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Women’s Empowerment Essay

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UNDP promotes equality between women and men through ‘gender mainstreaming.’ The organization’s corporate strategy on gender is designed to integrate the promotion of women’s empowerment and equality fully in the organization’s core business. This strategy calls for gender mainstreaming to become everyone’s job – not the responsibility of a small number of specialists. It rests on three pillars:

Developing capacities – both in-country and in-house – to integrate gender concerns in all practice areas;

Providing policy advisory services that promote gender equality and women’s empowerment; and

Supporting specific interventions that benefit women and innovative models such as those developed and tested by the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).

Priorities of the corporate gender action plan include monitoring the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); reducing the incidence of HIV among vulnerable women; promoting women’s empowerment through democratic governance, decentralization and civil society participation; and developing women’s capacities through training, knowledge-sharing and networking.

UNDP’s multi-year funding framework includes a mechanism to ensure that gender equality is effectively integrated in all UNDP service lines and programmes.

Accountability tools include a gender mainstreaming scorecard, which tracks overall progress at the corporate level; the review of manager and staff performance in gender mainstreaming as part of the yearly appraisal process; and new indicators to track results.

‘Gender mainstreaming’ was defined by the United Nations Economic and Social

Council in 1997 as ‘a strategy for making women’s as well as men’s concerns and experiences an integral dimension of…the policies and programmes in all political, economic and societal spheres so that women and men benefit equally and inequality is not perpetuated.’

The relative status of men and women; the interaction between gender and race, class and ethnicity and questions of rights, control, ownership, power and voice all have a critical impact on the success and sustainability of every development intervention.

In practice, gender mainstreaming means identifying gaps in gender equality. Despite good intentions and some real progress, the development community, UNDP included, is still falling short in delivering on its promises. Many of the problem areas were identified in the UN Secretary-General’s Review and Appraisal of the Implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action. These areas include the development of accountability mechanisms; allocation of sufficient resources; attention to gender equality; targeting not just ‘soft’ areas for gender mainstreaming (such as health and education), but also supposedly ‘gender-neutral’ areas, such as infrastructure development and economic policies; and strong political commitment and will.

Women empowerment at its best
taniya talukdar Apr 11, 2012, 12.00AM IST

Women|Sex|Seminar|National Commission of Women|Bollywood|Advantage

(Women empowerment at its…)
TOI finds out what the women in the city think of women empowerment.

Today’s women are a smart lot and when they are empowered, it only gives them an extra edge. The statement made by Mamta Sharma, head of the National Commission of Women at a seminar in Jaipur recently only goes on to show how far women have come. “Don’t be offended if someone says ‘sexy’, rather take it positively,” said Mamta.

While we are still at empowering women with more rights, some of us feel that being a woman itself has worked out a boon for them. Being a woman, city-based interior designer and entrepreneur, Vinita Chaitanya, has never faced any setbacks. In fact she says, “It has always worked towards my advantage,” adding, “It all depends on how you portray yourself. The only way one can treat you inferior is when they have better knowledge as its powerful here. I never felt that I belong to the weaker sex so to speak because I know my subject well.”

Interior designing is one area which does extremely well when there is a woman’s touch to it. Though the same cannot be said about our film industry, or so most of the producers there think. Filmmaker Kavita Lankesh who has been in the industry for several years now feels that when it comes to women directors, producers don’t feel safe investing big budgets. “Women directors are always considered for parallel cinema and low budgets films. Commercial high-budget films are never for us,” informs Kavita, who thinks it’s easier to make a place in Bollywood than in the Kannada film industry. She adds, “There is an instance when a producer was ready to invest two and a half crores on a spot boy to direct a film without even knowing who he really was and just eighty lakhs in my film. So yes the film industry could definitely do with women empowerment, not only the technicians but the actors as well.”

Empowering women isn’t enough; they should take the initiative to justify the empowerment. Leadership development practitioner, Munira Sen knows it only too well when she says, “Women should assert themselves and take place as leaders wherever they are. They need to be leaders at home, the panchayat, work space, community, at the state and national level.” She adds, “The time is right to take on leadership roles and more responsibilities and make changes wherever they are. There is a need for active citizen leaders as they need to take authority. Women face tough choices, odds are stacked against us, its time not to see ourselves as victims, but to seize the power within ourselves, face sunshine and the shadows fall behind.”

What is perennial though is the fact that empowerment means different at different strata of the society. “For a woman, empowerment is not just the extra bucks; it’s not just the bank balance and not escapes from domestic drudgery. It’s all about self reliance, liberation, sense of pride and courage to fight social injustice. I am all for it,” says danseuse Vani Ganapathy, adding, “Empowerment cannot be measured for the mere fact that different strata of society have different benchmark. We cannot have a particular standard saying what is too little or too much.”

Since the older times, women have been treated as second rate citizens of all across the globe. The situation is almost the same everywhere-irrespective of the developed country or the developing country-caste, community, colour or creed a position which is comparable in many ways, with that of racial minorities. Women have been relegated to secondary position despite the fact that they numerically constitute about half the world population today.

This situation has caused immense loss to their self-dignity as human beings and also their independent entities, associated with men, apart from other matter, in context with intellectual and professional capability.

In the very beginning of civilization, women enjoyed a respectable position in society-at par with men. They actively participated in social, religious affairs as well as in warfare. The social, religious ceremonies were considered incomplete unless women participated in them. However, it was their physical constitution which acted as hurdles on the way to doing their various different difficult tasks.

Gradually, they became dependent on men for food, protection for their other necessities. It was due to the strong built-up of men they risked their lives in course of hunting and food collection. It is really ironical that superiority is not accorded to the fair sex who are responsible for carrying forward lives on this planet but to men who have muscle power with the help of which they can subjugate others.

Later, woman became the epitome of procreation, and was very often associated and identified with Earth, which supported lives with all her resources. This thought inspired in men a feeling of respect and regard which was reflected in their worship of women as goddesses. Despite this elevated position that she enjoyed, and are still enjoying in the form of being worshipped as goddesses Durga, Kali, Lakshami, Saraswati, etc. However, a woman is fated to be subjected, owned, and exploited like the very nature, whose magical fertility she embodies.

During the course of social development, the position of women also changed. When society was formed, patriarchy was established. Gradually, males became dominant in society. They were to write the codes for all times and obviously women were given a subordinate position. A prominent feature of hegemonic ideologies is the projection of the dominant viewpoint as universally true.

Patriarchy, as an ideological assumption, works on the same principle. And, yet, even in ages of strict dominance by males, society has thrown up women of calibre, who could match, even surpass, the skills of men. They made great progress in various fields of life and gained significant achievements as teachers, doctors, engineers, scientists, explorers, soldiers and pilots. This achievement is really plausible because they have been achieved in a highly adverse situation and at the cost of severe social criticism, indeed even ostracism.

The need for women’s empowerment arises from the subordinate position they have been accorded for a long time. The empowerment has been felt as a tool to bring about changes in their socio-economic condition. It has been felt on the part of nation as well as individual that no society can progress till women, a major constituent of society, lag behind.

Empowerment of women needs to begin with her participation in different spheres of life. Education is a great determinant in this regard. To achieve empowerment women have to be educated to be aware of their rights and privileges in a modern society. It is education which can bring about awareness in them related to their social status, injustice and differentiation meted out to them. Besides, economic independence is a major factor which can contribute in empowering women. India in the very beginning realised this need.

The architect of Indian Constitution was of the opinion that unless and until women are empowered, nothing was going to bring about any change in their destiny. At that time, the women, in the name of sansakaras were tied up with the bondage of superstitions, which they had to carry till the last breath of their lives. They were considered just a matter of joy and a source of amusement. She was, according the Hindu Shashtra, the bonded slave of her father when she was young, to her husband when she was middle-aged and to her son when a mother. Of course, all the epigrams, aphorisms, proverbs, platitudes and truism have been naked truth about the stature of women in India.

It does not mean that efforts have not been made to bring dignity in the life of women. There has been a long tradition of social reforms by our saints and social reformers which include: Raja Rammohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Mahadev Govind Ranade, and Jyotiba Phule, to name a few, who tried their best to bring changes in the life of women.

Their efforts, however, bore fruit to some extent, but did not make too much difference to the lots of the masses. In this direction, Dr. Ambedkar tried to break down the barriers in the way of advancement of women in India. He laid down the foundation of concrete and sincere efforts by codifying the Common Civil Code for the Hindus and the principle is capable of extension to other sections of the Indian society. Besides, he also made provision in the Constitution to ensure a dignified social status to women. He, by codifying Hindu Law in respect of marriage, divorce and succession rationalised and restored the dignity of women.

In addition to this, the Sharda Act is also worth mentioning. It has set the seal of authority upon the piece of social reforms, which the heads of orthodoxy were imposing and impending. The Hindu Code Bill, which covers issues such as right to property, order of succession to property, maintenance, marriage, divorce, adoption, minority and guardianship, constitutes part of social engineering via law. Needless to say, it was a revolutionary measure.

It was really a first step towards the recognition and empowerment of women in India. This gives a woman right to property, which undoubtedly strengthens her social position. Despite all these political measures, women’s empowerment remains a distant dream in India. In fact, political empowerment is a key to development in this society. It is a must for an all- around development of women. It is the need of the hour to ensure her participation in the decision-making at home, in community and at the national level. It is for the fulfillment of this need that the Women’s Reservation Bill was introduced in the Parliament by the BJP Government. But since then, ruling parties changed in power but the Bill could not see the light of the day.

The political parties do not seem to be honest in their perspectives. But before political empowerment, we must concentrate on imparting social education because without academic and social education, the political empowerment has failed to bring desired result as we have seen in case of 33 per cent reservation in local bodies ensured by the historic 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments. The uneducated women are quite unaware of their rights and privileges and are therefore subject to exploitation at the hands of government machinery, as well by family members.

Therefore, our efforts should be directed towards the all- around development of each and every section of Indian women, not confining the benefit to a particular section of women in society, by giving them their due share. It is a must to protect their chastity, modesty and dignity and ensure their dignified position in society. Without removing social stigma, enduring progress and development could not be achieved. For this, the governmental and non-governmental organisations including media should come forward and play an active role in creating awareness in society.

The task is not too difficult to achieve. The honesty and sincerity on the part of those involved is a must. If the lots of women change, definitely it will have a positive impact on society. Hence, the women’s empowerment is the need of the hour.

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