The Hidden Face of Women Empowerment

The Hidden Face of Women Empowerment
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Dr Fayaz Ahmad Bhat

Pierre Felix Bourdieu, a famous sociologist who was much concerned with “concerned with the dynamics of power in society, and especially the diverse and subtle ways in which power is transferred, how social order is maintained’ and social, economic, cultural and political hegemony is preserved within and across generations said that “the function of sociology as of every science, is to reveal that is hidden”. The project of women empowerment carried out by West has a lot hidden which needs to be revealed.
Since time immemorial, women have been victim of oppression and suppression, in one way or other. They had have been witness to all forms of violence- structural and programmatic. It is not that there had been no resistance on the part of women or others for reformation and empowerment of women. History is witness to number of such movements and campaigns, movements and campaigns intended for the liberation, freedom and equality of women. The means and methods adopted by these movements and campaigns not only determined the fate and outcome of these movements but future of women empowerment in society.
There had been movements and campaigns throughout the history which were seemingly liberation, freedom, equality and women empowerment movements. However, these were later proved otherwise, initiated with a hidden agenda. Schooling is just one of the examples. Schooling (education) in our context is counted as broad spectrum remedy to all issues related to women. However, observations and interactions reveal otherwise. The facts and figures show that education has itself been used as a tool of oppression and exploitation. For instance, capitalist and industrial societies replaced unskilled and traditional works with skilled wage earners only with the help of schooling. Schools proved important institutions not only to produce required labour in capitalist societies but giving cheap work force as well.
The movement of mass schooling propagated as liberating force for women has been proved a process of “domestication”. Paul Fierier termed schooling a false promise of salvation for women.
There had been many such movements and initiatives which were seemingly intended for women empowerment but the reality and intentions were otherwise. There is a lot seemingly unseen.
Schooling (education) itself is not responsible for the reproduction and reinforcement of social inequalities but by the way education is used determines the outcome. Observations and interactions reveal that in our context schooling itself is determined and decided by socio-economic factors of an individual and gender is one of the profound factors. Bhat (2015) observed that the very enrollment of a child in school is determined by the gender of a children. The gender of a child determines the type of school he or she will attend. Private schools which are considered symbols of excellence and quality are generally preferred for boys while girls are mostly enrolled in government schools which are poor in both human and physical resources. The influence and impact of gender does not stop here it is carried forward in schools. Bhat (2005) found teacher student interaction is greatly influenced by the gender of a child. Whether it is inside classroom or outside, gender plays decisive role, front rows inside classroom are mostly reserved for boys, games in school are gender oriented, observed Bhat. These are carried forward throughout the life of women. The selection of courses and programmes at university level are determined by the gender of an individual.
Gender bias and discrimination is not a subcontinental phenomenon but the countries which pretend to be model of women liberation and empowerment carry forward the subtle repression but with apt ideology of equality, democracy and other subtle measures. The new forms of women powerlessness and impotency are even dangerous than traditional forms. Women in the West has been objectified, their bodies and soul are now not in their control. Melisa Sue, Ouagadougou and Fasco, maintain that women have no right over their own bodies.
The highest gender pay gap, 29.9% has been observed in the Europe. More women in Europe and West are infected with HIV than men. In Germany, it has been found that women workers become victim of sexual harassment and violence at work places. America, which is seen an ideal model in democracy, justice, equality and so on , ranks 81st in the world with respect women representation in government. Women lead 40 percent of small business in United States but get less than 10 percent of venture capital funding; one in four college women face attempted and complete rape. Thousands of untested rape kits are said to be languishing in police departments across the US, allowing thousands of sexual predators to go unprosecuted.
What apparently seems beauty could be very ugly inside? In other words what people in Kashmir use is common discourse: “Joh Aasta Hai who nahin basta hai” (What is, is not apparent and what is not, is apparent). A noted sociologist Peter Berger said the same thing in these words “the first wisdom of sociology is this –things are not what they seem”. Generally, observing women dressed in neat clothes with high heel shoes, speaking fluently and shuffling in a style gives an impression she is the luckiest and free person under the sun, having a job, owning a villa and enjoying the car. It appears she is a model worth to be copied and followed.
However, the fact is that working women (having a paid job) are equally even more in prone to violence, discrimination and exploitation than a woman whose contribution keeps the pendulum of life and livelihood swing. Women (paid workers) are of victim of physical, sexual, psychological and economical violence and this is not specific to any country. Women across the globe including in developed countries like USA, Germany , France, Canada, UK etc which are blindly followed as model of women empowerment experience violence. The job market in these so called developed countries is based on gender and there is more economic violence against women in these countries. Moreover, globalization has globalised the crimes against women.
Where is education? Where is empowerment? Had “education” been guardian and guarantor of women emancipation and empowerment we would not have such figures of Europe and West. Schooling is not at all remedy to gender bias and discrimination rather education is. What schools presently carry on is subtle repression with apt ideology of three E’s i.e. education, equality and empowerment.
The blind following of the West and the western model of women empowerment has even worsened the condition in our context. Most of women are losing space both at structural and agency level by irrationally following the West. The steering rather a hidden steering which was once fully in the control of women is losing its grip. The hold over hidden steering in traditional society was giving women subtle control over the vehicle and she was often driving it the way she desired. The strong bond of matrilineal relations is just an example. Though women in traditional society were apparently powerless but the fact is that hidden steering was always in her control. Apparently women had no say in family issues and it was male who was dominating the scene; however the role of men was often steered by women.
I do not want to give an impression that in traditional and simple society women had no issue and there were no gender biases and discrimination. However, my point is that modern western ideologies are not free from gender bias and discrimination and any blind following and copy paste may result loss of space which women were occupying in traditional societies.

—The author is a student of sociology, social activist and a faculty member at the department of Sociology University of Kashmir. He can be reached at:

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