What is meant by women empowerment? Why is everyone suddenly talking about it? What is the need for immediate action in terms of empowering us women?
Women empowerment refers to the strengthening of women’s economic, social, political, spiritual, educational position in society. It refers to the heightened right of women to participate in every field of life, (mostly in terms of their male counterparts). The reason why we have been hearing this phrase for a while now is because of the realization among us that the position of the woman needs to be re-defined in this male-dominated society we live in. Women are the creators of Life itself, and it is about time we women received equal rights, and opportunities as compared to our male counterparts.
Since times immemorial, women have been treated as second class citizens, across all the countries, in the world. It does not matter whether it is a developed country, a developing country or an under-developed country-women have always been subjected to being treated as lesser beings.
So naturally, this has proved to be a big blow to their self-confidence, their self-esteem, their self-respect. Because women everywhere have grown up with the mindset that they are inferior to men, their personalities have been shaped in that way.
But was there ever a time when women were treated as equals? This treatment of women as inferiors must have started gradually, but what was it like before that? Because Adam and Eve sure did not come with a manual which proclaimed Adam to be the superior being or Eve to be the lesser being.
In the very beginning, women were treated as equals, and they actively participated in all the activities, and were in fact considered an important part of them. Women even took part in warfare and religious and social events. But eventually, their physical strength and capability proved to be a problem, which led men to take over the physical tasks, which required greater muscle strength and will-power. So women started depending on men for things like hunting animals, and searching for food, and protecting the family.
Then came a phase, in human history, where man realized the importance of woman, as the creator of Life. As a result, he started respecting the woman, and the parallel was drawn between ‘Mother’ Nature and the biological mother- both with the Divine power of fertility. This respect was reflected in man worshipping women as goddesses.
But with the evolution of a proper social structure, there came to be established what we know as the ‘patriarchal society’, where man was the boss, and he made the rules, and women were delegated to the inferior position of merely following those rules. Patriarchy as an idealogical assumption, works on the principle of the projection of the ‘dominant viewpoint as universally true’.
But even in the male-dominated world, there have been innumerable contributions by women, who have excelled in almost all fields, and have even surpassed men, to produce outstanding results. And these achievements are not minor feats as they have been achieved irrespective of the general outlook towards women’s “incapabilities” , and the general discouragement which they have faced from society and sometimes even friends and family.
So why has this need for women empowerment arisen? It is because finally, countries worldwide have realized that no society can progress, if the women of that society lag behind.
But how do we bring about this empowerment? It can not happen overnight, neither can it happen in a few years. It will happen gradually and will take many many years to be implemented successfully. But the first step that must be taken for the empowerment of women is the education of women, for them to know their rights, and their privileges, for them to know that it is “okay” to raise a voice against something they do not like, or to not obey something their male partner forces them to do. Something which I had read in relation to the position of the woman was- “She was, according to the Hindu Shashtra, the bonded slave of her father when she was young, to her husband when she was middle-aged and to her son when a mother.”
Efforts towards women empowerment have been made by many. And there have been many laws which have been passed to empower women as well. But they did not have much of an effect, because it was only a small fraction of society which was involved in this, as the larger section was oblivious to such measures.
Hence, the efforts should be steered towards the all-round development of every woman, belonging to each and every section of society. It should not be limited to a particular section only. Women’s dignity, chastity and modesty must be protected. The social utlook towards women needs to change for any progress to take place in this respect. And for social change, every individual must make an effort, alongwith the government and other non-governmental institutions.