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Women Empowerment - An Ordeal for the Contemporary Indian Society.

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Title of Research Paper Women Empowerment - An Ordeal for the Contemporary Indian Society. : 

Title of Research Paper Women Empowerment - An Ordeal for the Contemporary Indian Society. Presented by Poornima Gaur Assistant Professor ITM University Gurgaon Dr Payal Khurana Assistant Professor (Senior Scale) ITM University Gurgaon

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Defining Empowerment Empowerment is a process by which one achieves increased control and participation in decision. It refers to enabling a person to lead his life the way he desires . For women, empowerment addresses power and relationships in society intertwined with gender, class, ethnicity, age, culture and history. Gender equality and Women Empowerment But before thinking of empowering, equality has to be exercised first. Very often, however, these are used interchangeably. While they are related, they are not the same. In India, Gender equality and women empowerment are the issues which have picked up momentum in the last three decades. Women empowerment refers to all round development in the strength of women may it be social, economical, political or spiritual. They must get the ability to exercise full control over their actions. There has been a shift not only in the policy approaches but also in the perception of women themselves. They have become much more conscious regarding their role in different areas whether it is related to family or the society they live in.

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All of us have witnessed the steady improvement in the participation of women in different fields like media, education, business, politics, defense services or administrative services. They are playing their roles very effectively everywhere . In India, year 2001 was declared as the year of Women’s empowerment, owing to the fact that there have been regular amendments in the constitution from welfare to empowerment of the second sex, especially in the last decade. Women today have developed positive thinking, have become assertive, have added to their self image and possess the ability to change even the perception of others. They are not only self empowered but also have the ability to empower others. Although the Indian government had enacted several laws to uplift the status of women yet many women in some places continued to suffer in silence. A cornerstone of gender equality is women's equal participation in decision-making, but still there are pocket of groups in India where women do not possess the decision making power.

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Collective participation is one of the essential aspects of women's empowerment. Through this process, women collectively analyze various aspects of gender inequality that they face. This process constitutes women's development and becomes the basis for action to overcome and dismantle gender inequality in the control of resources. Feminists focus on the structural and collective nature of empowerment by conceptualizing empowerment as power within, power with others, and power to transform unjust social structures and institutions. Failure in access to resources Gender gaps in access to resources and services are a major obstacle to women’s development. Access to education and employment are the only enabling factors to empowerment, achievement towards the goal, however, depends largely on the attitude of the people towards gender equality. Achieving control on these resources is an essential element of women's empowerment. Control makes it possible for women to ensure that resources and benefits are distributed so that men and women get equal shares. This framework is particularly useful in understanding and evaluating the real situation.

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Women of India are relatively disempowered and they enjoy somewhat lower status than that of men in spite of many efforts undertaken by government. Household decision making power and freedom of movement of women vary considerably with their age, education and employment status. Women’s exposure to media is also less relative to men. A large gender gap exists in political participation too. At the same time, feminists recognize the need to quantify empowerment through measurable indicators so it can be used to demand equality and make state and non-state actors accountable for gender-justice. Empowerment is “how much influence people have over external actions that matter to their welfare.” Hence, control over resources (physical, human, intellectual, financial) and ideology (values, beliefs, and attitudes ) is one of the most important dimensions of most definitions. Finally, empowerment is also understood as outcome , such as improvement in education, health, and economic and political participation and undoubtedly their health status is even much better when compared to the one in last decade.

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SEWA ( Self Employed Women Association) Self help groups and NGOs such as SEWA have played a major role in women’s rights in India. It is a trade union registered in 1972, as an organization of poor, self employed women workers. Its main goal is to organize women workers for full employment. Many Indian women emerged as leaders for social causes especially feminist issues. Feminists playing a significant role Female activists united over issues such as female infanticide, gender bias, women health and gender literacy. Even alcoholism is often associated with violence against women in India , many women groups launch anti-liquor campaigns in Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Orissa. Many Indian women have questioned the fundamental leaders’ interpretation of women’s rights under the shariat law and criticized the triple talaq system. Despite these differences, all analysts understand empowerment as a multidimensional and multilevel concept A Women’s Empowerment Matrix consists of six dimensions -- physical, socio-cultural, religious, economic, political, legal – and six levels: individual, household, community, state, region, and global.

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Factors Influencing Women’s Empowerment Education Education had been regarded as a key to women’s empowerment for its ability to raise awareness and open possibilities as well as its instrumental link to economic growth and children’s health. From 1990-2008 the ratio of female to male primary enrollment has increased in all regions. The literacy rate for girls of age 15-24 increased between 1990-2008 in all regions of the world. While the above data measure literacy for 15-24 year olds, illiteracy continues to be a problem for adult women, especially poor, older, rural, and ethnic minorities. Two thirds of the 776 million adults who are illiterate worldwide are women and this number has not changed in 20 years (UNESCO 2010). Hence, governments need to develop informal education policies to reach this group of women. Negative attitudes and practices towards girls’ education, valuing sons over daughters, early marriages and pregnancies continue to lead to high drop-out rates. Lack of safety on the way to school remains a disincentive as well.

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Health Women generally live longer than men but in parts of India due to gender-based discrimination female life expectancy is lower that for males (WHO 2009). The HIV/AIDS crisis is among the reasons for this situation. Overall, contraception use in the developing regions is close to that in the developed region. This is especially troubling because condom use could also protect from HIV/AIDS infections, but unawareness is the key origin of the problem. While the indicators show an uneven pattern of health outcomes for women in different parts of India, what still affects women’s health is their lack of autonomy to make health decisions. Over 50% of married women have no say in their health care. While life expectancy has improved in most regions of the world, the maternal mortality rate, below, a good correlation of women’s health continues to be a problem in many regions.

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Maternal Mortality Another indicator of women’s health is adolescent fertility. This is important as teenage pregnancies carry higher risk for both mother and infant, teen mothers are more likely to drop out of school, and more likely to live in poverty. The least progress has been made in preventing maternal mortality, even though it is easy to do, but still not happening primarily due to lack of health care. India continues to have very high mortality rates. Lack of access to primary care, births without attending midwives, and poor nutrition are among the reasons for this high mortality. It is recommended to focus on this population in terms of sex education as well as reproductive services. Lack of knowledge, no access to modern contraception and inability to influence male partners for using contraception are among factors that are responsible for this high rate of maternal mortality While the indicators show an uneven pattern of health outcomes for women in different parts of India, what still affects women’s health is their lack of autonomy to make health decisions. Over 50% of married women have no say in their health care.

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Preference for male child Among the reasons for this are pervasive patriarchal practices that shape gender roles and attitudes that are slow to change even as other behaviors change more quickly. Sons are valued over daughters; this lack of autonomy is particularly evident in the increase in sex-selective abortions, often against women’s wishes. Women’s movements in India have been successful in getting legislation against such abortions and have also focused on public awareness campaigns that promote the value of daughters. Violence against women In addition to lack of autonomy in making choices regarding one’s health care, violence against women remains a key detriment to women’s well-being worldwide. These all brutalities come in different forms like dowry killings, acid attacks, honor killings, trafficking, rapes etc. Between 15% -71% of women in regions around the world experience physical or sexual violence, usually by an intimate partner. Some studies show that 1 in 5 girls experiences sexual abuse before age 15. But here holding males responsible for all the ferocity would not be justified because more than half of the women believe wife beating to be justified for one reason or the other. It is found that acceptance of unequal gender norms by most of the women are still prevailing in the society. This attitude of acceptance for all the hostility towards them is the foremost basis of inequality.

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Conclusion However this is only one side of the picture. In our country there is a continuous combat going on between the orthodox society and the people who are genuinely concerned about this prejudice against the second sex. Undoubtedly this concerned group has also succeeded to a noteworthy level. Indian womanhood is going under metamorphism. Woman today is open minded, mentally and emotionally more stable than ever before. In their personal, professional or social life women are striving to create a world- a world which be all theirs in true sense, without any inhibitions and restrictions; where they can break free from conventional norms. This ‘New Woman’ is striving to be self–reliant, emancipated and happy individual, who is sexually uninhibited, intelligent, confident and assertive. She wants to live with a heightened sense of dignity however complete women empowerment is still a goal to be achieved.

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REFERENCES Nubile, Clara. The Danger of Gender: Caste, Class and gender in Contemporary Indian women’s writing . New Delhi: Sarup & Sons, 2003. 74 Showalter, Elaine, “Feminist Criticism in the wilderness” in Modern Criticism and Theory. New York: Pantheon, 1985 Beauvoir, Simone de. The Second Sex. Harmond Worth: Penguin, 1983

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THANK YOU