Be the heroine of your life, not the victim.
- Nora Ephron
The word ‘Women Empowerment’ itself implies that women are not powerful enough - they need to be empowered. This painful truth has been in existence for a long long time. It is in the recent years that noticeable work started beginning to lift the women out of the abyss of insignificance and powerlessness. The patriarchal society suppressed women’s freedom across the world. Women were not allowed to vote or even put forward any opinion. Women were confined to their homes. As time progressed, they realised that their life meant much more than just serving in the household. As more and more women started crossing the man-made barriers, the world began to witness the rise of women. Unlike men, the women never try to stifle the voice of their opposite gender. They hold hands of all the downtrodden people - men and women both - and they pull them out of the misfortune as they themselves try to improve their lives.
The History of Women Empowerment
The history of women empowerment does not start from an exact date, It is a cumulative process. However, there are certain movements, protests, revolutions that furthered the cause of women empowerment much more speedily.
In the ancient days and even in the recent past, women, in hundreds of countries, were not allowed to vote. As time passed, more and more women came together and made their voices heard. Gaining voting rights significantly lifted the position of women in the society. There were many suffrage movements that campaigned daily in support of women's voting rights. In the US, individuals like Elizabeth Stanton and organisations like National American Woman Suffrage Association, National Woman’s Party played a key role in securing the voting rights for women. In the UK, the Women's Social and Political Union aggressively campaigned for women’s suffrage. It is a shame for the society at large when we consider that many countries granted women the right vote after a very long time. Kuwait, Qatar, Zaire, Bahrain, Andorra, Central African Republic etc granted women the right to vote after the second half of 20th century.
No woman can be empowered if she is not financially independent. Gone are the days when women had to depend on their fathers or husbands to get things that they wanted. From the 20th century onwards women got more opportunities to join the workforce. However, at the same time many women in England were forced to work both in the workplace and in the household to support the family. After the Second World War women, by their own, chose to join the workforce. Today more and more jobs are opening up for women. Women are proving to be worthy of the designations assigned to them.
In the household, too, women have gained significant decision-making powers. The decision to have a baby or not is now decided by both men and women. The use of contraceptive pills empowered women further. Women can now enjoy unhindered work life and education.
Women empowerment cannot be successful if the women in the lower rung of the society are not empowered. After the onset of the 21st century, women belonging to the grassroots level have found many vocational works, labours that were only reserved for men. Today there are many female masons, bus drivers, petrol pump attendants, farmers etc. And all these women are doing their job extremely well.
Women Empowerment in India
Women empowerment in India cannot be compared with that in other countries. Women were highly respected in the Vedic ages. The focus on women’s education was never absent. The word ‘sahadharmini’ was known from the Vedic days. Sahadharmini means - equal partner. It is thus very clear that women in India in ancient days enjoyed respect, education and reverence.
As time passed the Indian culture was contaminated with the conservative Middle Eastern and British culture. As a result, the power and respect that women enjoyed were lost.
Gradually after independence, women started regaining the lost power. Today women are everywhere. The country saw its female Prime Minister and President, the country has many eminent female sportspeople like Saina Nehwal or P.T Usha, the country has been blessed with talented women scientists like A. Chatterjee or B Vijayalakshmi. Women are joining the combat forces in India without any hesitation.
However, there are many women in India who are still finding it hard to come out of the clutches of patriarchy - particularly in the rural sector. It is the duty of the empowered women to urge these women to raise voice, protest and seek help from the authorities.
Inequality and the Way Forward
Today, more than ever, women are enjoying freedom. They can decide on their own. However, there is a long way to go. Women must protest against the use of religion to suppress them. Not all military positions are open to females. There is a wage gap in the film industry, in sports and in normal jobs. The women need to use their hard-earned power to banish all the injustices that they have been facing for time immemorial.