In India we have so many role models from our Puranas and Ithhasas. In the olden days Indian women have accomplished so much in adverse environments. We are the descendants of great achievers like Avvaiyar, Kannagi and Droupathi. Let us take them as role models and learn to attain their amazing mental strength and will power.
Somewhere we have to make a beginning and it’s always better if we make the initiation at our own self. We can strengthen this mass movement for the “women empowerment” by bringing about the necessary changes in our own life as felt by our inner self. Further we can transmit the change to others and empower them. A small step today will definitely lead to a giant leap tomorrow. Let us remember Swamy Vivekannda’s words. “All the power is in you. Be conscious and bring it out. Arise, awake and stop not till you reach your goal’ [pic]