(GIST OF YOJANA) Communication: Overarching Role in Women Empowerment [OCTOBER-2018]


(GIST OF YOJANA) Communication: Overarching Role in Women Empowerment

[OCTOBER-2018]


Communication: Overarching Role in Women Empowerment

Communication has an overarching role in human society. It unleashes a process of social interaction through various modes for exchange of information-verbal, non-verbal, words in print or audiovisual format. Communication, in fact, injects life blood into our day to day life. At the macro level, it sets the ball rolling in the process of development and social change, by reaching out to people, and influencing them into action, either by participation or through behavioural change.

Modern technology-enabled society with the help of mass media is making the best use of the power of communication in ameliorating the lives of people. The amalgamation of human lives and mass media in the present era has given rise to a tremendous force in stimulating a sense of involvement among masses, an essential prerequisite for transformation in society.

If we look back, our ancient scriptures extol the virtues of womanhood. According to Upanishads, man and woman are the two manifestations of one supreme power and are equal in strength. power and disposition. Over the ages, women became subject to social exclusion, multiple deprivation and mental and physical abuse. The vicious cycles of inequality perpetuated a decline in the status of women and fostered lop-sided development.

The 21st century, however, presents a paradoxical situation. Now, a section of women enjoys the fruits of socio-economic development, and they have made a place for themselves in the society. But, a large number of their counterparts remain deprived even of the right to live with dignity. A girl child is, sometimes, considered unworthy of life itself. The uneven representation of women in all economic and social services holds true in case of mass communication media scenario too.

Mass Media, nowadays, equipped with improved communication tools, a powerful force to reckon with, is making a deep impact on our life and living, our attitude and belief. In today's India, print, visual and electronic media wield tremendous potential as effective messengers and change agents, and thus, in chunk of disadvantaged women from the fringes to the mainstream of development.

Undoubtedly, the world of media in this age of satellite technology offers a wide variety of platforms for public debate, discourse and engagement, Social media has opened up a new form of interactive communication and engagement, without being hindered by any traditional limitation of time, space and quantity of information exchange. The growth in ICT has further boosted the scope and outreach of communication coverage and enhanced opportunities for education, both formal and informal, skill development, capacity- building, financial inclusion, health care, etc.

The overwhelming expansion of communication facilities has been instrumental in bringing to the fore myriad gender issues, hitherto remaining outside the limelight. This has significantly led to the rising up of a large number of women, both as key beneficiaries to avail the fruits of targeted developmental interventions and also as protagonists, to narrate their untold stories of denial, deprivation and injustice.

Stereotyping of women continues. News stories of violence or sexual harassment against women do appear on front pages in mainline papers, but often with a bias in reporting. Women, as serious decision-makers or as hard core professionals are mostly being overlooked. Their success stories only find place, when they have been able to break the glass ceiling and or have reached the pinnacle of success. Such disengagement Delrays the role of communication as a great equalising force.

But, a silver lining is emerging the horizon! Women as aunicators, whatever may be strength, are gradually hag forward and raising their coming force voice. They tend to give a new approach, perspective, and edge to the gender issues, and are un-travelling the stories of sufferings and human rights violations with sensitivity. This empathetic receptivity is sure to re-establish a new connect between the mass media and the deprived lot. More and more people will get to know the live experiences of the marginalised women in the right perspective.

In such a slowly changing scenario, mass media is also gradually gearing up in popularising a plethora of women-oriented programs for empowerment. The focus of such programs over the decades shifted from welfare to empowerment with a strong component of awareness generation and community mobilisation. Further, to create a supportive environment, institutional and legislative interventions too came in the wake. In such an enabling situation, mass media too, must rise to the occasion, and make conscious efforts to act as a strong catalytic force in bettering the lives of people on the periphery.

The recent policy statements bear a mark of the nation's persistent determination to reach the goals of inclusivity and empowerment. The National Policy for Women (NPW), 2016, is a landmark document, which pronounces the resolve realising the constructive engagement of women in nation development. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressed) Act, 2013, is a pathbreaking law, enforcing an obligation upon every employer for ensuring a safe working space. The Act specifically emphasises sensitisation of employees about the safeguards provided in it for women's safety.

National Mission for Empowerment of Women (NMEW) Scheme 2016-17, is a combined strategy for inter-sectoral convergence of programs for women, with the use of multiple communication tools in advocacy campaigns. Women's Helpline came into existence to reach out to women in distress. Support to Training and Employment Program (STEP) is aimed at adding new skills to women. Women's Self Help Groups (SHGs), as grass roots institutions, have mobilised and facilitated women in availing facilities for development, be it information, financial or material resources or services.

In all such women-centric programs, Information, Education and Communication (IEC), forms an inseparable part. Integrated media communication strategy, is a part and parcel of such schemes. It has been instrumental in bringing on board multi-media platforms like electronic, print, film, inter-pexsonel and also social. This renewed thrust on communication initiatives eventually helped in evoking positive stimuli and constructive engagement of the intended audience and also in receiving feedback from them.

In this content, the Public Service Broadcaster, with its country wide footprint, and two wings, All India Radio (AIR), and Doordarshan, is a front- runner in public communication. Women's empowerment has remained at the top of its agenda. 'Stree Shakti', a one-hour show on DD National, highlights the success stories of women achievers. DD News airs Tejaswini', which has already crossed more than 100 episodes. The show showcases stories of exemplary women who dared to tread unbeaten tracks, and reached goals. Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon', another program on Doordarshan, has earned many laurels as being one of the most watched shows in the world, with a viewership of over 400 million across 50 countries. The program has been translated in 14 languages, and 170 episodes are already over. It has been transmitted over by 240 radio channels and Internet as well. The show, with a hotline for feedback, indeed, bears a testimony to the fact that public communication in entertainment mode could act as a real motivator for change in attitude and behaviour. The third season of the show is being filmed, which indicates its mass appeal and popularity.

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AIR, with its country-wide network, and rich history in public communication, was a pioneer in mounting a number of multilingual programs on family welfare, entrepreneurship development and gender issues. Further, Community Radio, as a grass roots institution, has held out a new promise to women in raising area-specific issues, relating to health, sanitation, education, food habits, family systems, etc. It, in fact generated a micro-level movement in leadership development and political participation, apart from helping the women listeners in adapting to new job skills and encouraging them to venture into gainful livelihood opportunities.

Development communication is also slowly and surely being inducted into the world of print media in our country. The print industry which is on a declining trend in the rest of the world, is still surging ahead in India, especially the language press in rural hinterlands. These days, stories of women's trials, tribulations and triumphs are finding place on newspaper pages, even sometimes as anchor stories on front pages.

TV industry, too, with its huge mass appeal is not far behind in showcasing stories of women achievers and providing a platform for serious discussion on gender issues. The issue of women's empowerment has caught the entire nation's imagination, when the Prime Minister launched the ‘Beti Bachhao Beti Padhao' program at Panipat in Haryana in 2015, one of the worst affected districts in the State, with an abysmally low Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB). The program has already begun showing positive gains in terms of SRB, ANC registration and institutional deliveries, and a significant rise in enrolment of girls at the primary and secondary levels of education. Reasons for its success are not far to find. It was the success of a public communication strategy which is based on innovative local level interventions. On the one hand, local celebrities, opinion leaders and grass root workers have been roped in for popularising the logo , brand and USP of the program; on the other hand, community participation was ensured by celebrating events such as the birth of a girl child or school enrolment drives like 'School Chalein Hum', 'Aao School Chalein', etc.

Our country continues to progress towards achieving the goal of women having increased economic independence and acquiring means for self-sustenance. The recently launched Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, has within two years brought in 16.34 crore women under the banking system, and in terms of new accounts opening, women have stolen a march on men. Similarly under the Sukanya Samridhi Yojana which is an attempt to secure the future of a girl child, more than 1.26 crore new accounts have been opened in the name of girl children up to November, 2017, within two years of its launch. Women again far surpassed men in garnering more than 75 per cent of sanctioned loans under the Mudra scheme for entrepreneurship development.

There is no doubt that mass media has played a critical role in yielding beneficial results from the schemes for women's empowerment and in highlighting the issues of gender rights to a larger audience base. The immense power of communication and new technologies has indeed triggered a motivation for enhanced participation and also generated an urge in articulating a demand for change. Today, majority of women are in a position to fight for their rightful place in society. This newly earned confidence will go a long way in heralding a new era for women's multifaceted development.

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