Empowerment of women

Empowerment of women

Chukka Ramaiah: Empowerment of women, the moment when the power of the common voter, of every citizen, becomes vital and crucial, the future of the nation hangs in a balance.

In any true democracy, in election time, the moment when the power of the common voter, of every citizen, becomes vital and crucial, the future of the nation hangs in a balance. Just as we judge a person by the friends he has and the books he reads or the sites he visits, we tend to assess and weigh the different contenders in the political arena by the vision and mission they announce for their tenure of future governance.

This week I happened to read a statement by Hillary Clinton that "More women do serve in public office; they're able to contribute to their economies. But, it is a glass that is half-full at best, because in too many places too many women still face ceilings that hold them back."

It is very true about our country .There is yet another news that caught my eye and troubled me for it made me wonder where we are headed to… The Supreme Court has banned a lawyer from entering its precincts for six months, after the top court's gender sensitisation panel found him guilty of stalking and harassing a female advocate.This is the first order given against a lawyer by the top court's Gender Sensitisation and Internal Complaints Committee (GSICC) that was constituted in November last year by Chief Justice P Sathasivam. If this is the condition in our most respected institutions, will our women ever ‘break the ceilings’?

If I were to think like Gurudev Tagore, I would pray: Where parents welcome their girl with open arms, where the girl child has ample opportunities to enjoy childhood and study, where child marriages and heartless abuse do not make her a play thing , where her innate potential gets a chance to be discovered and channelised, where a woman is not a mute victim of domestic violence, where education makes her empowered to participate in the nation’s progress, where she is not discriminated against but respected as an equal, that should be the India our democracy should step into.

We hear some buzz words like empowerment, self-expression, freedom etc., being used liberally by many advocates of women’s rights but what we all need to realise is that empowerment is not something that can be bestowed on someone, it has to be an innate feeling of confidence, competence and credibility emerging from one’s realisation of potential, capabilities, expression and the subsequent sense of pride in oneself along with the economic, social recognition it earns. No party can empower women without providing them adequate chances to blossom and realise themselves. If we prefer a leader or group which has no high opinion of women, it would be like gliding back into the dark ages.

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen in his book “Development as Freedom” observes that in the political economy of development, an adequate recognition of political, economic and social participation and leadership of women is a crucial aspect of ‘development as freedom’. I take the liberty to share some of his observations here with the fond hope that we may find scope for seeing women in the agents’ role than in the receivers’ role. Even today, there is more ‘ill-being’ than ‘well-being’ in the excess mortality of women in Asian countries, ours included, with gigantic numbers of ‘missing women’, ‘missing’ in the implicit sense of being dead as a result of gender bias in the distribution of health care and other necessities. To remove such inequities, it is imperative to see women as agents of change, for their progress.

In women’s empowerment, along with the standard factors often discussed, there are some more important variables like the nature of the employment arrangements, attitudes of the family and the society at large and also, the economic and social circumstances that encourage or resist change in these attitudes. For the welfare of our nation, we must pay attention to these factors.

Whether Virginia Woolf talks of ‘A Room of One’s Own’ or Bina Agarwal calls it ‘A field of one’s own’, women’s initiative and involvement have far reaching effects on the balance of economic and social power ratios, environmental development, conserving natural resources etc. Let us wish for a healthy environment where women can realise their full potential in all fields and be respected for their contributions.

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