Women Empowerment – Empowerment is the process which confers power on individuals over their own lives, in their society, and in their communities. It signifies promotion in the social, economic, spiritual or political status of an individual. In the context of women, it is an exercise in enhancing their educational, economic, social, political, and health status. For empowering Indian women, our Constitution endorses equality to women and requires the State to assimilate steps to protect the rights of women.
- Women Empowerment
- Women Empowerment by Health
- Women Empowerment by Social Security
- Women Empowerment by Financial Security
- Girl Child Empowerment
- Women of India Festival
Fundamental Rights have been enshrined in the Indian Constitution which is central to women empowerment. This includes Article 15, Article 15(3) and Article 16. In addition to the Constitutional provisions, there are several laws which have been enacted by Parliament to empower Indian women. Women empowerment is a pre-condition to fulfilling the goals of several sustainable development parameters. To meet these goals, India has been a party to several international conventions and treaties dedicated to safeguarding women’s rights.
Let us appreciate that women empowerment and gender equality are fundamental to the achievement of sustainable development of the country. Research has established that women empowerment can elevate and enhance the social, economic, political and legal strength of women, and equip them with the positivity to claim their rights. An empowered woman would be in a position to access the opportunities available to her without limitations and restrictions of education, profession and lifestyle.
She would feel encouraged to take her own decisions on different issues concerning herself, her family and her community. To achieve women empowerment, the present government has initiated comprehensive programmes to safeguard educational rights, health rights, social security rights, economic security and safety of women. A few of these programmes are enumerated below:
Women Empowerment by Health
Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY)
This maternity benefits programme PMMVY was launched by the Government in 2016 and the Ministry of Women and Child Development was entrusted to implement it. It provides cash transfers (conditional) for expecting and lactating women. It also ensures that the wage loss of women during the pregnancy gets compensated. The scheme fosters care and utilization of institutional services during childbirth.
Maternity Care Act
The Maternity Benefit Act originally provided maternity benefits of 12 weeks, out of which up to 6 weeks could be claimed before the expected o date of delivery. In 2017, the law was amended extending this period to 26 weeks and revising the period of 6 weeks to 8. Women Empowerment
Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan (PMSMA)
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare introduced PMSMA with the objective to ensure the provision of antenatal care to pregnant women. It pledges ante natal care services to women in their 2nd or 3rd trimesters of pregnancy in an institutional set up. It also encourages the participation of the private sector in ensuring these services to expecting mothers. Women Empowerment
National Nutrition Mission
To improve the nutritional status of pregnant women, lactating women, adolescent girls and children in the age group of 0-6 years, Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD), Government of India initiated a programme named National Nutrition Mission. The aim of this mission was to address the serious issue of stunting, malnutrition, anaemia and low birth weight amongst newborns. Women Empowerment
Mission Indradhanush was initiated in December 2014 with an aim to ensure full immunization for women and children. It also ensured that the required medicines for this purpose are available. This immunization programme was further intensified and in 2017 it led to the launch of Intensified Mission Indradhanush (IMI). It is an initiative of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. Women Empowerment
Apart from the centrally sponsored schemes, there are many programmes at the state level to address the problem of expecting and lactating mothers. For example, ‘Godebharai’ ceremony is conducted in Bihar to meet the nourishment need of the pregnant women at all the Anganwadi centres in Bihar. The expectant mothers’ laps are filled with fruits, green vegetables, rice, pulse and coconut amidst chanting of folk songs. They are also given regular supply of folic acid and iron tablets. Such a function is organized on 7th of every month. Women Empowerment
Women Empowerment by Social Security
Swachh Bharat Swachh Vidyalaya (SBSV) initiative was launched by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India in 2014 with the objective to provide access to toilet facilities separately to both boys and girls.
Swachh Bharat Mission:
Under this programme, household-owned and community-owned toilets were constructed to eliminate open defecation. The Mission also seeks to establish a mechanism of monitoring toilet use. The mission is expected to help India reach Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6), laid down by the UN in 2015. Women Empowerment
To meet the basic needs of women belonging to lower economic strata, especially from BPL families, Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) was introduced in 2016. The objective of this scheme was to distribute 50 million LPG connections to women belonging to this category. The scheme aims to provide clean fuel in the form of LPG to women who are below poverty line, hitherto using unclean cooking fuels with attendant harm. The objective is to protect the health of women and stem the health hazards resulting from the use of fossil and other fuels for cooking.
Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY):
This ambitious programme was introduced to provide housing facilities to all by 2022. Under the PMAY, the ownership of a house is mandated to be in the name of the woman of the family. Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (MOHUPA) has launched this programme. Women Empowerment
Women were earlier required to furnish a certificate of marriage or divorce while applying for a passport. It often made the application process complicated and cumbersome for the applicants. Under the new rules, women do not have to produce such a certificate for processing of passport application. It permits a woman to either use her father’s or mother’s name on the application form. The government is already committed to opening new Passport Sewa Kendras (PSK) in every Lok Sabha constituency.
This scheme was introduced to ensure the safety and convenience of working women. The purpose of this scheme was to provide accommodation, which was located at a convenient place and also has a daycare arrangement for their children.
Women Empowerment by Financial Security
Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana (PMMY):
This scheme, with the help of small financial banks, Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs) and microfinance institutions. provides loans up to Rs.10,00,00 to small entrepreneurs. Major beneficiaries (78 per cent) of this scheme have been women, and entrepreneurs. Around Rs. 1,78,313 crore worth of loans sanctioned, were given to self-employed women. Women Empowerment
Stand-Up India was introduced to promote economic security and entrepreneurship. The aim of this programme is to extend a helping hand in the preparation of the project plan to avail loans from the bank of between 10 lakh. to 1 crore. Under this scheme, banks are mandated to include at least one Scheduled Caste (SC) or Scheduled Tribe (ST) borrower and at least one woman borrower per bank branch, for establishing a greenfield business.
Sukanya Samridhi Yojana:
The government introduced this new scheme as a part of the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign. This is a small deposit scheme exclusively for the welfare of the girl child. It is an incentive for the parents to create funds to meet the educational need of their girl child. It also proposes to take care of the marriage expenses of their daughter.
A bilingual portal Mahila E-Haat was launched on 7 March 2016 by the Ministry of Women & Child Development. It provides a web-based marketing platform to leverage technology for the display of the products/services made/manufactured/ undertaken by the entrepreneurs who were women. It is an incentive platform for women to meet their needs and aspirations. This was a sequel to Digital India and Stand-up India and a reminder of the fact that technology can help make business better. Contact details and the price are displayed by the vendors which would pave the ground for direct interaction with the buyers.
Support to Training and Employment programme:
The objective of this programme is to provide skills to women, which would enhance their employability. The programme is further designed to impart proficiency and develop the skills, which would enable a woman enrolled in this programme to become self-employed.
Girl Child Empowerment
Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Scheme (BBBP):
The scheme “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao” (88BP) was launched to combat the problem of gender discrimination leading to decline in CSR. The underlying objective of this initiative is to acclaim the arrival of a female child. The programme strives to stop sex selective abortion..
Pragati scheme was introduced by Ministry of Human Resource Development. It seeks to provide assistance to the girls who are inclined to pursue higher technical education. Every year around 4000 scholarships are given to female meritorious students in their pursuits. Similar scheme has been introduced in other states. For example, in Bihar, a girl is given Rs. 25,000 as an incentive if she acquires graduation degree. This scheme is applicable to even married women as it is considered that by the time a girl passes graduation, she becomes a major.
Women Empowerment by Safety
Nirbhaya Fund was introduced in honour of the victim’s brave girl. Under this scheme, the government announced to contribute Rs. 1000 crores to ensure the safety and empowerment of girls and women. The fund is intended to supplement other initiatives of the Government and NGOs, which are tasked with the protection of the safety and dignity of women. Women Empowerment
A scheme “Comprehensive Scheme for Prevention of Trafficking for Rescue, Rehabilitation and Re-Integration of Victims of Trafficking for Commercial Sexual Exploitation – Ujjwala”, funded by the Central Government, was introduced. The objective was to curb such degradable practices by involving local people, through social mobilisation, talks and other awareness generation programmes. The scheme also looks after the long-term rehabilitation of the victims by providing food, health services, counselling and vocational training to ensure their livelihood. Women Empowerment
Department of Women and Child Development introduced this programme to provide integrated rehabilitation to women in distress. It is intended to help women in difficulties, especially those who lack any kind of support. The purpose is to support them to become emotionally strong. The following category of women are eligible for this scheme:
- Abandoned women
- Women who have survived natural disasters
- Women prisoners released from jail d. Victims of domestic violence and family tension
- Trafficked women/girls
- Women who have contracted HIV/AIDS
Mahila Police Volunteers (MPVs):
To promote the visible presence of women in the police force, the Home Ministry undertook this initiative to give 33 per cent reservation to women candidates in police force. Mahila Police Volunteers have been introduced for serving as a link between the community and police for helping women in distress and to resist crime against women. Women Empowerment
Mahila Shakti Kendra (MSK) Scheme:
It is an umbrella scheme under Pradhan Mantri Mahila Sashaktikaran Yojana (PMMSY) intended to provide an interface for rural women to enable them to avail the benefits of Government programmes. The new scheme MSK envisages to work on at various levels are:
- For the implementation of women-centric programmes the Government, national level domain knowledge based support would be provided.
- State Resource Centre for Women will be established at the state level, to arrange technical know-how for the implementation of the programmes.
- The District Level Centre for Women (DLCW), which will be established at the district level, will compile and disseminate information on various programmes designed for women’s empowerment including the flagship programme Beti Bachao Beti Padhao.
- Various activities at the Gram Panchayat level will be facilitated at the block level, which will incorporate all the programmes for the benefit of women.
Women of India Festival
The Woman of India Festival is celebrated to create and promote entrepreneurship amongst women. It promotes women farmers and entrepreneurs in the organic sector. The festival supports women entrepreneurs to interact with an increasing number of buyers, thus providing. them an opportunity to become economically empowered. Through this festival, the Ministry also aims to make the people aware of the special schemes for women and children. Women Empowerment
There has been substantial progress in the field of women empowerment.
- As per the 2011 census, the literacy rate in India stands at 72.98 per cent with a 13 per cent increase as compared to 2001. It is heartening to note that the improvement is maximum for rural women at 20 per cent, in the last decade.
- According to the Economic Survey 2018-19, India showed welcome progress in the field of women empowerment. Around 53% women owned a bank account in 2015-16.
- According to National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4), the figure for married women who exercised decision-making in their households, was reported at 84 per cent, as against 76.5 per cent in 2005-06.
- From 11.7 per cent in 2005-06, the proportion of women’s participation in agriculture has moved up to 13.9 per cent in 2015-16.
- The Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) across India has abated from 167 per lakh live births between 2011-13 to 130 between 2014-16. This number is projected to come down to 70 by the year 2030. Women Empowerment
- Women-centric components in schemes across Ministries have increased. Fifty-seven Ministries or Departments have formed Gender Budget Cells to strengthen and implement gender budgeting processes. While the National Nutrition Mission was the recipient of a big boost of Rs. 3,400 crore, Anganwadi Services and the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) too were similarly supported.
The Government is of the firm conviction that a country can prosper only with greater participation of women and has supported and encouraged women entrepreneurship through various schemes. The Finance Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman acknowledged the importance of women emancipation and described them as ‘Nari Tu Narayaani’. All stakeholders including Civil Society Organizations, Government and elected representatives can forge effective collaboration which would help girls and women avail all the available opportunities, so that they grow to their full potential.