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Essay, Paragraph or Speech on “Women Empowerment” Complete Essay, Speech for Class 10, Class 12 and Graduation and other classes.

Women Empowerment

Women account for more than fifty per cent of population and are the main drivers behind the economy. The government of India ushered in the new millennium by developing the year 2001 as `women’s empowerment year’.

The Indian Constitution enshrined grade equality in its Preamble, Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Duties and Directive Principles. The Constitution not only grants equality to women, but also empowers the state to adopt measures of positive discrimination in favour of women.

Seventies onwards there has been a marked shift in the approach to women’s issues from welfare to development. In recent years, the empowerment of women has been recognized as the central issue in determining the status of women.

The eighties aimed at implementing special programmes to complement the general development programmes and ensure the flow of benefits to women from other development sectors to enable women to function as equal partners and participants in the development process.

`Empowerment of Women’ became one of the nine primary objectives of the Ninth Plan. The plan attempted ‘convergence of existing services’ available in both women-specific and women-related sectors. The Tenth Plan formed on “Empowering Women” as agents of social empowerment, economic empowerment and gender justice.

Notwithstanding steps taken by the Government for women empowerment in the last two decade much needs to be done. The pillars of women’s empowerment essentially consist of literacy, education, better health facilities and nutrition for the mother and child, political representation and financial security including opportunities for self-employment options to become self-reliant. All this is dependent on making women aware about their rights, making them feel proud of being women, creating a conducive atmosphere and giving them opportunities to live the life of dignity. It is often being seen that women are given jobs with lesser wages and that they are not given the same opportunity as men for advancement. Whenever, Indian women have been given a conducive environment and appropriate facilities they have been successful and have become engineers, doctors, administrators, industrialists, members of the police force and armed forces and even astronauts.

Going back to ancient times, in India there were eminent women philosophers like Gargi and Maitreyi who were given much respect and participated in discourses and discussions at par with men. In our national freedom movement, the contribution of women has been no less than that of men. Women responded to the call of Mahatma Gandhi to join the freedom struggle, at a time when only two per cent of women were educated. This should give an idea as to how difficult it would have been for women to come out of their homes but yet they did. After Independence, women as members of the Constituent Assembly participated in the task of drafting a constitution for free India. It is a matter of pride that the Constitution from its very inception has given the right to vote to women, making India one of the very few countries to have done so.

Child marriage is one of the biggest injustices committed against a child. A young child who is still at the initial stage of life and yet to understand the world around, is pushed into a matrimonial alliance. Child marriage not only adversely affects the girl child but also has numerous other fall-outs. Cases of child marriage where the girl child is a mother when she is barely 13 or 14. Thereafter, she becomes a child-producing machine. This tells on her health and she is unable to give the nutrition and care levels required for her children. A young girl when she should have been studying, learning and acquiring skills for earning a livelihood is tasked with looking after a new generation. The unfairness of the situation is apparent. In the process of child marriage, we have deprived the young girl to be an educated and a capable citizen and also deprived a new generation of children from getting proper care by a well-informed and healthy mother. The potential loss to society, both socially and economically, will be hard to quantify but it would be enormous.

Social evils like dowry, child marriages, female foeticide, female infanticide and addiction continue to exist in our society even today. They need to be dealt with and eradicated. Indian society has a tradition of being progressive and forward-looking when dealing with societal practices that require modification or elimination. India has always shown the courage and wisdom to do so.

Dowry and poverty eradication can be best achieved by women’s education and empowerment. State Governments should implement schemes, which give incentive for the education of the girl child. This would also help in reducing the number of dropout cases from schools. To reduce domestic violence and social discrimination, an appropriate social and legal environment needs to be put in place for the implementation of which all sections of society -social organizations, media and the government should work together collectively. Government policies and programmes should be designed with a focus on women’s needs and concerns. Women should be supported to set up their own business with the support of self- help groups and the availability of micro-credit facilities. These steps will help women achieve economic independence and contribute to their empowerment. It should be the objective to give women opportunities to work, and to create a social environment in which women can live with respect and dignity and can play a role in nation building.

Full potential as a nation will only be realized when women, who constitute about half of our population, can fully realize their potential. As long as that does not happen, half the talent, half the progress, half the development, would be lost. For a chariot to move forward both wheels have to be strong and if one is weak it cannot move forward. So to move the chariot of our country forward both the wheels—men and women have to be strong and to move ahead jointly.

Depending upon the particular ideological framework or political perspective in which it is placed, empowerment conveys a range of contending meanings and associated practices of governance.

There are perhaps two sources to which the contemporary understanding and practices of empowerment may be traced. The first, i.e., the governance and development discourse, has largely been associated with the managerial and regulatory regime of governance articulated in the context of liberalisation as the exercise of political authority in a way which makes for ‘sound development management’ and success for the ‘market economy’. The second, i.e., the grassroots and social movement discourse, may be seen as manifesting a continuation of a strand of participatory democracy, which places faith in people’s presence and active involvement in decision making, especially in matters which pertain to their immediate life.

Empowerment also holds out a promise for social change, through means. Empowerment, therefore, is a process aimed at changing the nature and reaction of systemic forces which marginalise women and other disadvantaged sections in a given context. Issues of equality and rights for women were always claimed as crucial components in state policy. Much of the justification for rights, justice and equality for women came from the need for `emancipation’ or ‘liberation’ of women. When the language of empowerment gained currency in the nineteen eighties, the claims changed and to some extent the means by which empowerment was to be brought about. The institutional reform envisaged in the governance agenda involved the incorporation of an ’empowerment’ component, more in terms of capacity building prescribed by the World Bank, rather than the conscientisation process envisaged by the liberation framework.

 On the occasion of International Women’s Day, the Parliament set up a standing committee for the ‘improvement of the status of women’ in India, and the Committee on Empowerment of Women was constituted in April, 1997. The functions of the committee, included examining the recommendations of the national commission for women, the measures taken by the Union Government ‘to secure for women equality, status and dignity in all matters’ including the steps taken for securing ‘comprehensive education and adequate representation of women in legislative bodies/services and other fields’, ‘to report on the working of the welfare programmes for the women’, and ‘to report on the action taken by the Union Government and Administration of the Union Territories on the measures proposed by the committee’.

Most of the above schemes focus on alleviation of poverty and generation of self-employment for women, by organizing women into self help groups (SHGs) and providing them the skills and training to manage micro-credits. We may also notice that apart from generation of income and collective management of financial resources, women’s active roles in community management of essential resources like drinking water, has also been envisaged and women have become members of village level committees set up for the purpose.

Effective political participation and representation of specific groups, women in particular, and the terms of their inclusion—as voters and representatives -have been a critical matter to the women’s movement for a long time. The earlier campaigns for women’s vote as in the struggle for women’s suffrage in western countries and the campaign for universal suffrage in colonial India were couched in the languages of emancipation of women, equality, justice/fairness, and human rights. The ’empowerment approach’ to political representation was a later development, when it came to be advocated in the 1990s as an enabling condition opening up spaces for a larger project of women’s empowerment.

Demand for reservation for women in elected bodies has gained momentum. The “Towards Equality” report drew attention to the deeply entrenched discriminatory structures that inhibited women’s representation in political bodies, and to the fact that the number of women legislators was declining as a result of the reluctance of political parties to field women candidates. The committee recommended one-third reservation for women in elected bodies at the panchayat level. A demand for increased representation of women was made again in the late 1980s, but the women’s movement’s critique of the government’s National Perspective Plan for Women, emphasized reservation up to one-third in grass-roots bodies for local self-government to throw up ‘new leadership from below’ – and rejected reservation in state assemblies and Parliament. The National Perspective Plan for women issued by the government in 1988, under pressure from the women’s movement, recommended a 30 per cent reservation of seats for women at the panchayat and zilla prishad levels. In 1993. the 73rd and 74th Amendment Acts provided constitutional recognition and status to local elected bodies in villages (the panchayats) and cities (the municipalities), respectively. The amendments provided, therefore, reservations for all these social groups, with the condition that no less than a third of the seats (including those reserved for women belonging to the SC and the ST communities) be reserved for women. While reservations for women in panchayati raj institutions have set in motion a process of political and economic self-determination for women at local levels embodying what is called empowerment for women, the representation of women in Parliament has remained remarkably low ranging from an average of 5 per cent till the nineteen nineties, when it increased to an average of 8 per cent, to 8.8 per cent in 1999, and coming down to 8.26 per cent in 2004. The struggle for reserving seats for women in parliament continued as a 1996 Bill before Parliament for its consideration remains deferred as political parties fail to arrive at a ‘consensus’ on introducing it.

While empowerment has become significant for creating enabling conditions for disadvantaged groups at the same time, it has also become a rallying cry for grass-roots movements. The conception of disadvantaged groups as passive recipients or target groups of specific state policies has to some extent been overcome. Yet, if one examines the manner in which specific policies have unfolded, we may find that they do not conform to the idea of empowerment as a liberating condition generated by active collective activity.

The election of women in local representative bodies—the panchayats and municipalities—have thrown up the possibility for women emerging as leaders in their own rights, and eroding the dominance of men in the domain of politics. Yet, whether such representation leads onto empowerment of women as a collective group, as reflected in gender equality in and significant changes in the lives of all women at home and outside, is yet to be seen.

There is an influential strand which feels that poverty alleviation programmes, women’s access to micro-credits, and the formation of self-help groups (SHGs), with an accent on empowerment, participation and leadership of women could make a qualitative difference. There are others, however, who suggest strongly that such measures have to be examined to see the extent to which they have contributed to advancing the goal of gender equity, and also in reversing the unfavourable terms of power on which women take decisions in life. Much of the euphoria over micro-finance, they argue, rests on two assumptions: that it will push up independent earnings for poor women by making available to them enough credit to engage in gainful employment. This in turn would help them gain greater bargaining power within individual households and that bringing together women in groups will not only help them strengthen their earning capacities but will also create the institutional space from which to articulate their interests. A critical look at the micro-credit and SHG framework of women’s empowerment has shown, however, that while emphasizing ‘financial self-sustainability’, the micro-credit steers clear of ‘rocking the boat of the patriarchal family’. Women’s SHGs become more of an ‘artificial’ civil society created by the state, with no political public presence, as active participants in public debate on gender issues.

It is also often pointed out that much of the empowerment discourse and strategies is taking place within a domain of civil society which is depoliticized and passive. Much of the governance-development `work’—pressing claims on behalf of groups, framing and articulating strategies and implementing them—is being done by ‘experts’ in non-governmental organisations. In the context of liberalisation of the economy and the abdication of ‘social’ responsibilities by states to non-governmental organisations, a large number of autonomous organisations running on funding from government and international bodies. In this context, growth of networks for campaigns on specific issues has also been facilitated by funding agencies through non-governmental organisations with specialised, narrowly, defined agenda. Women’s groups and feminists have been critical of the manner in which NGO facilitated activism has claimed the political space, has led to a filtering out of gender issues from the public domain into a depoliticised and domesticated domain of capacity building, poverty eradication and welfare. In this context, the idea of democratisation through empowerment that the women’s movement’s critique of the development process had envisaged since the 1980s has undergone change. Referring to the process as it was expected to unfold at the grass-roots, empowerment was construed as a range of activities from individual self-assertion to collective resistance, a process aimed at changing the nature and direction of systemic forces which marginalize women and other disadvantaged sections in a given context.

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