Writer is Assistant Professor of English, Assam Kaziranga University, Jorhat, Assam
Women empowerment has received much attention in the recent past all over the world. Women comprise merely half of the total population of the world and hence, the development of a country is impeccably linked with the development of women. A society cannot flourish if the women are not given their due place in the process of development. It is impossible to grow and develop in all the spheres of life without their co-operation.
The status of women in India has been subjected to many great changes over the past few decades. The real change came only after independence with the enforcement of the Constitution of India. Article 14 of the Constitution provides for equality to women before the law & equal protection within the territory and prohibits discrimition on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth or any one of them.
The true impetus was gained under the leadership of Indira Gandhi, when a scheme known as Indira Mahila Yoja was launched. Various schemes like Rashtriya Mahila Kosh, Mahila Samridhi Yoja, SHGs, to me a few, were launched for women empowerment in due course. The establishment of tiol Women’s Commission and State Women’s Commissions were important milestones in the direction of Women Empowerment in India. The tiol Policy for the Empowerment of Women (2001) was an important step taken by the Government of the time for accelerating the pace of women empowerment. This policy aimed at ensuring women empowerment through positive economic and social policies for the full development of women so that they could realize their full potential. It assured equal access to women to healthcare, quality education, participation and decision making in social, political and economical life of the tion.
The empowerment of women is the prime issue in developing their status. We know that no society can march ahead and achieve the developmental goals and sustaible development without their active participation. But due to patriarchal subjugation, women suffer from various forms of discrimition, inequality, oppression, harassment and many more. They are being discrimited in all aspects - social, political, economic, access to rights, health, education and many more. Apart from that, they have always been relegated to a secondary position due to the overwhelming patriarchal culture.
Education has been recognized as an essential agent of social change and development in any society. Whatever revolutions that have taken place in our history, education has been at the base. It is through education that one realizes what is good and what is bad, what is just and what is unjust. It is education which gives a vent or voice to injustice. It is impossible to think of harmonious development without educating women. The development of future generation mainly depends upon the education of women folk. It will help every woman to educate their children in a proper way and will help them to be a good mager of the family as well as an active member of the society. Every educated woman has more possibility to be able to run her home well.
Cultural barrier is the main source of atrocities against women. Culturally, a woman in India is supposed to remain within the confinement of the four walls of a her home for interl domestic routine work. Men, on the other hand, are to earn bread. However, due to the spread of education, a lot of changes could be observed in recent years. In this context, Swami Vivekanda can be brought into focus when he once said, ‘It is impossible to think about the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved. It is impossible for a bird to fly on only one wing.’ Thus, it can be ascertained that without the empowerment of women, we cannot think about the overall development of a country in general and India, in particular. Assam, being a part of Indian federation, also holds the same truth. The movement for empowerment of women in Assam is almost as old as its freedom movement. In 1926, some women attended the Dhubri session of the Assam Sahitya Sabha under the leadership of Chandraprava Saikiani and announced the formation of the Assam Mahila Samiti. Later, it was rechristend as Asom Pradeshik Mahila Samiti. After three years of its formation, Tezpur District Mahila Samiti was established. Under the banner of these two samities, the movement for empowerment of women started in Assam.
Despite these initiatives, it is obvious that majority of women in Assam are living in a position of deprivation, ignorance, exploitation and negligence. There is a lack of economic empowerment among the women in Assam due to absence of awareness to acquire basic knowledge and information regarding their rights, advantages and facilities. Though the educated women belonging to the middle classes, to some extent, are becoming aware of their rights and facilities, but women belonging to the lower class and rural areas are still not aware of their rights. So it is very important to awaken the women folk of our society and make them aware of their genuine rights for their empowerment. For this, female literacy rate in Assam has to be increased. Employment of women has to be given more priority. Women’s equal participation in the political are has also to be emphasised. If proper facilities and encouragement are provided, Assamese women can participate efficiently in all activities on an equal footing with men. Their empowerment could be brought about only if it is based on granting them basic economic, educatiol and political rights and decision making consent.
Henceforth, it can be concluded that women should be very conscious about their rights and liberties for their empowerment. They must challenge and change the ideologies, patriarchal attitudes and stereo-typical view of family to keep equal footing with man in this dymic world.