Rural Women Empowerment : Important Topics For UPSC Exam

Rural Women Empowerment

"I measure the progress of a community by the degree of progress which women have achieved." - Dr. B.R. Ambedkar

  • India is a land of diversity. Among all the types of varieties, rural-urban divide is the most glaring one. Indian women, no doubt, face discrimination and inequality in every walk of life. However, the kind of problems face by an urban woman is totally different from that of a woman living in rural area.
  • Rural women suffer from acute poverty. The over-dependence on agriculture along with less authorities and sayings related to land rights is the cause of their less economic productivity. The workforce participation of rural women is higher than their urban equals, but most of them are involved in low income jobs of unorganized sectors, agriculture or other allied activities.
  • In agriculture itself, women play the major role as they are nearly 70 percent of total workforce involved in farm sector. Despite this these women are not recognized as farmers. Besides, the work of women in farm sectors is less mechanized and mostly of drudgery types.
  • There occurs a question in our mind, why are the rural women not moving towards more productive sectors of economy? The reason is the lack of work opportunities for women in other economic activities. Because of their lagging in economic empowerment, the social and political empowerment of rural women will remain a myth.

Challenges and way forward--

  • Poor literacy rate— Low level of education among rural women can be considered as the single most important cause of their dismal participation in developmental activities. Because of their illiteracy, they are not considered in decision making process, neither at family nor at village level.
    The following chart can help in understanding the actual level of illiteracy persist among women--

  • Census 2011 clearly indicates the vulnerable situation of women's education in comparison to male counter-part. Even among the women, rural women are way lower in literacy than their urban equals.
  • It is considered that digital literacy can help women to leverage their full potential, but poor accessibility in rural India make them more vulnerable towards discrimination.
  • Government come up with a number of programs in order to improve the educational level of girl child. The most widespread and effective is—Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Abhiyan. This comprehensive campaign tries to impact the mindset of society towards the girl's education.
  • Ministry of Women and Child Development has already come up with Mahila Shakti Kendras (MSK) that focuses over the digital literacy at gram panchayat level.

    Lack of skills—Rural women involve mainly in agriculture or household kind of enterprises. That's why any skill training program is having hardly any female participation. Due to the lack of skill, women have very limited opportunities in other sectors of economy like construction, trade, transport etc.
  • Deendayal Upadhyaya Antyodaya Yojana—Ajeevika is one such program of government of India that tries to tackle the low skill issue among the rural women. The two components under Ajeevika are worth noticing--
  • I. Deendayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushal Yojana which aims to skill rural youths that are poor. It is being made mandatory in this scheme that one-third of the persons covered should be women.
  • II. The other component is Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Yojana, which aims to improve the present status of women in agriculture and to enhance the opportunities for empowerment.
  • Poor accessibility and support— Lack of credit access, extension services and inheritance rights over the land are some of the important reasons why women have no other opportunities but to be an agricultural labor, who work for mere subsistence. In agriculture itself, there exists poor linkages between farm and non-farm activities. Women, therefore, are rarely involved in any linkages associated with agriculture.
  • Government is promoting the formation of women Self- help group (SHG) under the National Rural Livelihood Program (NRLM). These self-help group are provided with formal credit facilities. Besides, MoWCD also form Rashtriya Mahila Kosh. The fund provides micro-credit facilities to the women in informal sectors of the economy. These loans are hassle free and are being given without any collateral.
  • Government is also promoting a digital marketing portal—Mahila e-Haat. This portal is launched for women entrepreneurs. The intention is to provide more market accessibility to women entrepreneurs for their products.
  • Lack of adequate convergence of scheme—There exists a large number of schemes, distributed among various ministries, for the empowerment of rural women. With this lack of convergence, the wholehearted efforts for the development would not take place and the aims remain scattered. In addition, it also impedes the optimum utilization of resources.
  • Scheme of Mission for Protection and empowerment for women is a step in converging all the women centric scheme, so that better implementation can be done. Convergent support is being proposed for equal access to healthcare, quality education, career and vocational guidance, social security and digital literacy at gram panchayat level.
  • More vulnerability towards climate change—Rural women are affected differently and severely by climate change. Pradhan mantri Ujjawala Yojana is a good step of the government in this regard. Under the scheme, rural women are provided with free LPG connection in their kitchen. That will make their kitchen smokeless and improve their health condition.

Conclusion--

  • The empowerment of women is a continuous process. India has historical background of gender discrimination. The Government also understand that there is a need of multidimensional war against the gender inequality that persists in rural Indian society. The recently introduced National Policy for Women, 2016 recognize many problems associated with women and aim to work for the development of rural women specifically.
  • However, making policy documentation and program framework is only the first step and the easiest task. The real efforts lie in its implementation. The holistic empowerment of rural women possible when all the women related schemes converges through a single channel.
  • It should be understood that there exists diversity even among rural women as well. The problems faced by women belongs to SC/ST group are different from what the upper-class women face. Therefore, one size fits all approach cannot be the solution.
  • It is to be noted that empowerment of women is not discretionary, but it is the need of this hour. This is why the first year of new Milennium 2001 was declared as "Women Empowerment Year". Our half population need to be empowered, not only for the wellbeing of the individual or family, but also for the economic productivity of the nation.

Questions--

Q. Which of the following is/are true regarding Mahila e-Haat digital marketing portal—

i. It is launched by commerce ministry in government of India.

ii. The funding for this portal is being done from the Rashtriya Mahila Kosh.

iii. Women of any age group can register their product on this online platform without having to pay any listing fees.

(1). Only II
(2). Only I and II
(3) All I, II and III
(4) None of the above

Answer (1). The portal is being launched by Ministry of Women and Child Development. The funding for this portal is being done from Rashtriya Mahila kosh. The Women only above 18 years of age can register in this portal free of cost. It is done in order to prevent child labor.

Remember that, We do not need to mug up all the data, but these things need to be considered when read about any scheme.

Q. The support to Training and Employment Program for women (STEP) scheme is intended to benefit women. Which of the following is/are correct regarding this--

i. This scheme is intended to benefit women of the age group of 16 years and above across the country.

ii. The grant under the scheme is given to the states/UTs, and not to the NGOs.

iii. The assistance under the scheme will be available in any sector for imparting skills related to employability and entrepreneurship.

(1) Only i
(2) Only ii
(3) Only i & iii
(4) Only ii & iii

Answer is (3). The grant under the scheme will be provided to institutions, including NGOs but not to the states/UTs.

Q. Among all form of empowerments, economic empowerment is the most important one. Both the social and political empowerment of a section depends upon its level of economic empowerment. Discuss it in the backdrop of women empowerment.

Hint—Write by yourself. Whole article is dedicated to economic empowerment of women.

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