Playing multiple roles so effortlessly, every single day, women are, without any doubt, the backbone of any society. Women around us flawlessly and gracefully play a wide range of roles every day. In many parts of the world, women have also been an ignored fraction of the society. This has caused women at large to face the brunt of inequality, oppression, financial dependability and other social evils. Women empowerment refers to the ability of women to claim their rights to be able to control and benefit for their well being and manage risks. It refers to the creation of such an environment where women are confident enough to take decisions to improve their status and also the status of their society. It refers to increasing and improving their strengths politically, legally, economically and socially and to ensure equal rights for them.
Women empowerment is necessary to being in gender equality in the scenario. Women are equally intelligent and talented as men are and deserve equal opportunities. Lack of opportunities for women affects the world economy. Women empowerment improves the economic status of a country; it decreases domestic violence, corruption and poverty. It leads to the overall development of the society which in turn affects the national development process in a positive way. Also, women are considered to be irreplaceable in certain spheres.
Land rights offer a way to economically empower women, providing them with the confidence they require to tackle gender inequalities. We often see that women, in developing nations, are restrained from their land on the sole basis of gender. A right to their land gives them a bargaining power which they would not have otherwise, which also gives them the ability to assert themselves in the various aspects of life. Another method to provide women empowerment is to allocate responsibilities to women which, in the normal course, belong to men. Economic empowerment of women gets them treated as equal members of the society and gets them self respect and confidence through their contributions to the society. Participation, in whichever realm it is, be it politics or just household, which can be seen and gained in various ways, has been argued to be a beneficial way of gender empowerment. When women have the provisions to do what they want, a greater sense of equality is established between the two genders. Women should be taught, given the proper education to provide women empowerment. Providing micro loans at low interest rates to start micro businesses are to be provided to women to help empower them. Steps must be taken to build their self esteem and confidence and boost their decision making power. The internet can be used as a tool for empowerment. In this techno savvy age, women, too, should be technologically equipped. They must be made aware of the tools of the internet and how they can use them to achieve empowerment. How they can use the social media to organise campaigns or voice their opinions without feeling oppressed by the members of the society. In recent times, blogging has become a source for education and knowledge. Women can now study from their homes, given the accessibility and affordability of electronic learning.
The Art of Living Foundation, which is a volunteer based, humanitarian and educational NGO, is engaged in many social services globally and its works include conflict resolution, disaster and trauma relief, poverty alleviation, women empowerment, prisoner rehabilitation, education for all, campaigns against female foeticide, child labour and environment sustainability. The Art of Living has taken up some programs to support women empowerment:
- Economic independence
- Girl child education
- Social empowerment
Through these programs, women have been able to acquire financial independence and stand up against social injustice. They have also become the face of change by educating and empowering other women about voicing their opinions and standing up for themselves. These programs have acted as a catalyst that has broken centuries of restrictions and provided women with the much deserved platform to rise as equals.
There are many cultural barriers that come in the way of women empowerment. While some women feel these pressures, many of them have just become accustomed to being treated inferior to men. Even when men, legislators and NGOs are aware of the benefits of women empowerment, they are too scared to change the status quo and continue letting societal norms to get in the way of development. There have been researches that show that access to the internet has put women’s safety at stake by the sharing of personal information on several websites. Victimization includes cyber stalking, harassment, online pornography and flaming. This speaks for the victims of the internet whereas sexual harassment speaks for the victims of the workplace. It occurs in all industries but most notably in banking, sales and marketing, trade, business, civil service, lecturing and teaching. Sexual harassment is a clear result of gender discrimination, manifestation of unequal power relations between the two genders. Recent studies show that women face far more barriers than men, at workplaces. Such barriers include sexual harassment, unfair hiring, career progression and unequal pay where women are paid less than the men for the same piece of work. Women face another problem where the possibility of having a baby is enough for employers to push women back from their line. Women are in a position where they are made to take a decision whether to have babies or work. This is termed as “pregnancy penalty”. The traditional Indian society is a patriarchate bottleneck which is one of the biggest challenges faced while empowering women. Even though some schemes have been developed and devised for women empowerment, they have not been implemented properly.
“There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women.”-Kofi Aman.
Women empowerment is a very strong word. It is a need of the society. It is a multi dimensional process which should be able to make individuals realise their full worth. Empowerment demands drastic and basic changes in the society and the legal system. Empowering women can empower an entire nation because women act as a chain of knowledge. How can a nation progress if we leave half of it behind?