The Bold Voice of J&K

Women Empowerment and Gender Equality

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DR BANARSI LAL

The contribution of women to the society has been contemplated over the years. Women play a vital role at the grass root level for social development. Education is the prime tool for upliftment of society particularly for a girl child who in turn educates the family. The man without woman is like an eye without vision. In our country mythology, the status of women has always adjudged with high honour so much so that women were even worshipped. Even in the Vedic Age, the women were much respected .Women of the Rigvedic period were asked to compose some of the hymns and have risen to the rank of seers like Visvavara, Apala and Ghosha. The women were performing the social duties with full responsibility and were considered an integral part of the family. We have the evidence that women led a free life in the Vedic period and education was not denied to them. Many Madrasas were set up by the kings especially for girls in Mughals era. Although there were some atrocities took place against women in Mughals era but they promoted the women’s status. Remarkable participation of women in India’s freedom struggle throws much light on the potential and strength of women. Nobody can deny the significant role played by the women during the Indian National Movement. Vijayalakshmi Pandit, Sarojini Naidu, Madam Bhikaji Cama, Sucheta Kriplani are to name a few of the women who devoted their whole life for the freedom of the country. Captain Lakshmi Sehgal headed the Rani Jhansi Regiment of the Indian National Army. Sarojini Naidu is said to be the “Nightingale of India”, was elected as the Congress President. Our freedom struggle would have been an arduous task without the key contribution of women. There were many undisclosed faces of Indian women who provided moral support for national building.
The International Labour Organization report says that women constitute 50% of the population make up, 30% of the labour force, receives 10% percent of the world’s income and own less than 1% of the world’s property. According to 2011 Census, female literacy level in our country is 65.46% against the male literacy level of 82.14%.During 2001-2011 decadal period, the growth in female literacy rate (11.8%) was substantially faster than male literacy rate (6.9%). This is a tremendous growth when compared to the ratio in 1951.During the decade 2001-2011, there is a tremendous progress in the field of female literacy in our country. Women are contributing a lot in the Indian economy growth. We made a bold step in respect of the political empowerment of women at the grass root level.64TH Constitutional Amendment Bill for reservation of women in Panchayats was introduced. Though it failed in Rajya Sabha,it was reintroduced during Narasimha Rao’s regime. In December 1992, Parliament passed the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments providing for 33% reservation for women in the Panchayats Raj elections. In the last decade, the women have played a significant role in local bodies. Women’s Reservation Bill is still being debated.
The presence of women in the national politics has grown significantly. Women have proved that if any opportunity is given to them could be completed successfully in any field. Smt. Indira Gandhi was the world’s 2nd Woman Prime Minister and Ms. Vijayalakshmi Pandit was the first woman President of the UN General Assembly. India had many examples of umpteen women in respect of Governors, Chief Ministers,Judges, and Civil Servants etc. In the entertainment industry also Indian women have proved their talent. In the World Beauty Pageant contests, India is the only country to have won the Miss World context more than twice. In sports also the Indian women namely P.T.Usha, Sania Mirza, Anju Bobby George, Mithali Raj, Mary Com etc.have gained prestigious position. Kalpna Chawla and Sunita Williams have proved that they are not lesser than anybody even in the field of Space Technology. Although we are proud of the Indian women in the global arena but we should also look into the atrocities against them in the name of female foeticide, gender inequality, sexual harassment, dowry system and many more evils. The atrocities against women start even before they are born and get manifested in the environment with a new face. The evils against them are man -made that shackles the women’s growth from keeping the pace with the development. The plethora of atrocities and denial of basic rights to women, have led the society to contemplate over it. The sexual harassment cases are observed everyday. A report of World Health Organization reveals that a woman is being raped after 54 minutes. After every four minutes, a woman or minor girl becomes the victim a sexual harassment. Gang rape and murder case of23 year medical girl in Delhi demands the strict law to prevent this heinous crime against women. Prostitution is a shame which is spoiling the rich culture and traditional history.
Women Recognisation by World Organizations and India:
” 8th of March is celebrated as “International Women Day” every year with great importance.
” In 1998, Food and Agricultural Organization observed the World Food Day and the theme was “Women Feed the World”.
” The year 2001 was declared as “Women Empowerment Year”.
” Every year, 25th of November has been earmarked as the “International Day against Violence to Women”.
” The decade 1991-2001 was declared as “SAARC Decade for Girl Child”.
” Landmark legislation for the protection of Girl Child in Goa.
” The Gujarat Government declared 2002-03 as the “Year of Girl Child”.
The policy makers and political leaders have clearly defined the code of conduct for the peaceful and prosperous society, while making the Constitution. Till 1947, the violence against women was considered as a social problem but now that is considered as an individual problem for women. Now many organizations are realizing the emerging scenario of women discrimination. It is really a serious concern and it needs a consistent approach to counter it. Man and woman are interdependent on each other and they cannot live individually. It is the responsibility of every male to create a peaceful and conducive atmosphere for the females, who are the emerging stalwarts of the society. Mere slogans, public meetings and wayward announcements are not sufficient. Active participation and the sense of belonging articulated by every Indian are very important. We should think that women are the social base of the country and through their tutelage we can build a strong nation. We should give more emphasis on gender equality. Each of us should think that men and women are equal and men should treat women as their equal partners with dignity and humanity. Men are born from the womb of women and they should respect them in every sphere of life.
The writer is: Sr. Scientist, KVK Reasi, Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology-Jammu, SKUAST-J.

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