Gender empowerment for rural upliftment
Dr Banarsi Lal
Women constitute around half of the world’s population but in fact they are the largest excluded category in all aspects of life.
They have only 1/10th of the global income. Around 70 per cent of women are still living below the poverty line. They constitute almost invariably a small minority of those holding elected office.
The data reveals that they were around 10 per cent of the world’s parliamentarians in 1980 which rose to 14.8 per cent in 1988, came down to 12.7 per cent in 1997, 19.5 per cent in 2011 and
24.50 in 2019.The women around the world are striving for gender equality.
Women especially in the rural areas are subjected to gender oppression and gender discrimination. The year 2001 was observed as the “Year of Women Empowerment” in India. Poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, ill-health etc. are the major problems in our country from the dawn of independence.
These factors are impending the socio-economic development of our country. Women are mostly affected by these socio-economic factors.
It has been observed that ill-health, unemployment and illiteracy rates are higher among the women as compared to men in our country.
It has also been observed that women- headed households suffer more from the poverty as compared to men-headed household. Between 2001 and 2009 the poverty rates for women were double than that of men.
They still face injustice from birth to death and discrimination among them is still very common. Every year; three million women die due to gender based violence.
Poverty is the greatest hurdle in the path of development. According to World Bank in 2011, 32.7 per cent per cent of the Indian people fall below the poverty line. The recent observations by the Indian government estimated that around 38 per cent of the Indian population is poor. India still has the world’s largest number of poor people in the world.
The incidence of poverty customarily is more in rural areas as compared to the urban areas and also the poverty in SC and ST households is more as compared to general castes.
The Human Development Report has noted that gender equality is
essential for empowering women and eradicating the poverty from the society.
From time to time the Indian
government has been emphasizing on empowerment of women. The only motive behind these endeavours is to bring them into the main stream of development.
Different policies, programmes and plans are laid to raise the economic status of women.
Article 15 of the constitution prohibits any discrimination on grounds of sex while the directive principles of state policy urges that states shall direct its policy for securing an adequate means of livelihood for women and securing equal pay for men and women.
In many five years plans, emphasis was given on women empowerment. It has been envisaged to organise women into self help groups and thus empower them to equip with skills in different trades to make them economically independent and to increase access to credit by setting up development bank for women. It has also been envisaged that the women programmes and policies need to be redesigned.
It has also been designed to provide marketing channels for them. The various programmes like Indira Mahila Yojana, Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas, Mahila Samridhi Yojana, Rashtriya Mahila Kosh etc. have been launched by the Indian government from time to
time. Prevalence of patriarchy norms, stereotyped gender biased and preference for son’s right to inherit parent’s property have deprived girl
children from their right to property.
In general, the son enjoys the inheritance father’s property. Women cannot claim equality with men unless she has the same right as men hold and inherit.
Ironically, the land reforms measures undertaken by different state governments are also silent about the women’s right to property.
In present era, growing modernization has escalated social aspirations and family tension, resulting in growing single women and women-headed households in the form of divorce, deserted and separated.
The reports indicate that 16.23 million of women headed house-holds are existing in India of which 72 per cent are residing in rural areas.
Therefore empowering the rural headed households would enable them to fight against the income and poverty. The sweets of women welfare benefits are mostly enjoyed by the highly literate women and those who belong to upper strata of urban society.
Women specially the rural women are deployed for the unpaid activities. Only around 15 per cent women are working in the organised sectors.
Women employment opportunities are characterised with seasonality, unskilled assignments, discrimination in wage etc. in unorganised sectors. In the arid and semi-arid areas, the women specially belonging to Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes and impoverished households work hard in order to mitigate hunger and poverty.
The data reveals that 43 per cent of working women constitute almost half of total earnings of their families and 18 per cent families entirely
dependent on their earnings. Women accessibility to savings and credit facilities improves their gender economic status.
Women accessibility to saving and credits from banking and non-banking sectors is low particularly for the rural women.
The empowerment of women largely confines to the few literate and employed urban women and the rural women remain beyond the reach of empowerment.
Even it has been observed that the bank officials hesitate to sanction loan to the rural women thinking them to be too poor because the ownership of assets usually rested with men.
Women are meagerly represented in the business because they lack of savings, credits and investment facilities. The Self Help Groups formulation is really a stepping stone for the economic empowerment of rural women.
These types of schemes really enable the rural women for the small saving and help them to carry out small investments in income generation activities at the rural level.
The women Sarpanches, Panches and village level workers of ICDS can further help for strengthening these types of schemes. Credibility among the women, difficulty in regular deposition of money, uncertainty about the benefits of activities etc. are the major hurdles in the formation of self help groups.
The income from the small income generating activities would definitely help to substantiate the rural household activities and food security. The women have a decisive role in the eradication of household poverty.
Empowering women with the property rights and banking facilities for the loans would contribute for the household income.
The income in the hands of women can contribute more in the household economic status than the income in the hands of men.
The economic empowerment of women would certainly help for the social upliftment and eradication of poverty especially from the rural areas.
(The writer is Head, KVK Reasi,
Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology-Jammu).