Women’s empowerment and what it means in India’s context. Women in India can broadly be categorized under the urban and the rural. While women’s empowerment may mean a lot to the urban women of India, it may not even strike a chord for the countless women folk of rural India who by far outnumber women living in urban India.
While the women living in metropolitan cities as well as smaller cities can definitely identify themselves with any women linked programme or join a movement connected with women, and can hope to participate in that for their benefit, the rural urban divide and disconnect in India prevents the same benefits from reaching the women folk living in our villages.
Another major drawback and difference between both the categories of women is that majority of women in rural India presently, in the age bracket of 35 – 65 years have been kept away from any form of formal education. The scene is changing rapidly for the better for the present younger generation where a large number of young girls from villages are seen to be attending schools and even colleges, but this was not so earlier.
Thus lack of basic education has indeed prevented the girls in rural India in comprehending what their basic civil liberties are. Their real empowerment is thus confined within the four walls of their homes, and there too they are a shadow of their own self and have to follow the wish of their menfolk.
On the other hand, the urban woman is far more educated, sophisticated, demanding, and aware of her own rights and liberties and generally more well equipped to take care of her own self. Even among the urban women we have a divide; the rich and novae rich and the poor and the middle class. The rich and super rich class of women in India get the maximum advantage of women rights, civil liberties, the programmes beneficial to women and are generally in command of their situation both at home and at their workplace. This is generally the situation of urban women belonging to the upper strata in India across bigger metros as well as smaller cities.
However the situation is not so rosy within the women comprising the upcoming growing middle class in India. This stratum of society generally forms the bulk of women in urban India spread across big and smaller cities as well as the metros. The women in this group are basically stuck between their homes and the office routine as most of them are in gainful employment either in the vast majority of Government offices or in private workplaces. They don’t have sufficient time or freedom on their hands to put into practice the various benefits emanating from either schemes of social welfare or women oriented schemes announced by either Government or private sector.
The last affected in this category of urban women, which ultimately succeed in forming a bridge between the urban poor are the women who come looking for jobs in the city from a rural background. These urban women are from the poor stratum and fed up of the life of squalor and misery in their villages, take flight to the cities of urban India in the hope of getting a far more satisfactory lifestyle. In fact they are attracted by the alluring lifestyle and glamour promised sometimes by the touts and pimps of the city who are constantly roaming around villages scouting for their prey. Invariably they succeed in luring away to the city a large number of women who either end up as sex slaves in a sick brothel or get some menial jobs as maid servants in the bigger cities of India where household chores are generally looked down upon and frowned by the upper stratum of women.
When we talk about women’s empowerment or movements like ‘one billion rising’ we have to keep in mind the status of women prevalent in all these above categories of both urban and rural India mentioned above.
If we feign ignorance about majority of the womenfolk in the villages of India, as well as those belonging to the poor and middle class working women in urban India, as and when we talk about women’s empowerment, we could end up doing a great disservice to these women. It is in fact these women who remain mostly ignorant of their basic human rights, who need to be awakened from their stupor. It is in fact this class and stratum of society of women who need to unshackle themselves from the ignorance of backwardness and get acquainted with the promised life unfolding before them. These women both in the urban and rural sector, in fact account for at least 70% of the total women force who are denied their basic rights available to them. It is this stratum of women in India who need to be really awakened, and made aware of what can unfold for them. These women if made to come up to their real potential can really redefine the meaning of women’s empowerment in a developing Country like India. A Country where women are cherished and worshiped in the form of Goddesses’ like Sita, Durga and Lakshmi is really struggling to make its women aware of their simple basic human rights.
A woman in most parts is looked upon more as an object of glamour or a mere sex object rather than somebody who can share and shoulder the equal and sometimes dominant responsibilities of decision making in the home and at work place. Although things are slowly changing for most women in India, but the change is so slow and subtle that it is hardly noticeable. The core areas concerning women are still in the process of being discovered and opened up for them. Till that happens it’s an uphill task for majority of the women in both rural and urban India.
In fact it becomes the pious and solemn duty of those women who have understood the power of complete women’s empowerment, to come forward and willingly educate and embolden the fortune of the less fortunate and under privileged section of Indian women. This would prove to be a real test of their character and magnanimity towards the less fortunate of their own. Till this happens, women in India will continue to suffer in silence. Time has come to break this chain, and free the women from their shackles and bondage from which society has constantly sought to bind them. Cheers for the awakening of all women!