Socio Economic Empowerment of Women

Dr. Rupam Jagota
Lecturer in Law

Date : 11/05/2015 - Location : New Delhi

The History of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man towards woman, having in direct object the establishment of tyranny over her.[1]

Discrimination all over the globe remains an ultimate reality. She is discriminated against by law and by custom, rendering her among the most vulnerable disabled and disadvantaged social groups. However, the emergence of women's voice on law led to the convening of the First World Conference on Women in Mexico in 1975. The World community accepted the Declaration that 'women have a right to equal treatment as men. No restrictions can be imposed on the eligibility of men and women to participate in any capacity and under conditions of equality in its principle and subsidiary organs.' The Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women too provided for giving equal rights to women on equal terms. It concentrated on 3 core areas.....

1. The rational underlying international instruments which have been adopted relating to the status of women.

2. The motivation of states in adoption of such text.

3. The likely success of international law as a means of providing women with solutions to the problem which they face in exhibiting their role in the society.

The Fourth World Conference on Women at Beijing emphasized on women's vision of a transformed world <196> a world where equality, peace, well-being for all may reign supreme.

Women's empowerment emerged as a commonly used terminology at a world summit for social development at Copenhagen in 1995. Empowerment is a manifestation of redistribution of power that challenges the patriarchal ideology and male dominance and of gaining control over the sources.[1] Women empowerment is thus, an ideology which helped in breaking down the social, economic, educational, cultural and psychological barriers to upgrade their status from passive recipients to active participants and thus, ensure gender equality.

The agenda for women's empowerment called upon to protect and promote equal rights and inherent dignity of women, removal of obstacles, to women's participation in public life and decision making at all levels and to ensure equal access in their struggle for self-actualization and promotion of autonomy to ensure access to productive resources.[1]

Social empowerment implies promotion of social capabilities such as education, health, cultural aspects and women's honour. Economic empowerment implies entitlement to employment, income, property, productive resources and equal distribution of benefits of development.

Despite the Constitutional guarantee of 'Equality Before law' and 'Equal Opportunities for All' prohibition on discrimination, gender inequities are among the most pervasive though deceptively subtle forms of inequality the world over. Socially, she is referred to as the 'Better half of man', 'a futile giver', 'a sustainer of life', without whose presence the survival of the world is impossible yet she is designated as weak, subordinate and second fiddle to man. She is defined in relation to men not in relation to themselves. 'She is protected by the father in her childhood, by the husband in her adulthood and by the son in her old age'. She is never fit for independence. The patriarchal value system, the prevailing power structure and the traditional mind set of men wrapped with and rooted in the notions of inherent inequality between men and women restricts women's empowerment. The social scenario perpetuates practices derogatory to the dignity of women, deny them free and equal access to 'opportunity structure' for self growth and development. She remains socially and economically invisible.

Educational Empowerment is a key to secure equality, justice and economic empowerment. It is self sufficient to make them cognizant of their legal and constitutional rights, opportunities of self expression and growth, welfare programmes for economic productivity and autonomous existence and a self- fulfilling life in he family and community.[1] Though, education has been made a fundamental right under Article 21-A of the Constitution yet it is not free from bias against women. They are viewed as passive recipients of development and emphasis is on their reproductive role while men assume productive role. They are denied opportunities to participate in decision making even if they are for her well being. She has no right to decide the matrimonial home, number of children, when and how her body is to become a vehicle of procreation and whether she would like to retain or abort the female foetus. Her consent is presumed. Social empowerment of women appears to be myth when the social patriarchs exercise exclusive power to declare that the parties would no longer be treated as husband and wife but brother and sister since they were from the same gotra and marriage is prohibited. The societal bias has multiplied the crime of female foeticide resulting in upsetting the male female sex ration. In Punjab there is 793 females per thousand males. Equality appears to be diminishing as at every platform she is discriminated. The Hindu Succession Act, 2005 merges the difference between son and daughter as it gives birthright to both son and daughter but this initiative of law has deprived the women love and affection of her brothers as she is viewed as a grabber of property who will claim her share.

Gandhiji had once remarked 'I were born a women, I would rise in rebellion against any pretension on the part of man that women is born to be his plaything Man is born of a women, he is flesh of her flesh and bone of her bone'.

Women are overburdened. They constitute half the world's population, perform nearly 2/3rd of its working hours, receive 1/10th of the world's income and less than 1/100th of the world's property are still regarded as passive participants, unproductive, even though they contribute more to the family income and play the dual role of baking the bread and earning it too.[1] Still her contribution to the economy is undermined. They are engaged in the rural and urban areas, in agriculture, domestic, organized and unorganized sector as skilled and unskilled laborers and are usually underpaid and exploited ,forced to work in low perks low status with no future prospects of security tenure ,gratuity, pension, paid leave ,old age care etc.in contrast to their male counterparts .They are victims of unemployment, job insecurity, social insecurity, sexual harassment at workplace. Though, women's work participation increased from 22.7% in 1991 to 25.6% in 2001 but women's status has neither improved nor have they gained economic independence. She continues to be a disadvantaged group as they are concentrated and segmented as wage earner, casual labourer, domestic servant while no legal safeguards are available to protect and promote her. Though innumerable laws have been enforced to ensure healthy working conditions and equal pay for equal work without discrimination, Equal remuneration to men and women for the same work , ensuring Maternity Benefits to women, still empowerment is restricted to a marginal group. The government introduced a number of schemes to economically empower women such as Sampoorna Grameen Rojgar Yojna for families below the poverty line where women were employed as wage earners, Swavlamban where woman were trained in non-traditional areas like electronics, garment making, watch making, computer etc, Swaymsidha <196> where aim was to ensure direct access to and control over the resources through a process of mobilization etc. It is the gender which determines her disadvantageous position with respect to men. Women suffer because they are women.

Constitution guarantees freedom, liberty and equality to women but its perceptions still appear to be beyond the reach of a common woman, who are poor unemployed, economically strained, less visible in the authority structure, suffer from barriers of patriarchal norms, physically and mentally abused, assaulted and treated as an appendage to man. These inequalities are a sad reflection of the gap between theory and practice. Women as a class is never a subject of legislation but appears as constituent element of religion, class, caste, community and family. The nexus between woman and law is still culture, caste and religion. This is a sufficient evidence to substantiate the claim that women are subjected to harassment extending from home to workplace and women's empowerment is a slogan not a reality.

Social cultural divide which has split the country into nearly two contagious halves that is anti female bias in natality and post natality mortality. The patriarchal values are so deeply embedded in the culture that women themselves are not immune. As a second subordinate group in the society, women have idealized and internalized self-sacrificing roles and have developed a false consciousness which includes belief in appropriate lower wages and secondary leadership position.

With growth and advancement of society and development of new ideals of liberty, equality, fraternity and justice have generated social awareness. Women's empowerment can be a success if following suggestions are implemented.

1. Women's empowerment calls for gender perspective, where women is to be viewed as a human being worthy of self respect, dignity consistent and in conformity with the Constitutional legal provisions of equality and development. This will inculcate the ability to redefine oneself and to act effectively for oneself.

2. There is a need to create an environment through social and economic policies for complete development of women to enable her access to new information and skills to realize her potential.

3. Freedom is indivisible so is justice. The legal system should be strengthened and modified, altered, amended and regulated to restrict all forms of discrimination and to deduce measures to bail out women from their deplorable conditions .To empower women laws should be implemented in letter and spirit .

4. Social Engineering is required to empower women. There is a need to balance the working women's interests in maintaining social morality and the institution of family in order to overcome the conflict with certain social institutions which still adhere to the patrilineal norms.

5. To ensure empowerment there is a need to create an awakening and awareness among women to question those perceived values rather than to humbly submit and accept them as a way of life. Woman by economic sustenance can project the notions of gender justice in every sphere so that equality in status and dignity can be realized.

6. To bring empowerment women should be mobilized to organize themselves so that they know their rights and are able to obtain support to exercise them. They should be involved in decision-making in enforcement machinery to protect the interests of women employed in various sectors where large-scale discrimination exists.

Thus, there is a need for a change from qualitative to quantitative. Empowerment of women would result in new understanding of power and experiment with way of democratizing and sharing power building new mechanisms for collective responsibility, decision making and accountability .The real challenge is to convert women's empowerment rhetoric into reality that is to realize the substance of a slogan which has kindled hope in the hearts of woman all over the world. Thus, a holistic approach is required to empower woman practically.

Chawla Publications (P) Ltd.