Role of Women & Women Organization

Previous Year Questions

  1. Male membership needs to be encouraged in order to make women’s organization free from gender bias. Comment. (2013)
  2. How does patriarchy impact the position of a middle-class working woman in India? (2014)
  3. Discuss the various economic and socio-cultural forces that are driving increasing feminization of agriculture in India. (2014)
  4. The women’s questions arose in modern India as a part of the 19th-century social reform movement. What are the major issues and debates concerning women in that period? (2017)
  5. Women’s movement in India has not addresses the issues of women of lower social strata.’ Substantiate your view (2018)
  6. What are the continued challenges for women in India against time and space? (2019)

The general development of a nation relies on the-maximum usage of people, the two men and women. The last two hundred years have seen a considerable, verifiably uncommon, expansion of women’s rights, both economic and political In India women contain almost 50% of the aggregate populace. With the advancement of time, the truth has now been perceived that without guaranteeing women development, the national development can’t be accomplished. In every single industrialised nation, women went from being the property of their spouses or potentially their fathers, with not very many legitimate rights, to having the same political rights and the majority of an indistinguishable economic rights from men. Empowerment is critical to fight for their rights and more so for women.

Ways and Means of Achieving Women Empowerment:

Empowerment of women can be achieved through education, women’s organization, information technology, science and technology, entrepreneurship, micro-finance institutions, law and agriculture.

(a) Education: Education plays the most crucial role in empowering women. In addition to generating momentum it also sustains empowerment process in the long run. It is relevant to point out that one of the important recommendations of the National Policy on education is to promote empowerment of women through the agency of education. To achieve empowerment through education, several concepts must be introduced at appropriate levels. When referring to primary and secondary schooling, empowerment should enable girls to develop the knowledge and skill to nullify and counter. Sexual stereotypes and conceptions of masculinity and feminity that limits the social potential of women.

Empowering girls should mean offering them courses with content that not only attack current sexual stereotypes but also provide students with alternative visions of a gender free society. Gender and women studies programmes have made it possible for student to gain a greater understanding of how gender forces operate in society. These programmes influenced the development and discrimination of new theoretical and methodological approaches dealing with the nature of gender, national development and social change.

(b) Entrepreneurship: Women’s entrepreneurship is both about women’s position in society and about the role of entrepreneurship in the same society. Women entrepreneurs faced many obstacles specifically in market their product (including family responsibilities) that have to be overcome in order to give them access to the same opportunities as men. In addition, in some countries, women may experience obstacles with respect to holding property and entering contracts. Increased participation of women in the labour force is a prerequisite for improving the position of women in society and self-employed women. Particularly the entry of rural women in microenterprises is to be encouraged and aggravated. Rural women are having basic indigenous knowledge, skill, potential and resources to establish and manage enterprise. Now what is the necessary is knowledge regarding accessibility to loans, various funding agencies, procedure regarding certificate, awareness on government welfare programmes, motivation, technical skill and support from family, government and other organization.

Moreover, formation and strengthening of rural women entrepreneurs’ network must be encouraged. Women entrepreneur networks are major sources of knowledge about women’s entrepreneurship and they are increasingly recognized as a valuable tool for its development and promotion. This network helps to give lectures, printed material imparting first hand technical knowledge in production, processing, procurement, management and marketing among the other women. This will motivate other rural women to engage in micro- entrepreneurship with the right assistance and they can strengthen their capacities besides, adding to the family income and national productivity.

 (c) Women’s Organization: Women’s organization have come to be recognized as the main source of power, position and strength for women in modern India. A woman fight injustices collectively through organizations. Women SHGs in rural area are doing yeomen service in organizing women power. Women from different sections are being brought together and organized into an association to wage a war on liquor shops and gambling dens, for abolishing age-old practices like wife beating, polygamy, dowry-connected harassment, devadasi system, child marriages, etc. Besides, the SHG are providing employment opportunities to large masses of illiterate, ignorant and suppressed women folk. A proper leadership among women will go to a long way in empowering them.

(d) Information Technology: The single most resource that liberates people from poverty and empower them is knowledge. A society by using knowledge through all its constitutions, endeavours to empower and enrich its people and thus will become a knowledge society. Such knowledge society will need empowerment at all levels and among all the key actions of the society. At this juncture, it is essential to see the possibilities of women’s empowerment through information technology. Access to information is the key for economic, social and political empowerment of women. So far, no other technology claimed to have given the instant, uncensored, practically feasible, economically viable information to the women folk than the information technology. IT poses new forms of learning, education, health services, livelihood options, governance mechanism and ecommerce options which would lead to the ultimate goal that is woman’s empowerment.

(e) Microfinance Institution: Microfinance institutions play a dominant role in the empowerment of women. There are basically two schools of thought on the empowerment potential of microfinance programmes, with one school emphasizing the negative aspects, arguing that men in the households tend to appropriate the loans and benefits from the loans. This school see the household as a site of conduct, where women and men struggling for control over resources. The other school emphasizes the positive aspects, given the evidence that households with loans generally have higher income and level of consumption regardless of the gender dynamics within the household. This school emphasizes a more consensual conception of the households, with benefits for the entire family also considered as benefits to women.

Different research and case studies on the impact of microfinance for women’s empowerment have been carried out, though the majority of these studies have been undertaken in South Asia given the longer presence of microfinance institutions there. Many of these research studies show that microfinance institutions help a lot in empowerment of women.

(g) Law: Empowerment of women is an input which is intended to eliminate their subordination and establish equality. Empowerment is a positive concept. It requires affirmative state action in support of those who are to be empowered. The law can create such empowerment by way of conferring rights directly to the person whom it intends to empower by imposing liability on other persons forwards the persons to be empowered. For the empowerment of women in India, certain existing laws have been amended and modified according to need of time by creating penal sanction against certain type of behaviour, which infringe, deprive or derogate the dignity of women.

The Indian constitution has the following provisions for making women at par with men :- (i) Article 14 of the constitution guarantees to all equal protections of laws and equal before law. Both these expressions have also been used in “universal declaration of human rights”. The equality before law is guaranteed to all without regard to sex, race, colour or nationality. (ii) Article 15(3), empowers the state to make special provision for women. Women require special treatment due to their very nature. “Women’s physical structure and performance and maternal functions place her at a disadvantage in the struggle for subsistence and her physical wellbeing becomes an objective.” (iii) Article 16(2) lays down the rule that no citizen can be discriminated for any employment under the state on ground of religion, race, caste or sex. (iv) Constitutional 73rd Amendment Act, 1992, Article 243D provides that in every panchayat, seats shall be reserved for SC, ST and not less than one third shall be reserved at village level shall be reserved in such manner as the legislature of the state may be law provide. (v) Constitutional 74th Amendment Act, 1992, Article 243T provides that one-third seats in Municipal Corporations shall be reserved for women. Such seats may be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in the municipality.

(h) Agriculture: The National Agricultural Policy of India (2000) and the Indian National Policy for the Empowerment of Women (2001) have highlighted the need for incorporating gender issues in the agricultural development agenda to provide recognition of women’s role as farmers and producers of crops and livestock, users of technology, active agents in marketing and processing and storage of food and agricultural labourers. Various central sector schemes are in operation in different states on women in agriculture. In Kerala, the State Poverty Eradication Mission (SPEM) Kerala, through Kudumbashree has increasing recognized the programme on “Women in Agriculture”, as a powerful tool for empowerment of women. Lease land farming, skill development, agriculture business, agri-processing etc. are their thrust area. The micro-enterprises strategy engages in agriculture related enterprises, such as vegetable farming, crop nurseries, gardening units, mushroom cultivation, vermin compost production, bee keeping, dairy hatchery units, backyard poultry, agro-processing, produce marketing etc.

Indicators of Empowerment:

There are several indicators of empowerment. At the individual level, participation in crucial decision-making process, ability to prevent violence, self confidence and self-esteem, improved health and nutrition conditions, etc. are the major indicators.

At the community levels, the important indicators are existence of women’s organizations, increased number of women leaders, involvement of women in designing development tools and application of appropriate technology etc.

At the national level, the indicators are awareness of her social and political rights, adequate representation in legislative bodies, integration of women in particular in national development plans etc.

Improvement in economic status gets reflected in improved social, political and cultural status of women. Self-confidence and self-esteem of women proceed simultaneously with their empowerment. In brief, all indicators can be classified into two broad categories namely visible and invisible indicators. Amongst visible indicators, mention could be made of women’s representation in parliaments.

WOMEN CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS

Women’s civil society organizations have increased their numbers very fast recently. Many of these organizations are voluntary or non-governmental organizations and work for the wellbeing and interest of society. These women organizations are providing important welfare services in the society and some of them even provide income generation programmes. Nowadays in many developing countries, they have started questioning their status quo in the society.  

Women Civil Society organizations across the globe focus in building peace and equality in communities. They make an effort to implement the words and resolutions to move from conflict and violence to peace. They work hard to make inclusive decision making; they document, react, manage and make a difference in the lives of those individuals and groups affected by conflict or any undesirable repressive measure of the state. Examples are Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom Nagaland’s Naga’s Mother Association, Manipur’s Meira Paibis etc.

Since, the vital role of women’s civil society organizations is so important there remains a necessity of supporting women’s organizations in a continuum of work related to Women, Peace, Security and development of the state. Support can be in the form of political, technical and financial. It consists of lending support and ensuring that these women civil group’s involvement in the processes of peace and development covering all major aspects of the reconstruction of security, political institutions, judiciary and in constitution drafting. Women’s organizations are frequently subject to specific security threats. Even when participating in peace processes or any social movements, women civil society leaders and activists can be subject to harassment and intimidation, mostly in societies where these women are playing the roles of non-traditional actors. Intensive attention must be paid to the protection of women’s groups to ensure that threats to their security do not hamper their involvement in social and peace movements or any other political processes.

Social Movements by Women Civil Society Organisations Across the Globe:

Women civil society organizations have been instrumental in ending of violence in many parts of India and in bringing peace. Women’s involvement in social movements has been extensive, addressing many diverse issues of social injustice. Important social movements by Women Civil Society Organizations across the world are:

Feminist Movement: The feminist movement generally refers to a series of advocacy and campaigns for bringing change on various diverse issues of women like equal education, equal employment, equal pay, right to vote, sexual harassment, maternity etc. The ideology of Feminism encompasses political and sociological theories which are concerned gender difference, issues. The movement also advocates equal opportunity for women and fight for women’s interests and rights. Modern western feminist movements can be studied into three “waves”. Each one of the waves dealt with diverse features of the similar feminist issues. The first wave of women’s liberation comprises of the women’s movement of the Nineteenth century and mid Twentieth century which encourage the right to vote for women.

The second wave of the movement was concerned with the social and legal equality for the women. It is associated with the ideologies and activities of the 1960s women liberation movement. And the last wave, which begins in 1990s, was a reaction and continuation of the second wave feminism which was considered as not so successful. Different methods were used by the women’s movement to bring equality for women. Broadcasting domestic violence and rape issues with the help of the media, lobbying the government to bring change in the laws and reaching out to get support of the ordinary women so as to broaden the movement and increase their awareness about feminism and how it could help out them.

Feminist movements are by and large considered as one of the key forces in bringing a major change especially for women rights in the western countries. They have been successful in achieving women’s right to vote, gender neutrality, right to property and even reproductive rights. Most of the leaders of the feminist movements were largely middle-class white women who belonged to North America and Western Europe. Since then, women of other countries have begun other forms of feminisms. Such progress speedily began to widespread in the nineteenth sixties with the US’s Civil Rights movement and with the disintegrating of European imperialism in Africa and numerous parts of Latin America and Southeast Asia. Since then, women from nations of the Third World and previous European settlements have anticipated Third World feminisms and Post-colonial movements.

The Suffragettes Movements: The suffrage movement was not an integrated movement. It was a combination of different groups and individuals that worked together for a few intense years around the common goal of votes for women. In the UK, Millicent Fawcett formed the women organization in 1987 for women’s right to vote or Suffrage. These women groups wanted their protest to be peaceful. They began the challenge as they need the women in the UK to have the privilege to vote and they were not set up to hold up. The association framed by these women came to known as the Suffragettes. Members of the Suffragettes were ready to use violence to get what they wanted. Actually, Suffragettes started their movements fairly peacefully. The organization started to use violence only in 1905 when their grievance and demands were not fulfilled. The churches were burnt down by the Suffragettes and the famous Oxford Street was damage, window panes were broken. Houses were burnt down and local politicians were attacked. Suffragettes went on hunger strike and were ready to go for jail. The government was extremely worried that these women might die in the jail which in turn will make the movement martyrs. The Suffragettes were forced fed by the prison authorities but the public were not happy as forced feeding was conventionally meant for feeding lunatics and not for educated women. As a consequence, the Suffragettes became more excessive in their actions and became more violent.

On the other hand, during that period the Europe and the Britain were involved in Second World War in 1914. To show patriotism, the leader of the Suffragettes instructed the members to stop their protest and support the government in its war exertion. The efforts made by the UK’s women in the First World War were to be critical for Britain’s war effort. The Representation of the People Act was passed by Parliament in 1918. Such kinds of movements were also seen to be being carried out in Australia, USA and New Zealand.

Involvement of Indian Women in Social Movements:

Many of the women organizations were set up in the early twentieth century and these women were later found to involve in the freedom struggle of the country. Independence of India brought several promises. It also envisages many dreams for the women like that of an equal society, where both men and women can voice their opinion. But the truth was opposite to what it was expected. The reality was that only little progress was made for the women. So, by 1960s, these women began to realise that their dreams and promises were still not fulfilled. A series of social movements came up in the 1960s and 1970s and women played a significant part like on various issues like movements for land rights, peasant movements, human rights, rising prices, etc.

Women were seen to be participating in huge numbers in different movements that were happening in the country. In all places, their involvement brought a transformation in the movements from inside. Violence against women, especially rape and dowry deaths were considered as one of the principal real issues to get across the nation-wide attention from women’ groups. Women were able to mobilize successfully and the protests were directed mostly against the state and the state also accordingly started making changes and modification of certain laws related to violence against women. These groups of women began to realise that targeting the State would not solve all their problems as they needed support for the victims also. So, they started creating awareness on women’s’ issues like violence against women and focussed on preventive measures in order to avoid unwanted situation in a women’s life. Counselling centres were set up and legal aid services were made available. It also made attempts in opening shelter homes and focus on increasing the knowledge of the women.

Most of the activities at that time were aimed in bringing improvement in the situation of women’s lives. The early movements of the 1980s were symbolized by road agitations and crusades which are organized at countrywide level. Later, it was substituted by a more organized and complex reaction to specific issues. It was not only the middle class or the urbane women who took important part in the movement, but the role of the lower-class women is also undeniable. The agitation against the use of liquor in Andhra Pradesh were begun and managed by poor women, regularly low rank. The environment protection movement was also started by poor women of the northern hill regions of India, and from there it spread to other regions of the country. In a country like India considering the sorts of issues the women movements are concentrating, there is a possibility of facing repercussion in every of the step they take in their movements.

One of the highlight of women’s public protest is seeing how their exceptionally inclusion in movements have gotten to change their observation about themselves and their critical part in their groups, notwithstanding when their challenge is in protection of traditional values, ethics and qualities. The lives of the women and their social space in the society are remade by protest action, which sometimes cost personal loss also.

At present, these women organizations raised different issues like peace, violation of human rights minority’s rights etc and not necessarily restricted to women’s issues only. The role of women’s organizations in organization and mobilization of social movements is a big challenge because of the diversity in India. Social movements by women have created a great deal of the events and attitudes that have defined contemporary life and outlook towards women. Nowadays, these women’s movement presences can be seen in a highly decentralized form throughout the country in both rural and urban areas.

FEMINISATION OF POVERTY

Poverty is experienced more severely by poor women than poor men with the resultant feminization of poverty due to less access to food, education and health care, unequal inheritance rights, lack of equal opportunities etc. The poor woman’s ability to overcome poverty is much lower. Feminisation of Poverty is defined as a combination of the factors, which make women particularly prone to economic victimization and increase in the number of share of women among the poor. In the Indian context lack of basic needs, isolation and powerlessness are the easily discernible symptoms of the impoverished groups.

The Indian constitution grandly proclaims that women stand on an equal footing with men; but strong patriarchal traditions still persist and plaque the lives of women even in the contemporary egalitarian times. In most Indian families, a daughter is viewed as a liability, and she is conditioned to believe that she is inferior and subordinate to men. This subordinate and inferior position at home is the basic reason, which leads to inequalities and to the economic and social marginalisation of women; and ultimately to extraordinary and enormous social wastage.

Causes of ‘feminization of poverty’:

 There are multiple reasons that can be given as the causes leading to the poverty of women. The United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNWOMEN) has identified some key dimensions which can possibly explain a higher rate of poverty for women.

1. Labour of women is often primarily in terms of family care and household duties—works for which they receive no wages. Women living in developing nations may also be relied upon to participate in agricultural labour on the household land to help support the livelihoods of their families and villages. With such responsibilities, women have less time to devote to paid employment as compared to men, and thus earn a smaller income, even though they may actually be doing more work than their male counterparts. Nature of the work they do in households is also different

2. When employment opportunities are limited, women may have to migrate to other areas to find work. If a woman has children, however, she may be unable to pursue a job which is far from her residence. Thus, she faces a reduced accessibility to opportunities and this in turn leads to less education for her children and deprivation of adequate nourishment and health care and further diminished opportunities for her children. Usually a cycle of poverty is thus perpetuated.

3. Women’s jobs are more likely than men’s to be forms of informal employment, which takes place in small, unregistered enterprises and are not protected by government regulation. Women have often been associated with specific kinds of work, such as teaching, caring for children and the elderly, domestic service, etc. These kinds of jobs lack stability and security and the possibility of working at higher salaries. They are open to exploitation and the women, due to fear of losing the job, even if it is exploitative and with poor pay, remain silent and continue to work in these conditions.

4. In the same vein, the unpaid labour that women perform in taking care of family members and other household chores is considered of far less worth (at least economically) than positions that require formal education or training. If the women do take up jobs outside the homes, there is usually no family support

5. One of the long-time causes for increased numbers of single-mother families was a higher rate of male mortality after wars and periods of conflict. In Western countries today, with divorce common and/or or women choosing not to marry, many women are single mothers who must support a household on only their income.

6. In countries where school is not compulsory or where girls encounter various barriers to education, upward economic mobility through higher-skilled employment is nearly impossible. Most doors remain closed to women and girls, even if they desire to upgrade their skills or improve their expertise.

7. Women may be subject to inequalities in wages, benefits, property rights, and so forth. The feminization of poverty is not only a consequence of lack of income, but is also the result of the deprivation of opportunities and gender biases present in both societies and governments.

Poverty is a phenomenon which exists usually around certain and visible social factors such as – isolation of a particular groups or group of people, cultural negligence emancipation of riddles in the culture, untapped resources or selection of irrelevant technology and lack of usable skills, political destabilization. To eradicate poverty or strengthening the people and their capacity the approach determines the consequences. As an indicator for development weaker sections including women and their participation in the process of development are the apparent and unavoidable. Inclusive growth has to ensure opportunities for all sections of the population with a special emphasis on the poor, particularly women who are most likely to be marginalized.

Women in Agriculture:

Women as farmers, laborers and entrepreneurs are the driving force of India’s farmland. According to OXFAM 2018, agriculture sector employs 80% of all economically active women in India, they comprise 33% of the agriculture labour force and 48% of the self-employed farmers. In spite of their large contribution women continue to remain invisible in the rural economy of India.

The country has witnessed massive agricultural distress during the past couple of years. Farmers from major agriculture dependent states have come on streets to protest against the low price for farm produce and demanding loan waiver. Major participants of these protests were women farmers and their unattended demands. Limited access to resources, illiteracy, land allocation for farming and recognition is consistently adding trouble for women farmers. The vicious cycle of debt, crop failure and poverty often force them to take their own lives.

The agony of the women farmers needs to be heard both at the policy and implementation level. In order to make women farmers capable, access to information on advanced agricultural practices is needed. Women bear the burden of getting paid with low wages compared to men. Policy emphasis must be to recognise the work of female farmers and grant equal pay to them.

Lack of land rights is one of the crippling issues for women farmers. Around 80 per cent of farm work is undertaken by women in India. However, they own only 13 per cent of the land. There is an urgent need to change the inheritance practices and give land rights to daughters as well. Further, to increase efficiency and promote sustainable agricultural practices, skill development training needs to be delivered to women farmers. Skill development programs will train women farmers in areas of field operations, organic farming etc.

Technological advancements in designing tools can play an important role in making farm equipment easy to use for women. Majority of women in the rural sector are involved in animal husbandry, hence imparting veterinary knowledge to women can result in better results.

Self-help groups have been playing a crucial role in improving the status of women in rural villages. Such self-help groups can help women farmers by providing financial support in terms of loans and promote best agricultural practices through training. Fair support price has been the major demand of farmers all over the country. In order to provide a fair price and direct market linkages, Mahila Kisan mandis should be promoted for women farmers where they can sell their produce without any hassle.

According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation, if women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20-30%. If we want the agricultural sector to thrive in the country, acknowledging the contribution of women farmers becomes an absolute necessity. We need to provide them with opportunities and upgrade their skills through collective training and capacity building programs.

Women in Labour force:

Female labour force participation is a driver of growth and therefore, participation rates indicate the potential for a country to grow more rapidly. However, the relationship between women’s engagement in the labour market and broader development outcomes is complex.

India’s female Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR)—the share of working-age women who report either being employed, or being available for work—has fallen to a historic low of 23.3% in 2017-18, meaning that over three out of four women over the age of 15 in India are neither working nor seeking work. (The age of 15 is the cut-off used for global comparisons by the International Labour Organization.) This would imply that they are most likely running the house and taking care of children. Both economic and cultural reasons explain women falling out of India’s labour force. The latest evidence suggests that the number of jobs in India is on the decline. This is a significant structural problem for a country with a burgeoning young population. In particular, India has struggled to create labour-intensive manufacturing jobs, many of which favour women. This is in contrast to countries such as Bangladesh that experienced a booming export-led manufacturing sector that led to more employment opportunities for women.

The number of women staying in education in both urban and rural areas has increased, keeping them out of the workforce for longer. But, even when this is accounted for, the numbers of women working remains below India’s peers. For men, greater education leads to higher participation in the labour force. 

Across India, there are cultural expectations that married women should not work and that they should prioritise housework and care work. A survey on social attitudes in 2016 found that around 40-60% of men and women believe married women should not work if the husband earns reasonably well.

Another factor keeping women out of the workforce is the wider problem of violence against women. Sexual violence and an unsafe environment for women also stops them seeking paid work outside their homes – this is especially the case for Muslim and lower-caste women.

Gender equality is an important development objective in and of itself. Research shows that when women work they have greater agency and voice and the poorer representation of women in paid work has negative consequences for their bargaining power within their households. Plus, increasing the number of women in work is important for any country’s economic growth, leading to better productivity and improving prospects for future generations.

There are a number of ways to boost the number of women working. Tackling the cultural reasons that result in women leaving the workforce could be one such way. Changing social norms about gender equity and women’s work is paramount, and this is where awareness programmes and affirmative action policies may help alleviate gender stereotypes. The 2017 Maternity Benefit Act, by increasing paid maternity leave, may also help to limit the drop-out of women from work after motherhood. Access to subsidised childcare may also free up time for women to engage in the labour force. Ultimately, the goal is not merely to increase female labour force participation, but to provide opportunities for decent work that will, in turn, contribute to the economic empowerment of women.