Women Empowerment :concept and operational strategies

Power is a relational dynamic between individuals or between groups of people and is often unequally distributed.This inequality results in control or domination.The pattern in which power is distributed in a society or the power structure of society is strengthened by the force of tradition ,values,history and by the prevalent ways of thinking and behaving.Any effort to change the balance of power entails change in the existing power.

Women’s empowerment is the process by which women negotiate a more equitable distribution of power , a greater space in the critical decision making processes in the home ,in the community and in the economic and political life.The aim of empowerment of women is the fuller and wholesome development of both men and women. Empowerment of women is anti-men.It is against patriarchy.Changes in law pertaining to marriage ,property,sexual harassment ,dowry,rape and other forms of violence,so as to bring in laws favouring or supporting women’s empowerment are necessary but not enough.Enabling women to actually access to the benefits of appropriate laws is the key task of the empowerment process.

The process of empowerment which seeks an equitable and active share for women has to deal with the burden of ideas and values which are passed on to women as part of their socialisation process from their very childhood.This social conditioning becomes part of her person and mindset and influences her behaviour.The empowerment process must begin with women changing their own ways of thinking and behaving .They must try to appreciate themselves more and to recognise and value their knowledge and skills and their contribution of the sustainability of the households and the community.

Women then,must wage a multi-prolonged battle at many levels and this battle has necessarily to begin with the women themselves at a personal and individual level .As the empowerment process advances ,men loose their traditional power and control over women and this process must begin within the family.Women setting out to empower themselves must be aware and also prepared for the backlash they might have to face from the men who suddenly find themselves losing their traditional power and control.The road to empowerment is long,lonely and often frightening.In fact ,the struggle is the process of empowerment.In recent decades, while individual women have been waging a very personal struggle ,they have not been alone.Women within communities ,within countries and across the globe have been linking within one another to expand and to sharpen their efforts for their own empowerment.

Operational Strategies in India

Institutional Mechanisms: National and State Resource Centres on women will be established with mandates for collection and dissemination of information, undertaking research work, conducting surveys, implementing training and awareness generation programmes, etc. These Centers will link up with Women’s Studies Centres and other research and academic institutions through suitable information networking systems.While institutions at the district level will be strengthened, at the grass-roots, women will be helped by Government through its programmes to organize and strengthen into Self-Help Groups (SHGs) at the Anganwadi/Village/Town level. The women’s groups will be helped to institutionalize themselves into registered societies and to federate at the Panchyat/Municipal level. These societies will bring about synergistic implementation of all the social and economic development programmes by drawing resources made available through Government and Non-Government channels, including banks and financial institutions and by establishing a close Interface with the Panchayats/ Municipalities.

Resource Management:

  1. Assessment of benefits flowing to women and resource allocation to the programmes relating to them through an exercise of gender budgeting. Appropriate changes in policies will be made to optimize benefits to women under these schemes;

  2. Adequate resource allocation to develop and promote the policy outlined earlier based on (a) above by concerned Departments.

  3. Developing synergy between personnel of Health, Rural Development, Education and Women & Child Development Department at field level and other village level functionaries’

  4. Meeting credit needs by banks and financial credit institutions through suitable policy initiatives and development of new institutions in coordination with the Department of Women & Child Development.

Women’s Component Plan: The strategy of Women’s Component Plan adopted in the Ninth Plan of ensuring that not less than 30% of benefits/funds flow to women from all Ministries and Departments will be implemented effectively so that the needs and interests of women and girls are addressed by all concerned sectors. The Department of Women and Child Development being the nodal Ministry will monitor and review the progress of the implementation of the Component Plan from time to time, in terms of both quality and quantity in collaboration with the Planning Commission.

Legislation

  1. Strict enforcement of all relevant legal provisions and speedy redressal of grievances will be ensured, with a special focus on violence and gender related atrocities.

  2. Measures to prevent and punish sexual harassment at the place of work, protection for women workers in the organized/ unorganized sector and strict enforcement of relevant laws such as Equal Remuneration Act and Minimum Wages Act will be undertaken,

  3. Crimes against women, their incidence, prevention, investigation, detection and prosecution will be regularly reviewed at all Crime Review fora and Conferences at the Central, State and District levels. Recognised, local, voluntary organizations will be authorized to lodge Complaints and facilitate registration, investigations and legal proceedings related to violence and atrocities against girls and women.

  4. Women’s Cells in Police Stations, Encourage Women Police Stations Family Courts, Mahila Courts, Counselling Centers, Legal Aid Centers and Nyaya Panchayats will be strengthened and expanded to eliminate violence and atrocities against women.

  5. Widespread dissemination of information on all aspects of legal rights, human rights and other entitlements of women, through specially designed legal literacy programmes and rights information programmes will be done.

Gender Sensitization:

  1. Promoting societal awareness to gender issues and women’s human rights.
  2. Review of curriculum and educational materials to include gender education and human rights issues
  3. Removal of all references derogatory to the dignity of women from all public documents and legal instruments.
  4. Use of different forms of mass media to communicate social messages relating to women’s equality and empowerment.

Partnership with the voluntary sector organizations: The involvement of voluntary organizations, associations, federations, trade unions, non-governmental organizations, women’s organizations, as well as institutions dealing with education, training and research will be ensured in the formulation, implementation, monitoring and review of all policies and programmes affecting women. Towards this end, they will be provided with appropriate support related to resources and capacity building and facilitated to participate actively in the process of the empowerment of women.

Women Reservation Bill: Reservation for women at each level of legislative decision-making, starting with the Lok Sabha, down to state and local legislatures.If the Bill is passed, one-third of the total available seats would be reserved for women in national, state, or local governments.In continuation of the existing provisions already mandating reservations for scheduled caste and scheduled tribes, one-third of such SC and ST candidates must be women. Political pundits, sociologists, political scientists, feminists and historians and almost everybody has said that if the bill becomes an act then it will be the biggest socio-political news since independence.
The central government cleared the Bill on February 25, 2010. For such a bill to pass, the Constitution has laid out an elaborate procedure. So, even if the Rajya Sabha passes the bill its real impact will be felt only when it passes through the Lok Sabha.On March 8, it’s difficult to say how the government will manage order in the Upper House so that members favouring the bill can vote without disruption or chaos created by opposing members.

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