The woman in ancient India was an epitome of strength and was worshiped as the Goddess. The trend of worshiping the Goddess is still there but in modern India,  the scenario seems to have entirely changed to a different one, where a woman is regarded as a second-grade citizen. Gender discrimination, gang rapes on little girls and women of every age, acid attacks and other kinds of violence against women are perpetrated in every city of India.

It is difficult to figure out why and what has changed the status of women in India and when it became such a flashy issue. Though all forms of media are extensively covering the subject, the topic of women empowerment seems to have become just a fashionable one with more of hype and less of substance! Women empowerment is used both in generic and specific context. In the generic sense, it means making women self-dependent and giving them the freedom and equal opportunities. In a specific sense, women empowerment means improving the place of women in the society’s power structure.

In reality crime against women is on the rise in India. Reports by the National Crime Records Bureau are the real eye-openers which throw light on the total number of crimes against women.Similarly, a rise in other crimes against women such as torture, molestation, sexual harassment, immoral trafficking, importation of girls, kidnapping and abduction are also being reported.

Roadblocks to women empowerment

An extremely low rate of women literacy is the major curse and roadblock to women empowerment in India. Our country has shown growth in many sectors.  Yet, a major gap between the level of education of the women as compared to men exists. In India, 65.46% of adult women are literate because the percentage of the male is 82.14%.

Another hurdle is the denial of women’s participation in the family decisions. The family is making women dependable and forcing a second-grade status on her. She should be encouraged to take part in the decision-making process.

Poverty in India is plaguing many issues and posing the greatest threat. The condition of poor women is far pitiable than their middle class or rich counterparts as far as women empowerment is concerned. Widespread poverty leads to the exploitation of women. Sex slaves, selling girls and women, forced marriage and more crimes of these kinds are directly linked to poverty. Andhra Pradesh, which is a home to many rural poor, accounts for the half of the sex trafficking cases in India.

A woman is the building block of our society. She must be empowered to make the society strong.  Her status should be at par with men. To promote gender equality and to empower women in India, the United Nations Development Programme created Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Out of eight goals, the third MDG is constituted for India. The target was to achieve gender equality in primary and secondary education by 2005 but India failed to achieve the said target. Next target is to end gender disparity at all levels of education by 2015. This is still a big challenge.

Certain changes have also been made in the Constitution of India. The woman has been given the right to divorce under certain circumstances in the modified Hindu Marriage Act. Daughter of the family has been provided with the right to the property of her parents under the Hindu Succession Act.

In 1985 government took a step for the overall development of women and children by creating the department of the Ministry for Women and Child Development under the Ministry of Human Resource Development. In 2006 this department was upgraded to the status of a Ministry. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Place (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013 was enacted by the Ministry. It also brought in a unique law – the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. It launched several schemes for the welfare of women and children such as the Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls (RGSEAG), Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY) and the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme etc.

Within the Ministry of Women and Child Development is the department of the National Commission for Women. The aim of setting this department was to help women through the Constitution.

Actual picture of women empowerment in India

Though the government is taking all the necessary steps to empower women, there is a gap between the constitutional rights and the rights existing for her in reality. Due to this gap, it can be said that concept of empowering women in India looks more of hype and less of substance.

An Indian woman is still deprived of her rights. In addition to this, there is a demographic difference. Most of the aroma of liberation is enjoyed by the urban woman but not by her rural counterpart. Rural women and even some of the urban are living a miserable life, entangled in poverty, superstitions and slavery. There is a huge gap between the Laws made and their enforcement.

For being truly empowered, a woman must be made economically independent. Without such independence, all the laws, schemes and policies for her welfare would merely be written documents.

The mindset of the people towards the woman, especially the men in the society is also a challenge. It needs a complete overhaul. Simultaneously, the value and behavior of the society, as a whole should certainly undergo transformation to open it’s door to incorporate new mindset.

Above all women must empower themselves to actually change their status in the society. Only then, women empowerment will be a reality and not an illusion.

Today everyone talks about the development of Gujarat and how its different growth models have revolutionized the overall economy of the state. Almost every sector including agriculture, education, transportation, tourism has seen and become an integral part of the state’s progress. Among all the developmental plans is the spectacular Mission Mangalam to help and empower the poor rural women.Mission Mangalam has been launched by the Gujarat Government in 2010. It is an integrated poverty alleviation approach and an initiative to empower rural women. The mission was started with a belief that for the overall prosperity of the community, state or nation its every segment should flourish. Hence to bring rural women at par with men, Mission Mangalam was launched. Through this mission, Sakhi Mandals( self-help groups) have been combined into the corporate value chain benefiting the stakeholders. Mission Mangalam is helping women to earn their livelihood and to become independent.

Last but not the lease, I  would like to close by  saying that women empowerment is and will be a hype till we think that women as a gender are weak, disabled, dependent, and regressive.We need to change that mindset which allows us to think that women are powerless. Shakti,  the epitome of power is Goddess herself.  Women should celebrate their womanhood and lead a life showcasing their strength, talents, virtues, creativity, love, and compassion.