Women's Empowerment in India – Reality or Rhetoric?

Winner Of CSC November 2021 Essay Competition : Khushi Chauhan (Dehradun, Uttarakhand)

Undoubtedly women empowerment has been the foremost subject matter in the spheres of development in India since ages.

"Empowerment of women leads to development of a good family, good society and ultimately a good nation. When a woman is happy, the home is happy, when the home is happy, the society is happy and when the society is happy the state is happy and when the state is happy, there will be peace in the country and it will develop at a greater pace."

-A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

The historical analysis of India set prominent standards for feminism. Savitribai Phule, a renowned feminist, took the initiative to get one step closer towards the development of the nation by starting first school for girls in India in 1848. On that note, the year "1848" marks the upliftment of the concept of gender equality. Education is considered to be the backbone of the women empowerment and have never been a disappointment in the realms of the acts of feminism.

When it comes to empowerment, "Rani Lakshmibai", remembered for her endurance during the Indian Mutiny of 1857, and cannot be neglected at any point of time.

In India, from the very beginning, protection of rights of women have been given priority and this is evident from the iconic works including abolition of ‘sati’, child marriage, and female infanticide - which have infused a sense of respect for the women in the mindsets of the future generations as well.

Indeed, the subject matter of the women empowerment in India, have been immensely taken into consideration in recent times. Now-a-days, there is no such field in which women have not been engaged. Not only they have been in an active participation in different fields but have also proclaimed their passion towards work by their level of achievements.

Avni Lakhera, the first Indian woman to win a gold medal at Tokyo Paralympic 2020 set a fine example of the women's achievements. "Bala Devi", the first Indian woman football player, "Bhawna Kanth", the first woman fighter pilot, all of these achievements leaves a trail of imprint on account of women empowerment. Kiran Bedi, the first Indian woman to join the Indian Police Service (IPS) is known for her optimistic and positive attitude and her contributions to the nation.

An empowered woman is every woman who (a) raises her child, (b) earns money for the livelihood of the family, (c) fights for herself in order to study and fights against the will of the ones who become barriers on the way of her success and (d) does daily household works.

The Government of India is proactively working towards empowering women through various plans, policies and schemes. Some of the most recent policies include: Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Scheme; One Stop Centre Scheme; Mahila E-Haat; Step (Support to Training and Employment Programme for Women); Working Women Hostel Scheme; UJJAWALA; Mahila Shakti Kendra, etc.

Authentically, the rhetoric stage of the term "women empowerment" arises out of illiteracy in some areas of India where women are still facing issues related to gender equality.

India is known for its divine culture and ethical values. Indian culture promotes respect of the women, inducing strength and positive impact through the worship of goddess. In India, each and every woman is considered as "Ghar ki Lakshmi" but in some areas, she is not encouraged to work and many families prefer to invest in quality education for their son over their daughter.

Although, a number of success stories of women leaves an imprint on the society, but somehow, these becomes less impactful when number of issues related to gender equality is taken up. The progress of the women empowerment will be of hidden nature until the security of women remains a matter of concern. Pushing the notion of ‘inferiority’ among women disgraces their self-esteem and brings down their level of confidence.

The need of the hour is to make women believe that they are safe to walk on the streets and are equally eligible to get engaged in different fields.

In the COVID-19 pandemic, there were several women who became victims of severe exploitation during the lockdown session which outlined the rhetoric use of the term "women empowerment". A common portrayal of a woman in everyone's mindsets is of weak and sensitive in nature.

But, in the pandemic, there were female doctors, teachers, nurses and female officers who gave significant contributions to the nation.

The truth is that women are strong warriors who should be treated on the basis of equality as set forth in the various examples.

"Swami Vivekananda" once claimed that without the empowerment of women, it is no possibility of the prosperity of the world by giving an example that a bird need both the wings to fly, with one wing, birds cannot fly, both the wings are equally important.

Within this frame of reference, in the words of "Sarojini Naidu", the nightingale of India, an Indian political activist and a poet, “A country's greatness lies in its undying ideals of love and sacrifice that inspires the mothers of the race".