The indicators of social empowerment of women include the base of gender inequality, sex ratios, life expectancy rates and fertility rates which shows the general status of women in terms of literacy, economic growth, availability of health care and birth control facilities, educational status of women, age at marriage, literacy rates and participation of women outside the home. Gender inequality is a worldwide phenomenon and leaving aside some Nordic nations, gender inequality base reflects very poorly for almost all major countries in the world. Sex ratio is against women in Asia and even though life expectancy has gone up around the world including in Asia it has not improved the overall status of women in much of the world. Same is the case with fertility rates which have declined in some regions including Asia but the positive impact of this change on women around the world is not as much as that was desired. Glaring gender gap exists in terms of literacy rates though it is narrowing across Asia. The figures for female literacy rates are not at all encouraging in the developing world. Now let’s focus on various issues that are closely associated with the social empowerment of women.
Social empowerment of women: Ending violence against women
Violence against women is a real fact and we need to acknowledge the real tragedy behind this crime. It totally shatters the women from the core psychologically as well as physically. It is time that community development and feminist values are made an integral aspect of empowerment of women. Women need to be educated and made aware of their rights and they should be encouraged to stand united against the biased and discriminating social environment which directly and indirectly affects their psychological and physical self. Education and awareness would be a big step towards the fight against gender based violence. Only through education and awareness we can connect with the vast majority of women living in various parts of the world and prevent them from falling pray to the numerous forms of possible violence in their life. We have to accept the fact that women are constantly under the threat of violence from various sides. The oppressive structures of the society need to be changed and oppression of women need to be stopped but it won’t happen through some quick fix solutions. The change can be only possible through social empowerment of women at the grass root level with education and awareness.
Social empowerment of women: Issues related to social empowerment of women
When we talk of social empowerment of women then we are actually addressing various issues which might be applicable to different parts of the world for improving the overall status of women. Among them the prominent issues relate to education for women, health for women, nutrition for women, drinking water and sanitation for women and their family, housing and shelter for women and their family, environment and the connection with women, participation of women in the field of science and technology, care for women under difficult circumstances, fighting the violence against women and rights of the girl child.
Social empowerment of women: Education for women
We need to accept the fact that gender inequality and discrimination has been the norm of the society and in this regard it touches all aspects of the life of women. Education and training for women is one of the major goals of social empowerment of women which need to be universally made applicable to all parts of the world. This will definitely enhance the awareness in women which in turn will increase her confidence. A confident and well aware woman would be able to tackle inequality and discrimination in a far better way than an ill-equipped and ill-trained woman. But on the other hand we have to accept the fact that women and girls never had equal access to education as men and boys have. Illiteracy is the highest among the female of the population. Women are far behind in terms of having gainful occupation or vocation because of lack of skills and education. There is an enormous gender gap in secondary and higher education. Moreover religious and caste equations have made things worse in many parts of the world. The work has to start at the grass root levels. The educational systems need to be made more accessible to women at grass root levels and they need to be revamped to include gender sensitive educational system which prevents sex stereotyping and discrimination. Social organizations can play a major role in universalizing education at the basic ground level. This can be achieved through increasing the enrollment and retention rates of girl child in the primary schools and offering quality education and skills to them so that they can stand up on their feet and live a dignified life.
Social empowerment of women: Healthcare for women
Coming to the health of women we need to understand that women are facing very difficult times at all stages of their life cycle. It is sad to note that a section of our society is highly prejudiced against the girl child and in fact can be labelled as criminals of the highest order as they practice the heinous crime of female feticide. Then we have the problem of high infant mortality and maternal mortality and one of the major reasons for this being the early child marriages. Quality health care for women is not available in many parts of the world. Women’s right to informed choice regarding her reproductive rights is another area which needs attention. Talking of reproductive rights women even don’t have affordable choice of family planning methods. Education and awareness in this regard is nonexistent and absent. Women are vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases and other endemic, infectious and communicable diseases. HIV/AIDS is another major problem. Women’s traditional knowledge of health care and nutrition, alternative systems of medicine are actually underutilised and not recognized. It is necessary to recognize these alternative systems and integrate them with the main stream health care systems to make it work in tandem. This shall help in providing reasonable and quality health care for women.
Social empowerment of women: Nutrition, drinking water, sanitation and housing
For women, from the stage of infancy and childhood to the stage of adolescent and reproductive phase the risk of malnutrition is the highest. There is a close link between the health of an adolescent girl who becomes a pregnant and lactating woman latter and the health of the infant child. Macro and micro nutrients are needed for these special conditions but they are not available to the vast majority of women. In house the women and girl child face great discrimination as regards to good nutritious food. This happens in the early growth period of a child as well as to a pregnant and lactating woman. Other major issues are drinking water and sanitation especially in rural areas and urban slums. Housing and shelter are also area of attention including adequate and safe accommodation for single women, heads of the households, working women, students, apprentices and trainees. These are very real issues of the very real world that we live in. Without addressing these basic needs we cannot think about any meaningful step towards social empowerment of women.
Social empowerment of women: Women and environment conservation
Social empowerment of women and environment is closely linked. Women can play a major role in conservation and restoration of the environment. Rural women use unconventional and nature friendly source of energy in the form of animal dung, crop waste and fuel wood. Using of solar energy, biogas, and smokeless stoves can really help the rural women as they can act as environmental friendly tools.
Social empowerment of women: Participation of women in development of science and technology
Women’s empowerment cannot be complete without their equitable participation in science and technology. Women have special role to play in the area of science and technology. They can bring a wave of creative and generative energy in the field of science and technology. Today their participation is restricted and limited to very less numbers because of widespread discrimination at the basic education levels and lack of opportunities for pursuing higher studies. Reducing drudgery with the help of science and technology is another major area of importance for freeing women from the never ending domestic chores and making her contribute to the mainstream of the society.
Social empowerment of women: Helping women in difficult times
Women in difficult circumstances need special attention. These include women in extreme poverty, destitute women, women in conflict situations, women affected by natural calamities, women in less developed regions, disabled widows, elderly women, single women in difficult circumstances, women heading households, women who are displaced from employment, migrant women who are victims of marital violence, deserted women and prostitutes. These women are in difficult circumstances which are not of their own making. They are the victims of the selfish streak of society. It is ironical to note that women become the primary pray for all the malice and sins of the society. It is time to reverse this phenomenon. Organizations especially the grass root level social organizations should come in large numbers to help these women who are at the receiving end for a sin which is not of their making.
Social empowerment of women: Fighting against violence and discrimination
Violence against women is heinous crime against humanity. Violence can be both physical and psychological and it happens at the domestic front as well as at other levels of the society. It is in fact openly practiced in many societies through various forms which include customs and traditions. Sexual harassment at work, dowry related violence and trafficking of women and girls are different types of violence against women. Discrimination against women starts when they are just children. Girl child discrimination is the most prevalent form of harassment seen from the early age of a child. Parental sex selection, female feticide, female infanticide, child marriage, child abuse including sexual and psychological abuse and child prostitution are the many kinds of violence and discrimination against the girl child that is seen within the home as well as the society. Special awareness and education programmes needs to be formulated and implemented at every level to fight the violence against women. Strict laws need to be formulated to fight the crime of violence against women. More than formulating the laws the priority should be to implement and enforce these laws so that we can root out violence against women. This is necessary for any meaningful social empowerment of women.