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Indian Women’s Economic Empowerment: A Bleak Future

Women empowerment may have become a buzzword of today but as the world strives, to achieve gender equality in all spheres, the latest report of the Central Statistical Office (department of Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation) on the participation of women in economic sphere gives a jolt to your high hopes. If you think India has many Indira Nooyis and Sumitra Mahajans in the making, you are wrong, at least what the report data tends to suggest.

Titled as “Women and Men in India 2014”, the report analyses the participation rate of women in various sectors. To begin with, women constitute a little more than 15 percent in the present Central Council of Ministers of the NDA regime, as against 10 percent in 2004.Among the women MPs only 44 percent of them are post-graduates. The report further points out that only 11 percent of current Lok Sabha members are women. The states present even more dismal picture with only four percent of State Council comprising women and eight percent share commanded by women in the State Assemblies. 

If that is not enough to shock you, there is more to follow. The report shows that administrative and judicial services continue to be dominated by men. There are only 2 women judges out of 30 judges in the Supreme Court and only 58 women judges out of 609 judges in different High Courts. Six High Courts have no women judge at all. The share of women in Administrative and Foreign Service too remains dismal at 14 and 19 percent respectively.

However there is a silver lining too. The report shows that the women’s share in panchayats is pegged at 46.7 percent and women participation in sixteenth general election has jumped by 10 percentage points since the last election to 66 percent.

You may be aware that there is a direct link between economic participation and women empowerment. The participation of women in economic sphere is a key indicator of gender empowerment and equality. It enhances self-confidence of the woman and makes her an active contributing factor in society rather than just being passive agent. Swami Vivekanand had rightly said:-

“There is no chance of the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved. It is not possible for a bird to fly on one wing.”

Having presented the above figures, it is important to analyze why this trend continues. This bleak performance stems from patriarchal mindset that still views women as a ‘second class citizen’ and considers household as her primary domain of activity. We may have entered an era of nanotechnology but on the social front, we continue to lag behind many countries. Three months back, India may have celebrated 67 years of independence yet it is a shame that our women continue to be enslaved by orthodox and stereotypical notions. The progress and success of Indian women is still adjudged by her looks and her role in family rather than in economic sphere. Perhaps which why many families still don’t bother to educate their daughters and let them be financially independent. Dowry is another reason. Most girls even though educated, are so for the sake of happy and successful marriage rather than for making a successful career. Coming to politics, it is still viewed by many as a ‘dirty game’ of men. As a woman starts getting older, she has to face an irresistible pressure of getting married which perhaps explains why women are meagerly represented in Administrative and Judicial Services, both of whom require years of patience and effort. What is even more distressing is the fact that women sometimes themselves do not bother to invest their time and efforts in carving their own identity and do not realize the importance of being financially independent in today’s world.

So what do you think is the solution? Take action against all wrongs against women and also expect to things take their own course. Perhaps no. What we need is a paradigm shift from reactive to a more proactive approach in boosting gender empowerment. We need to understand that women are not merely passive agents but vibrant, dynamic players who can contribute to the nation’s progress. Disseminating awareness about the significance of the girl child is a possible solution for the latter’s birth is still unwelcomed today in many homes. But we cannot expect government to take all the initiative. An Indian citizen is as much bound to work for society as the government. It is commendable that in the recent past, non- governmental organizations and media have stepped up their campaign for gender equality and empowerment. But lot more needs to be done. Each and every one of us especially women must try to be aware of gender issues for we are significant stakeholders in the legislative process. We got to understand that everyone needs to be financially independant in today’s era of uncertainty. Giving reservation to women in jobs has shown positive results in case of panchayats but that should be accompanied by other concrete steps rather than being a solo, ‘vote bank politics’ measure. Every woman should realize that unless we are united, nothing can be done for our welfare. So we must also assume the responsibility of educating every other woman on the need of economic empowerment. A liberal education focusing on gender issues is also the answer to our woes. It is high time that politicians behave as more responsible citizens and media assume a more credible role in fulfilling their promises towards gender equality. Last but not the least, appropriate policies should be framed to enhance women participation in economic sphere. Special assistance in education and vocational training should be given to women of weak economic background to help them carve their niche. It is only through the conscious effort of each one of us that we can dream of a truly progressive nation!

About the Author

ASHITAAshita is a freelance journalist. An alumni of Lady SriRam College and Indian Institute of Mass Communication, she has a keen eye for women issues. Having worked in the media has sharpened her insight towards burning societal issues. She loves reading ,writing articles and travelling during her leisure hours. Currently, she is volunteering with Alexis Centre for Women’s Development.

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