Syllabus: General Studies Paper 1 (Indian Society)
Economic independence is one of the most enabling elements for women to release them from oppression, violence and powerlessness. In light of this statement examine how far India has been successful in empowering women.
Empowerment means giving someone the ability to “control their life and claim their rights”. Financial independence is not only a source of confidence but also gives women the credibility to participate in important matters of decision making, for themselves and their families. There have been huge changes for women in terms of employment in the past decades, with women moving into paid employment outside the home in ways that their grandmothers and even their mothers could only dream of
Why economic independence is one of the most enabling elements for women
- Economic independency of women seeks to stimulate the confidence in women by providing to them everything that in their capacity to help them see the skills that they contain and are dormant within them. A proper nurturing, polishing and sharpening of those skills is only made possible through better education, awareness and a space to freely express oneself.
- Economic power within and outside the household makes a difference to gender relations.
- Supreme Court’s judgement says that the agency, freedom and intrahouse hold power of women are strengthened when women are given an economic value.
- Women empowerment is also crucial in fostering economic independence among women who depend on their husbands for their daily bread, subjecting themselves to the possibility of mistreatment. This is unfair to them, given that they have the capacity to perform and add to the economic benefits of the society apart from exhibiting economic independence themselves.
- Economic independence also reduces domestic violence and sexual exploitation .i.e. when independence is acquired all sorts of mistreatment can be dodged. Mistreatment includes domestic violence and sexual exploitation even in marriage.
- Women who can earn can avoid poverty. Many illiterate women face economic hardships. They live off what the Government provides and that is not sufficient in these days of economic hardships.
- Granting economic independence to women, it also serves in contributing to the economic benefits of the household and the society as a whole.
India’s experience with women empowerment:
India has made significant strides with respect to empowerment and upliftment of women through:
- Stand up India to ensure more women entrepreneurs to come to the forefront.
- Selfhelp groups to make women community as a whole independent.
- Provided reservation for representation in election of local bodies which led women to participate in decision making.
- Constitutional protection Article 15(3) incorporated such provisions and mandated the state to legislate special measure to promote equality and bring women in par with men.
- Laws like sexual harassment at workplace, amendments to the criminal procedure code, etc., to ensure protection of women
- The Indian Constitution provides a powerful mandate for human rights in its Preamble, Fundamental Rights and Duties and specific provisions for affirmative action.
- The government has instituted laws and policies protecting the rights of girls and women, including a ban on dowry, pre-birth sex determination and child marriage.
- State schemes and programmes to provide bicycles, hostels, life skills and stipends for their studies.
- Making primary education compulsory for all children this drastically reduced the dropout rates of girl children.
- Social sector programmes e.g. “Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan” (Education for Everyone) are promoting girls’ education to equalize educational opportunities and eliminate gender disparities
- According to the National Family and Health Survey (201516), teenage pregnancy has halved in the last 10 years and the percentage of girls married as children has decreased from 47% to 27%.
- More girls are going to school than ever before and more of these schools now have girls’ toilets and menstrual hygiene management facilities.
- Nationally, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao directly tackles pre-birth sex-determination and along with Sabla and Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana supports the empowerment of girls. “One stop shop” centres for survivors of violence against women have been set up and are being utilised.
- Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Yojana, Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakaram and Janani Suraksha Yojana support pregnant women, new mothers and infants
India is also home to robust social movements and organisations for gender equality and women’s rights. But issues still remain.
- Dowry, female infanticide and women’s education are persistent issues despite decades of successive governments’ efforts to address them.
- The Indian constitution grants women equal rights to men, but strong patriarchal traditions persist in many different societal parts, with women’s lives shaped by customs that are centuries old.
- Although more women are working, they are often still worse paid than men, in part-time jobs or in the huge informal employment sector with little protection and few rights.
- Most gruesome and desperate acts when it comes to gender discrimination.
- Only six women judges have made it to the Supreme Court since Independence.
- Only 8% of top 50 CEOs in India are women.
- Women’s participation in labour force fell from India—from 31.2% in 2011-12 to 23.3% in 2017-18.
- Achieving gender equality starts in small decisions and bold steps in own lives. Differences in the treatment of children should not be present in families.
- Female labour participation needs to be enhanced.
- Safety and Security at workplace for women need to be overlooked.
- Gender sensitisation need to be encouraged from the school level itself.
- Gender pay discrimination needs to be addressed.
Making women economically independent, can reduce the domestic violence and sexual exploitation. Economic independence to women, also serves in contributing to the economic benefits of the household and the society as a whole. Though government has launched many schemes for women empowerment, implementation of schemes lacks, there is a need for proper implementation of these schemes, and it is responsibility of every citizen to change perspective towards women and make them empowered, “Without women’s empowerment and gender equality, societies will not be able to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and their full development potential.”
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