Women Empowerment: Indispensable for Human Well-Being
Human Development Reports have recognized and noted that women play a very important role in building up a society. Also, it argued that women and men share many aspects of living together; collaborate with each other in complex and ubiquitous ways, yet, end up-often-with very different rewards and deprivations. Women played physically demanding role and undergone many challenges and hardships within families as well as in societies. However, despite their enormous contribution towards refining a society, asymmetry and inequity are unfortunately a fact of life for women.
Paul Streeten, a well known former Professor of Economics at Boston University and a close associate of UNDP Human Development Reports, has stated that the prevailing gender-gap combined with social attitude towards women has resulted in pushing down the women to the marginal level. Such prevalence has restraint the warranted growth of human well-being.
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in 1994 explains empowerment as a process which divided power from powerful to the powerless. At Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia during 24th -27th October 2005, the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) held Expert Group Meeting (EGM) discussion on “Equal Participation of Women and Men in Decision-Making Processes, with Particular Emphasis on Political Participation and Leadership”. The EGM in their recommendations has given special emphasis on the words ‘¬ACTORS’ of various agencies like government actors, political party actors, civil society actors, etc. because it is the few ‘actors’ who play major role in formulating and implementing policies and programmes of any organisations.
In Naga society, there is no open discrimination against women, but it is an undeniable fact that the gap between the genders persists particularly in activities like farming, household chores, decision makings, etc. The gender disparities in areas like education and health are decreasing but in terms of economic workforce participation and decision making, it is still a matter of concern.
For an instance, it has found from the study that in Nagaland, domestic chores such as cleaning, washing, cooking, taking care of children and sickness are mostly done by the womenfolk where the degree of disparity between men and women, in this regard, is as high as ninety-three percent. It is also found that men folk spent much more of his time for social activities like meeting, discussion, planning, etc. where the degree of differences comes out to be as high as ninety percent and what is more distressing is that men, the head of the family, spends almost three hours leisurely on average in a day, while womenfolk gets only about half an hour rest which shows that the degree of differences between the two is as high as eighty-five percent.
Further, in decision making on family expenditure, it is found that the household expenditure decision making is male domain in Naga society. The study to this effect has confirmed that in thirty-four percent of the households, the decision on family expenditure was made solely by men folk, while that of women was twenty percent. This is mainly due to patriarchal pattern of social system in Naga society, where father is considered as the head of the family. Nevertheless, it is observed that the joint decision in household expenditure is found to be forty-four percent, which is higher than that of men and women alone. This implies that although women participation in household decision making is accommodating, their participation is still much lesser than men in Naga society.
However, in spite of differences and being lesser privileged, there is a huge contribution of women on human well-being. Study has proved that women education has very significant impact on per capita income, domestic health care as well as availing in medical facilities and stabilizing population growth.
Also, in decision making over expenditure, the management system is found to be different between men and women. Study shows that in Nagaland, when women were given opportunity to participate in decision making on family expenditure, the fund flow is more towards human development such as education, food, medicine and sanitation were higher than that of men. Data shows that in households, when women solely take family expenditure decision, their expenditure towards human development were higher than when taken jointly (by men and women) by four percent and also higher than when taken solely by men by nine percent. Thus, it is obvious that in spite of being lesser privileged in many aspects than men, when given the opportunity, women’s ability and concentration towards human well-being is better than that of men.
Thus, empowering women through education and participation greatly enhance human development not only in terms of raising income level and health consciousness but also largely on management system of the financial affairs towards human well-being. Therefore, opportunity extending towards women empowerment cannot be ignored in order to building up the family and hence the society as well. Until such time, there would be lesser progress towards human well-being in the society. In this connection, it is felt relevant to quote an American Suffragist Alice Paul’s (1885-1977) statement that “there will be never a new world order until women are a part of it”. Also, former United Nations General Secretary Kofi Annan said, “there is no tool for development more effective than women empowerment”. Rise and Build.
Dr. Yelhi Vero
Duncan Basti, Dimapur