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Women’s Power Hub Empowerment Of Women Series


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"Nature gave women too much power. The law gives them too William Henry Introduction:

India is a democratic and political country with a well streamlined administrative structure, and an already existing mixed economy, with a rich experience of private sector operations. Also available in India is a vast stock of skilled manpower and entrepreneurial class, a reasonably good basic infrastructure and a good track record of fulfilling past international obligations. In this highly competitive world the development of a society is highly influenced by productive contribution from each member. Contributions from women in different walks of life can't be neglected. But the experiences show that the benefits of development are not equally shared by all sections of the people. The status of women in the Indian society: From time immemorial women faced the challenges of coping with a male chauvinistic society. Even after several years of planned development in India, the status of women in our country is low and their socio-economic conditions are much more depressed than that of men. The most important factor that have affected non-participation of women in decision making and governance is the private - public divide associated with men and women. Women's place is in the private domain is associated with household. Whereas, the public domain is associated with political authority, public decision making, productive work and masculinity .Such assumptions have always hindered women to negotiate in the public domain and they find themselves either being criticized for their inadequacies or patronized by men. The recent experience of structured adjustment reveals that the women are the most marginalized sections. They are destined to a disproportionately larger share of the burden,iiliteracy and unemployment. Challenges faced by women: o

Gender disparity in school enrolment and literacy rates


Gender disparity in wage rates


Women's employment and livelihood opportunities


Causes of gender-based poverty


Infant and maternal mortality rates


Restrictive fertility control practices


Violence against women


Vulnerability of women in crisis situations


Depiction of women in the media

Grave Disappointment in some areas: Marginalization of women as a particular species has put women on a footing with inherited handicaps. It is now generally accepted that unless women constitute a 'Critical Mass'of at least one third of those in decision making their presence makes little difference to the outcomes of governance. Experiences from different countries reveal that the struggle is on, but mainstreaming gender as an institution and cultural transformation process should continue to eliminate gender biases in development and governance frameworks. Impact of education and technology: The challenge of development in the broadest sense is to improve the quality of life which generally calls for better education, higher standards of health and nutrition, a cleaner environment, more equality of opportunity, greater individual freedom and a richer cultural life. Development, being a human centered process is obvious but until women reach the same footing as men, special attention for empowerment is called for. Empowerment is a multi dimensional process which enables an individual to realize his or her potential. In the light of the above background it is clear that empowering women will change the destinies of nations. Education is the most important instrument through which human resources can be developed. Education enables people to acquire basic skills and inculcate abilities which are helpful in raising the social and economic status of women. Education helps to expand the economic opportunities for women. Higher female literacy is associated with better hygiene, lower infant mortality, better family nutrition, reduced fertility and lower population growth rates. Education has been included in the successive five year plans as a major program for the development of women. Today women are and integral part of the new economic order and play an important part in the economy. In India, women in lower income

groups were the first to enter into the labor market to earn their livelihood who were followed by middle class women. Due to the development of education and technology, the middle class women have greater preference for white collar jobs. The economic and social empowerment of women in any society is influenced by the extent of their involvement in income generating activities outside the household. An important role is played by the Self Help Groups to uplift the economic as well as the social status of women in the society. Self Help Group is a homogenous group of rural poor voluntarily formed to save whatever amount they can save conveniently out of their earnings and mutually agree to contribute to a common fund, to be lent to the members for meeting their productive and emergency needs. The basic principles on which self help groups functions are group approach, mutual trust, organization of poor, manageable small groups, group cohesiveness, spirit of thrift, demand based lending and women friendly loans. SHG have been fast emerging as a powerful and alternate banking structure to cater to the needs of its members mostly women. Altogether the self image of the women as respectable source of strength improves significantly within and outside the family, their improved earnings is spent by them for the education and improved nutrition of their children, thus paving the way for human resource development in villages. *Impact of participation of women in SHGs ( after two to three years ).....(Results from some independent studies) oAverage value of assets (livestock, consumer durables, etc.) per household increased by 72.3 % from Rs. 6,843 (pre-SHG) to Rs. 11,793 o59 per cent of the sample households reported increase in assets. oHousing conditions improved oAll members developed saving habit as against only 23% of households earlier oAverage annual savings per household registered over threefold increase from Rs. 460 to Rs. 1,444 oAverage borrowings per year per household increased from Rs. 4,282 to Rs. 8,341. oShare of consumption loans declined from 50% to 25%. o70% of loans taken in post-SHG situation were for income generating purposes.

oAverage net income per household increased by 33% from Rs. 20,177 to Rs. 26,88 Impact on Empowerment Related to Economic Issues % members ocontributing to family income 65 o% share of contribution to family income 40 ofeeling improvement in financial status 89 ofeel enhanced contribution to household income after joining the group 74 ofeeling consulted in finance related decisions 60 Related to Self Development o(of those) earlier unable to but now able to write their names (after joining the group 100 onot formally educated, now read forms in banks 42 oread newspapers regularly or occasionally 41 omore confident in taking decisions on their own 66 ofeel recognised in family

59 ofeel being increasingly consulted by other women 44 ofeel more confident in dealing with people 75 ofeel more confident in dealing with various institutions with which they interact regularly 59 oregularly attend Village Meetings 41 ocast their votes in last local elections and


Interactions with Others and Local Level Decision Making *Source: SHG - Bank linkage program status as on 31st march 2004, NABARD. Recommendations: oEnable women to overcome barriers and constraints to their economic productivity. oAddressing gender gaps in governance oEngendering different institutions for good governance oTo form and strengthen women's groups to play an active role in the social change. oRemove illiteracy through women participation in education oEnable women to use modern science and technology oFlooding the rural areas with quality SHG oEncourage NGO's

R. GAYATHRI SARAVANAN M.A., M. Phil. Email: gayathri_srvnn

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