The age-old tradition of worshipping female Goddesses, including respecting a woman’s role in society, such as mother, aunt, wife, and other female relatives or friends, has always been honoured in India. But, does it mean that the country can grow and prosper just by respecting or honouring women? No, it needs equality in every sphere of life for the other half of the country’s population.
Over time, great improvement and development have been witnessed in the condition of women, but real empowerment has eluded them. When a woman’s income is at par with a man’s, it means she has “developed”, but is she “empowered”? No, this happens only when she becomes capable of taking her own decisions, gains mental strength, is more confident, and is in complete control of her life.
In India, many women have successful careers, with salaries running into six-seven digits every month. However, very few of these women are capable of taking independent decisions about their lives without any interference from their fathers or husbands.
Empowerment should permeate all spheres of life and not be restrictive. Right from the time a girl is born, she should be treated equally competent as a boy, because the mindset of every individual develops right from the beginning. Girls should be given the same tasks as boys, without any differentiation. This will make them more confident and secure as adults. Just like a potter moulds clay to transform it into a vessel of his choice, our confidence, our strength, and our weaknesses take root in our childhood. When children are not discriminated against but provided the same opportunities, irrespective of their gender, it will definitely change their attitude and approach to life by the time they attain adulthood.
Times are changing, but despite the trend towards greater equality, some countries still ban women from certain jobs. In Russia, women aren’t allowed to drive trains or pilot ships. In Kazakhstan, women cannot cut, eviscerate or skin cattle and pigs. General safety concerns also limit and regulate a woman’s working hours. Women shopkeepers in Mumbai cannot work as late as their male counterparts, and Malaysian women are not permitted to transport goods and passengers at night.
Swami Vivekananda rightly said, “It is impossible to think about the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved. It is impossible for a bird to fly on only one wing.” The world can no longer neglect half its population. Women empowerment is definitely happening in India, slowly but surely. In 2005-06, it was reported that 76.5 per cent of married women exercised decision-making in their households. Ten years later, in 2015-16, the proportion increased to 84 per cent, according to the National Family Health Survey – 4.
This brings to fore another problem — Only one section of the women population (rich, living in urban areas) are enjoying the benefits of it. Women and girls in rural areas of India are yet to be exposed to equal rights, women safety, empowerment, etc. When you educate a woman, you educate the entire family!
We learned so much from our mothers. A mother is the first teacher of a child. If you can read this piece of writing, there are high chances that you must have been either taught or motivated to read and write by your mother.
It is an established fact that women empowerment is primary to the socio-economic and political development of a nation. It will be meaningless if women who constitute half the population of the planet, do not have access to education, healthcare, employment and political decision-making bodies. A nation benefits fully when both men and women contribute rigorously to social cohesion, economic growth, peace, and prosperity. The World Economic Forum recently reported that across the 135 countries examined, greater gender equality correlates positively with per capita gross national product. Countries with greater equality between women and men have economies that are more competitive and fast-growing.
Hence, we can say that removing barriers to empowering women stimulates economic development.
* (The writer is a Semester 2 student of BJMC)