Defining Women Empowerment Before Tackling its Obstacles

As seconds turned into minutes, minutes blended into hours, and hours morphed into eras, Indian culture has witnessed an enormous palpable transformation from what had been a myriad of tiny kingdoms, rich with diverse cultures – ranging right from entrancing beautiful customs all the way to fanatical barbarism – into what can only be called the largest democracy of the world. India’s natural resources, with an undeniable reputation for immense potential, aided and abetted by her humongous manpower, has waged a battle of unforeseen magnitude against the very boundaries of what defines development.

Today, Modern India represents a unique blend of diversity and progress. At least, that is how it appears if you view the world through those rose-tinted spectacles that people seem to don these days. However, when the pages of India are perused more objectively, the other side of the coin becomes apparent. Yes, several spheres of development have been explored, but it would be a gross abomination to overlook the decadence in some aspects.

What I’m talking about is the status of women in the community. For several years now, women have collectively raised their voice against their chronically undermined rights and freedom. And perhaps they have achieved considerable progress, seeing as how women have emerged from their residence in household to almost every profession ever conceived. However, this is only one side of the argument.

For example, irony has it that the state that was under the longest serving women chief minister is the one that has been labeled the rape capital of the country. This little fact demands that we first define what women empowerment is, before blindly striving for it. It is only when women have equal representation in legal, economic, educational, occupational, and safety issues can a country claim to have achieved women empowerment. As long as a woman fears walking on the streets alone, it is not complete. And “Modern” India has a long way to go for it.

What needs change is not the law, rather, the very mindset of people. For example, when a survey was conducted by an advertisement company as to how people interpret the phrase ‘like a girl’ in relation to a variety of tasks assigned, it turned out that older women are just as stereotypical as most men in their mentality. This is a direct consequence of how they were raised or what they were taught when they had young impressionable minds. And therefore there is urgency that the education systems incorporate the aforementioned issues to ensure that if not the present, at least the future would be a less bleak prospect for women.

While attitude is the fundamental cause of the atrocities providing a major setback to the empowerment goals, the fact still remains that the ways of putting a check on these is not sound in India. We have too few judges, even fewer policemen and far too lax laws when compared with the enormity of the population. And so it follows that before sermonizing people about changing their mentality, the government must hasten to make laws and security more stringent.

Only when the issue of safety has been appropriately tackled, women empowerment can ascend to broader ambitions, the hitherto unknown and untested waters.

[This article was submitted by Srividya Pattisapu, as part of ‘Zigverve Creative Writing Contest’]