Women empowerment is not a new phase in gender literature vocabulary. With time it has moved past its initial interpretation of empowering women to be self-depended in an age where they were denied all freedom and opportunities by virtue (read curse) of being a ‘Woman’. Today is refers more to women breaking the glass ceiling and strengthening their position in our society. It calls for their movement from periphery to the centre stage.
In 2015 the theme for International Women’s rights day on March 8 was a clarion call, “Empowering women, empowering humanity: picture it”. This was to highlight the achievements of the historic roadmap on women rights, “Beijing Declaration and Platform
for Action”. It was signed by 189 governments and spoke of the urgent need to address the gaps in realizing the goals in the past 20 years.
In the Indian context, although there are policies and implementation of -women laws and programmes to address gender empowerment and equality, there are still many gaps. In a patriarchal society like India, women still continue to grapple with issues like violence and economic empowerment. It is imperative that we work towards sensitizing women on their rights and also on improving their access to education, healthcare facilities and to create an environment where they can make independent decisions. Another factor which hinders women’s empowerment is the class divide in India. The women belonging to the lower caste especially tribal communities are very vulnerable; They have neither access to basic education nor any healthcare facilities. These factors have significant impact on the empowerment indicators.
Empowering women also becomes challenging in India where the social and religious constructs imposes them to live a certain restricted lifestyle. This is deep seeded in the mindset. “ There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women”- Kofi Annan.
The 12 areas which have been addressed in “Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action” namely Women and Poverty, Education and training of Women, Women and Health, Violence against Women, Women and Armed Conflict, Women and the Economy, Women in Power and Decision-making, Institutional Mechanism for the Advancement of Women, Human Rights of Women, Women and the Media, Women and the Environment and The Girl-child –require an additional thrust from Indian systems.
India needs a robust approach for women’s empowerment which can address diversity of social structures, inherent discriminatory practices, implementation of strong laws and sentencing those found guilty which is currently a long and arduous process.
India needs more than just the woman prime minister, women ambassadors, women legislators, women governors, women scientists, engineers-doctors-space researchers-giant IT specialists, women Generals, and women public officers. What India rather needs is strong legislative measures that can help raise the status of women. These are some important questions to be investigated with regard to women’s empowerment. Despite several draw backs with increased women’s literacy , today they are now coming in the forefront within family, workplace and public discourse. if we commit to achieve internationally agreed goals, then the quality of women’s lives could be considerably improved. What is missing is the will to bring to the discussion table the hard facts that India still has a long way ahead to truly empower women “