(Sample Material) Gist of Important Articles from IIPA
Topic: Women and Empowerment Shanta Kohli Chandra
Empowerment in its simplest form means the manifestation of
redistribution of power that challenges patriarchial ideology and the male
dominance. It is both a process and the result of the process. It is
transformation of the structures or institutions that reinforces and perpetuates
gender discrimination. It is a process that enables women to gain access to, and
control of, material as well as informational resources. The concept of women’s
empowerment, throughout the world, has its roots in women’s movement. It is
since the mid 1980s that this term became popular in the field of development,
especially in reference to women. In India, it is the Sixth Five Year Plan
(1980-85) which can be taken as a landmark for the cause of women. It is here
that the concept of ‘women and development’ was introduced for the first time.
It was realised that no more piecemeal strategies but an integrated approach
would deliver the desired goods. The realistic and regenerative developmental
efforts in the direction of progress, in terms of economic independence for
women and educational advancement of them is what would answer the basic
questions raised for empowering women.
Need for Change in the Right Direction Participation in Decision-Making
Gender discrimination is a universal phenomenon. Both inside
and outside the households women are excluded from positions of power. They are
denied opportunities to participate in the decision-making process. Even when
the decisions are to affect their well-being, they are only passive observers.
The primary challenge facing women today, therefore, is to increase their
participation so that they get hold of the situation and become actively
involved in the process of decision-making.
Participation has two dimensions-quantitative and
qualitative. Many a time only the quantitative aspect of participation is taken
care of. Peoples’ participation in terms of mere numbers has no meaning. Women
often make up majority of the rank and file and comprise a minority as far as
decision-making process is concerned. Today, there is a need for change-change
in the right direction-change from quantitative to qualitative. As long as women
would be left behind in the process of decision-making, it would be hard to get
the democratic process started. Active participation in social, economic and
political spheres would help in enhancing the process of empowerment and it
would also give women the desired self-respect and social dignity, and these, of
course, are the pre-requisites of empowerment.
Obstacles and opportunities in the direction of empowerment
need to be looked into in depth so as to give meaningful interpretation to the
term participation. “An idea which is gaining momentum these days is that
increased participation of women in decision-making at all levels will help to
‘adjust’ the goals pursued through development”.