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   …SO WHAT IS “WOMEN EMPOWERMENT?”…


                            

BANANI DAS CHOWDHURY

It’s again that time of the year, where the talks of “Women Empowerment” is on a high pitch. As the month of March approaches, the world is ready to celebrate yet another “International Women’s Day” with another “new” theme. Around the globe, we observe “International Women’s Day” on 8th March, every year. The 2016 United Nations’ theme for International Women’s Day is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step it up for Gender Equality”. The history of the emergence of this very day is about women’s fight for the “right to equality”. Without letting go off gender inequality, women empowerment is a distant dream.

As your writer was on the task of writing upon this topic, I was thinking about the every aspect to it. Suddenly an “Angel” (whom I would refer to here); came to me, who is a tween (10-12years old) Girl child, (a girl of my aquintance) told me what I would be writing next. I told her just “about women”. Prompt came the reply in her words to me, “I can help you with my school’s essay on the topic of ‘Women’s rights in the society’ ”. Struck I was, yes, very true; this very topic is about women’s rights; or in simple words it’s about “Human Rights” and access to equal opportunities in every spheres of life.

As citizens of any law abiding nation and being born as “human”, each and everyone amongst us are entitled to some specific rights; irrespective of caste, creed, sex and religion. The discrimination is born in people’s “psyche” which leads to the fight for “gender equality” and sets the agenda for bringing about “Women Empowerment”.

Going down to the facts of history from the web sources, the first National Woman’s Day was observed in United States on 28th February, 1909. The Socialist Party of America designated this day in honour of the 1908 garment worker’s strike in New York, where women protested against working conditions, better pay, voting rights. In 1910, the Socialist International meeting in Copenhagen established a Women’s Day, international in character to honour the movement for women’s right and build support for achieving universal suffrage for women. With the Coppenhagen initiative, in 1911, International Woman’s Day was honoured for the first time on March 19 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, where more than one million women and men attended rallies campaigning for women’s right to vote, work, vocational training, to hold public office and to end discrimination on the job. In 1975, during International Woman’s Year, the United Nations (UN) began celebrating International Woman’s Day on 8th March. In 1977, UN General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be observed.

From the archive of past, as we got enlighted with the reason of observing “International Women’s Day”; we can conclude that to truly celebrate spirit of humanity, brought with it therefore the concept of “women empowerment”.

Now, how can we define “women empowerment”? Let’s first read what “He” has to say for “She’s” empowerment. When asked to define what it is meant by “women empowerment”, former Model and currently working as a Fashion videographer in Mumbai, Hassan Khan, has this to say, “If a woman can do what she is best at, is for me empowermet, as many girls has to sacrifice their interest for family etc.” He further added, “I don’t feel giving freedom to women to wear bikini and smoke and drink is just empowerment or freedom.” When asked what way, empowerment of women can be brought, he expressed his opinion as this, “It can’t be done in a year or two; the psyche which is prevalent in the society worldwide has to change.” What a better way then spreading awareness about it, among the current and upcoming generations to come, he suggessted.

Let’s now read what “She” feels about women empowerment. Nitika, who studied law and is currently working as a teacher, feels, “There is though no specific criteria to define empowerment, yet areas as level of education; literacy ratio; jobs; independence; participation in various advanced fields as IT, politics etc. can be taken into account.” When asked does she considers herself empowered, she affirmatively says, “Keeping in view the existing socio-cultural strata of the society, I am empowered to a significant extent, being able to take own decisions and having quality education.”

The UN definition of “Women Empowerment” falls under the guidelines of five components- women’s sense of self-worth; their right to have and to determine choices; their right to have access to opportunities; their right to have the power to control their own lives, both within and outside the home; and their ability to influence the direction of social change to create a more just social and economic order, nationally and internationally.

On what basis gender equality is measured? The Global Gender Gap Index of World Economic Forum are- economic participation and opportunities, political empowerment, educational attainment, health and survival.

The Fourth World Conference in Beijing produced the ‘‘Beijing Declaration and Platform For Action’’ which have had completed its 20th anniverssary last September. The Beijing Platform for Action which made commitments under 12 critical areas of concern, 20 years ago, still remains a vigilant road map towards women empowerment. The 12 critical areas of concern viz- women and poverty; education and training of women; women and health; violence against women; women and armed conflict; women and economy; women in power and decision-making; institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women; human rights of women; women and the media; women and the environment; the girl child.

India has been in revolution, since pre-independence days, advocating for equal rights of women, fighting against social evils as Sati system, Child marriages and the likewise. Acts as Widow Remarriage Act, 1856; Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929 etc. were achieved by the untiring efforts of great social reformers and freedom fighters. Both the Indian law and governments’ schemes are not lagging in “theory” to trace the road map of women empowerment. The country has had its last year’s Republic Day theme as “Women Empowerent”. From giving women the right to property to right to retain maiden name after wedlock, India is on its right revolutionary path. Though disparity is still there in many spheres.

The position of India was quite poor, 135 out of 147 countries on women empowerment as per United Nation’s Human Development Index, as reported in the Human Development Report 2014, published by UN development Programme. UNDP’s Human Development report 2015 shows India’s position low in Gender inequality Index, GII, 130 out of 155 countries.

We cannot draw the path towards women empowerment without achieving gender equality. As per World economic Forum, it was estimated in 2014; that it would take untill 2095 to achieve global gender parity in the workplace. A year later, 2015, it’s again estimated by the forum that a slowdown in already glacial pace of progress means gender gap would not close entirely untill 2133. In Global Gender Gap Index of World EconomicForum 2015, India’s rank is improved to 108 from last year’s rank of 114; out of 145 countries.

Can we judge a book by its cover? So can we judge a women’s empowerment by the just how she can be economically and educationally empowered or the likewise? Empowerment is not an outcome but a process. Speaking one’s mind, the right to be heared; right to raise voice against injustice; right to be free to one’s own will; right to anything and everything permissible under the eye of law; irrespective of gender; calls for the way of achieving gender equality which in turn can bring in women empowerment.

Can we say a women is empowered when she is not safe and is free to live in an environment away from violence and crimes against her? As per National Crime Records Bureau, crime rate under crimes against women is 56.3 (2014). Women around the world are also not yet free from violence and crimes against her.

Of late, advocating women’s right to pray have had created a lot of buzz. There were and are petitions in Supreme Court to High Courts, demanding women’s equal right to pray. Revolution is what all we need when it’s about striving for the “right to equality.”

What role media can play in empowering women and fighting gender inequality? From T.V. advertisements; films to the role of social media; it can do wonders in influencing healthy mindset among people, especially the youth. Actor as well as Director and Singer, Farhan Akhtar’s social media campaign “MARD”- Men Against Rape And Discrimination; “#VogueEmpower” initiative “Boys Don’t Cry” starring actress Madhuri Dixit Nene ; and the likewise created lot of buzz.

Why to stop a women from exercising any of her legal as well as her human rights of any sort; why should a women be deprived of equal opportunities and equal status; is now a open question to every human. Women needs “Preservation” not “Reservation” of her rights. It’s not the “Battle of the Sexes”, it’s the “campaign for humanity”. This is but a revolution that the world needs to change for good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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