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Op-Ed

Women empowerment: global conscience and local responsibility

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By EMN Updated: Mar 27, 2014 10:23 pm
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Arenpongla Jamir

“One is not born a woman, one becomes one.” (Simone De Beauvoir) The strength of a woman is in being a woman. For centuries, women have been violated in countless ways and their struggles if written, would be an epic that would reduce every single reader to tears.
Empowerment is the process by which the ‘powerless’ gain greater control over circumstance. From this perspective the improvement of women’s status in respect to education, socio-political participation, economic opportunities and independent decision making in society and family is crucial. On the whole, with the rise in education, urbanization and opportunity to proper employment, women are much freer now to come out of their homes with a view to meeting their family expenses.We have come out of the darker days of oppression though many women worldwide still battle the “War of the Weak.” The issues of women are unique in every region and cannot be generalized. The women in America and India face different problems as societal situations are different. Similarly, problems of mainland Indian women and Naga women differ.
Reading articles in the newspapers would suggest that women rights have not been won. In India, domestic violence, rape, female infanticide, dowry and eve-teasing are the most common problems that women face.
Women are branded as weaker and in most cases are given lesser wages. In places like Saudi Arabia women are not allowed to drive, and girls are not given proper education. Women also have specific clothing requirements of covering their faces and in extreme cases are ordered to cover themselves head to toe. In India, the evils of female infanticide and sexual subjugation breeds everywhere despite the many steps like the Dowry Prohibition Act 1961, Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971, Commission of Sati Prevention Act 1987, Domestic Violence Act 2005 etc. taken to address such injustices.
Empowerment, I believe, will spark when males can look at women and see them not as weak child bearers or objects of pleasure but rather as persons deserving of every share of equality that any human ought to have. If mindsets change, then the status of women can change too.
Larger steps to women empowerment could occur if the government encourages and places more emphasis on matters of female education and employment. If women are well educated and skilled, they can shape the future generation into excellent leaders. Women should also have their rights to inheritance and possession of property. We are all born the same way and women today work the same way. Should we not have the same rights to inheritance and possessions?
The government should also pursue reservation policies so that women can be adequately represented. The rather controversial pending Women’s Reservation Bill in India strongly shows that women still haven’t asserted their rights. It is also rather commendable to gather that 33 is not the number for equality. The 73rd and 74th Amendments to the constitution provide reservations for women at the Panchayat level, but there are recent reports of how Village Panchayats have fined women who tried to put their names forward as candidates in the past Assembly elections. Every time women try to climb the political ladder, they are pulled down and placed next to the kitchen cabinets.
The late Margaret Thatcher said, “In politics if you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman.” And this has been proven by active women members in politics such as Indira Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Pratibha Patel, Mamata Banerjee, Agatha Sangma, Meira Kumar etc. who have played active roles in politics and have ushered in development under their leadership. Women with all their family responsibilities still manage to govern the people with equal expertise.
Society talks, but cannot walk the talk. Mere deterrent punishment cannot stop or change anything or anyone. In sensitive cases like rape and violence there is no room for pointing fingers at one another. What society needs to realize is no amount of earthly power; be it muscle or money power, grants them the right to interfere with the dignity of anyone. Women have every right to exercise their powers without the fear of any power that might reduce their rights. Women can assume still greater public roles in society than what we see today.
“Women hold up half the sky.” as it is said. Existence should not be about “the battle of the sexes”; it should be about mutual co-existence. The genders have differences but these differences complement each other. Society can evolve only if both the gifted powers of the sexes are exercised ‘together,’ side by side. I strongly believe that with the rise in education and economic development, the women would steadily move towards greater economic independence in course of time.
The search for power and the want to be defined and dignified has been the Holy Grail of the vast majority and with it comes the question of, ‘Who shall wield the Power?’ I say “Together.”

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By EMN Updated: Mar 27, 2014 10:23:18 pm