Of Women and Empowerment

Of Women and Empowerment
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By Farah Shah
Women constitute around fifty percent population of this world. They have their contributions everywhere- ranging from homes, market and the government. Due to presence of patriarchy and social factors,  women are highly involved in day to day activities of homes; however over the years spread of education among women  has  allowed the daughters of eve to exploit their potential for the betterment of homes and society at large. Men have also realized it over the period of time that keeping women inside homes is not an efficient way of exploiting her real potential. She can work in and outside homes which will not only augment family incomes, but will provide her opportunities to make contribution towards the society. Today,  there are many more women involved in high tech jobs, have become famous doctors and are working in space programmes as well. There is no doubt that women are on the track of progress and development, but still today these opportunities are accessed by a small chunk of population among women. This lucky lot comes from good backgrounds and the bottom chunk is left out of opportunities.
The left out of women in the overall development is seen by feminists as a tragedy of “control of development policy by males”. Feminists have provided a critique of development policy by making it clear that development is gender biased. The development policies favour men as compared to women. It is men who have benefited from the growth rates and progress due to their control of social institutions, land and other mobile and immobile property. Since development policy is controlled by men, it is sure to take into consideration only those aspects which will benefit men. It is precisely due to this reason that there has occurred feminisation of poverty. Over the years due to growth and progress, poverty has declined but of only men not women. Women constitute around 80% of the poor now. Since development policies could not take into consideration the female aspects of development, it was men who took advantage of this error and continued to prosper. Not only development policies were gender biased, social institutions also inhibited extreme reluctance to allow women to go outside homes to work. These types of ideas take a large and huge amount of time to change, up to that time women are reduced to not more than serfs inside homes. Over the years many more factors have come up which reduce the mobility of the women to work outside and retard their empowerment. Conflicts have been a major source of inhibiting factor. These have resulted in an increase in the  number of widows, orphans and more responsibilities on women. From Syria to Kashmir women have taken the brunt of crisis. The incidence of violence has been directed against women, even though men are the first causality. Now women burden has increased and they have to take not only of homes but work outside to earn which has traditionally been the responsibility of men. It is a perfect case of double burden.
In this scenario it becomes imperative on the part of society and government to resort to welfare schemes which will allow women to exploit their potential. It will require political, social and individual will. On political front,  more women have to be included in lower and upper chambers of the parliaments. Even in biggest and largest democracy India, women’s representation is less than 12 % and that representation is not effective. Women don’t get high valued posts like home ministry or defence ministry. Though government has launched gender budgeting schemes its implementation has been slow as researches have shown that, without taking into consideration family and social set up, women will lose authority over the incomes which government provides them. It is in this very time individuals and society has to play and important role in creation of suitable environment such that women will take a leap into future. Husbands are expected to play a crucial role in it in addition to religious groups. The hold over ideology by religious groups is such that society responds within no time to their advices and directives. It is important that social and religious groups have to be roped in to make the progress of women easy and quick. It is important to mention here that empowerment of women is not all directed against men. Women empowerment will be a win -win situation for society as well as men. Empowerment of women will lead to a better, more prosperous and more equitable world. It is in the interests of world to frame policies which will cater to the needs of women such that we will exploit their potential for the betterment of society. Their empowerment will be empowerment of the world at large.

—The author can be reached at: farahshah06@gmail.com

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