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Women Empowerment And Changing Mindsets PDF Print Email

Women empowerment is all about empowering women to lead a life without discrimination and with all the entitlements to live to their fullest potential. However, this right to equality is a theoretical concept until and unless it is coupled with an opportunity to exercise these rights in all spheres of their life.

The approach to the debate on women empowerment has been a rights based approach versus a duty based approach. Under the rights based approach women are now demanding and asserting here rights in all spheres of life on what has been denied to them. The duty based approach on the other hand, enjoins upon  each and every member of the society at the individual level as well as a collective a duty to give women what is due to her and to ensure that she is treated as an equal member of the society. Somehow I guess this duty based approach has taken a backseat. This I guess has been percolated as the power that the men enjoyed in controlling women through the ages, they do not want to let go. Thus the conflict.

In service and out of service, I have heard all about equality but when it comes to empowerment, it can only be delivered when we make conditions conducive enough for our women to claim what is due to them. It is much more than putting them on the same footing as men; it is going beyond the concept of equality.  This requires their inner as well as outer fortification in addition to changing social and organizational beliefs and policies. This requires changing mindsets, the beliefs that women are inferior sex, that they need to be protected and sheltered, that they are incapable of decision making in any sphere of their life be it education, career or family and resources. And I am not talking about the mindset of men alone but of men and women. Inner fortification starts with self, of a women’s ability to recognize her potential and go for it and then comes the rest of the society on how they support and nurture this spirit. This requires recognizing their individual as well as collective contribution to the society be it as mother, as home makers in rearing the productive and well adjusted members of the society or as careerists. Letting them reclaim not only their personal space, but the world at large, the public spaces to which they have an equal entitlement.

When we explore as to why we have come to this stage where we are talking about empowering our women, what is it that has disempowered them in the first place? I think the one and only thing that ails the society is the inherent belief that

“Man is superior to a woman”.

This is the deep rooted belief that defines our society in its present form. All our traditions and rituals are based on this very assumption.  These deep-rooted social traditions and rituals have sustained and exploited women to this current state and continue to perpetuate innumerable atrocities on them every day.

Rape is not reported because there is premium on virginity in our social and cultural ethos. That result is that the victim often has to internalize such experiences and if she does find the courage and support to report, she is further victimized and the accused is rarely ostracized by the society.

Dowry is still prevalent despite plethora of laws and regulations in all social cultural and economic backgrounds. Even the most educated lot has not been able to say no to this evil and here also I am talking about men and women. Even the highly qualified professional women have rarely stood up and refused the exchange of dowry.

Single women continue to be treated with disdain. Thus the women continue to suffer years of domestic violence and do not dare to report till they find support from their families. Often economically dependent, not having any other viable alternative they continue to live a life full of misery and neglect.

The social apathy on street crimes has reached to the extent that nobody interferes or responds to the cries of help from a woman even in crowded public spaces let alone the closed confines of home. So is it any wonder that we have such a skewed sex ratio? That we have millions of missing girls in the country? That we still have female feticide and infanticide in the 21st century? That child marriages are still prevalent in the society?

There are no social mechanisms to check the growing crimes against women. Thus our dependence on the law enforcement agencies has increased which is supposed to clean up the society of these social aberrations but no focus has been given on the correctional aspect. How do we improve the society and stop the crime against women to be committed in the first place? This requires social intervention and a holistic approach in addition to strong legislation and deterrence as to consequences of a criminal act.

To fortify a woman she needs to be nurtured and socialized in a manner that she realizes her potential and becomes capable of achieving what she aims at, this requires working at the family level and changing their mindsets about a girl child. Then comes the opportunities, the resource allocation and the external infrastructure available to cater to those needs.

External support mechanisms, be it the government policies and infrastructure catering to women, and an efficient criminal justice system with progressive legislation in sync with the needs of the women is also a prerequisite to this change. However, this on its own is not sufficient because often the access to justice is barred for lack of social support and lack of awareness. There is a need for raising this awareness at all levels on women’s rights, legislations and services available to them, i.e., their entitlements so that they can have access to them.

Time has now come and there is no option but for the society to start accepting the changing gender equation in light of the progressive laws and new age demands of equality and to be a partner in this change. This can be done through concerted efforts at all levels, at home, in schools, in collages, institutions, workplace and streets which is the essence of our social system at large to take small or big steps and bring in this change on how we perceive our women because this is reflected in our treatment towards them. This is how the women in the society will reclaim what is due to them. Breaking social apathy starts with you and me in the now and not in some distant future. We are all leaders and harbingers of change in our own spheres. We need to develop our own ethics and educate those around us, giving back to the society and creating the society we want to live in, we want our children to live in. and we can start now.

As has been said that the estimate in which woman is held, her capacity, her character, her claim to equality, independence and freedom of developing, her rights to personal ownership and control of property, to the choice of her vocation and other rights as well as duties as a member of the society, do tell the ideals of the society as to womanhood.