Definition of empowerment according to the Cambridge Dictionary is “the process of gaining freedom and power to do what you want or to control what happens to you”.
The very fact that the term has been coined indicates that certain sector of the society needs to be given freedom. Throughout history there have been times when various groups or communities have been subject to discrimination on the basis of caste, race, ethnicity etc. However, I’d say one sector has borne the burden for way too long. They constitute 50% of the world’s population and these people are women.
From where did it all start?
I believe that in the times when supremacy was gained through physical power a sense of male dominance crept into the society. The value of a women’s contribution in the society got reduced because she couldn’t (largely) match the physical strength of a man. And this scenario slowly lead to looking down on women as a weaker sex. This invariably lead to exploitation of women and sadly the trend continues even today. Even though we live in a literate world where intellect is considered the most powerful aspect, somewhere people have not been able to completely accept this. Women still, are subject to many social, economic discriminations and exploitations despite them displaying intellectual supremacy too. “Old habits die hard,” this quote perfectly fits the scenario which tells us that the mentality of the society is yet to change before everyone believes in perfect equality.
Why is equality even needed if so many centuries of women have lived without it anyway?
A society of only men or only women cannot exist. Both the male, and the female form an important aspect of the society and have their own importance. You can compare this to a motorbike. Consider the front tire to be a female and the rear tyre to be a male and the bike – a relationship between the two or say a family.
The rear tire is thicker than the front tire, just like a male is physically stronger than a female (in general). The rear tire has a flatter structure when compared to the front one and provides sturdiness to the bike. The front tire plays the role of breaking and turning the bike to the left or right. Without either, the bike can’t run. If one tire is punctured the bike may run, but not too far.
Similarly for a society to run smoothly both the males and the females should be considered equally important.
What are the issues that women are facing and what brings the need to empower them?
The society at a point became such that women got completely depended on men. Initially it was for physical security but later it got carried onto economic and social dependency as well. India came to a state where widowed women were forced to commit suicide by jumping into the fire of their husband’s funeral. This widow was not even allowed to remarry. On the other hand, males were encouraged to remarry on the death of their wives. This is an example of the social dependency that women faced. This tells us that a female were viewed as an associate of a male. But tell me, if one tyre of the bike is punctured will you replace the punctured tyre or both? Certainly only the punctured one and you can see why this act cannot be justified.
This social dependency led to the economic dependency. Since women were viewed as associates of men, no importance was given to help them develop skills which could make them independent. The only skills that they were forced to develop were the ones which could support a male. This means that the bike manufacturers (or leaders of the society) decided to manufacture the front tyre such that it would work only till the rear tyre worked. If the rear tyre stops, so should the front tyre. Now that you can look at the situation from a distance you can see how harmful this move was. One can certainly see the loss such a step can incur.
Hence to avoid such a huge loss, or in better terms to enjoy the ride to the fullest, both the tyres should be in the best of their conditions and independent.
Now that the need of independence of both males and females is clear, you must know that this understanding is not widespread yet. Men aren’t alone in the evil of dominating and exploiting women. Women too, curb other women from advancing and becoming self sufficient and independent. And this is the result of a mentality that people had developed, which needs to change. This will also probably tell you the importance of the values and beliefs of a leader. A social leader has the power to influence the mentality of people such that it can impact many generations over centuries. Hence whenever electing a leader, or becoming a leader oneself do remember the responsibility that comes with the position. Your values could become the rules of someone else’s life.
Coming back to women, since the society became such where women were being considered somewhat lower than men, even when a few women came forward to prove their intellect or physical bravery, they were not accepted by the society and were looked down upon. And although situations for women have become better today but the question is, is it really so or is this just a veil of pretence that is hiding the real truth?
More women are working, that is true. The question that should be answered post that is where? How many women in the country hold positions of importance?
- Only six women judges have made it to the Supreme Court since Independence.
- Only 8% of top 50 CEOs in India are women.
- Women’s participation in labour force fell from 1990 to 2014.
These are just a few, the list is endless. Even after 70 years of independence, women are not considered equal to men by many. Unfortunately, not even by all women.
Follow us on Facebook for more such posts and practice questions for UPSC. You can join our Facebook Group to keep yourself updated and to connect to other aspirants.
Author: Akshay Palande
Akshay Palande is a passionate teacher helping hundreds of students in their UPSC preparation. With a degree in Mechanical Engineering and double masters in Public Administration and Economics, he has experience of teaching UPSC aspirants for 5 years. His subject of expertise are Geography, Polity, Economics and Environment and Ecology.