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