Marxists and liberal thinkers of the 19th and 20th Century raised their voice against the long standing harassment of women and advocated equality for women, it took long for these ideas to fructify in legislation. Women were given right to vote in 1921 in the imperialist England.
The first half of the Twentieth Century saw the emergence of a series of protest movements in many countries of the world aimed at securing equality for women. In Europe and United States, women obtained legal equality. The Communist regimes of U.S.S.R. and China were committed to liberation of women and assigned greater role jot them in ushering in an egalitarian society. Women’s participation in the labour force registered impressive increases. But the phenomena of emancipation of women | passed by many conservative countries of Asia and Africa.
Of late, a new way of thinking has emerged in many democratic countries of the world seeking a more effective role for the woman in society. The accent of feminine movements has undergone a qualitative shift from the strategy of securing emancipation of women to facilitating empowerment of women.
Mere equality for women is not sufficient. Since most of the institutions of society are dominated by man, the concept of legal equality of women has not been able to demolish the traditional prejudices nurtured by man regarding unsuitability of women to hold top positions in Industry, business, politics, and scientific establishments and even in academics and arts the physiologists and psychologists have repeatedly demonstrated through scientific tests and experiments that women are not inferior to men in intellectual capacity or emotional stability and can perform as well as men in social and economic activities. Since the life and career of most women is still guided by men, they are not able to direct their lives and make sufficient efforts for impressive achievements.
The empowerment of women aims at giving women power to exercise auto no over their destiny. They will refuse to submit to the conventions that bind them to four walls of the house and to a subservient role in the bringing up of the family. Th will seek a more active role in the bringing up of the family.
They will seek a mo active role in the shaping and grooming of the children than the current role of cooking food for them and giving them emotional sustenance by their unconditional love and affection. For playing a greater role in the family and society, they have to shapeup their personality through education. Moreover, economic self sufficiency is precondition for empowerment of women.
Women should seek careers for earning money as well as for recognition, growth and self-actualisation. They will not aimJ| merely supplementing the income of their husbands. They must make a fuller use their talents and skills to secure for themselves and their children the best of nutrition; education and cultural life. The social position of women is determined by their economic position. Inspiti of extensive legislation providing equal inheritance to women in the paternal property most property still remains in the constructive as well as legal control of men.
Vigoroui efforts should be made to transfer the property in name of women who rightfully own the land. Effective monitoring of the progress in this regard can accelerate the process; the title of women to land should be publicly displayed in the offices of Panchayalj bodies so that effective intervention can be made if their rights are encroached upon. Notions of women’s inferiority thrive on ignorance. Achievements made by women in the field of science, academics, public services, literature and politics should be widely publicised to mould public perception.
Their practical sense, aesthetic taste and capacity to love and care should be appreciated by the society.
When women face discrimination on ground of getting lower wages or denial of educational opportunity, they have to organise themselves and demand equality. They may also seek legal aid and fight for restoration of their rights. They can enlist the Support of existing organisation in this cause or may set up their own legal aid groups.
A more active role in local bodies and state politics will accelerate the process oft empowerment of women. In India, reservation of 30% seats for women in Panchayatl bodies has already been made. This provision, if fully utilised, can offer them anj enhanced role in village affairs and will add to their strength in fighting against sexuall discrimination.
In South-Asian countries women’s role in agriculture operation has been cruciall particularly in paddy-transplanting and harvesting. Moreover, the dairy, fishery, poultry and piggery depend heavily on women’s labour.
Seeing that credit institutions havej generally passed them by, women in Bangladesh have effectively organised themselves into co-operatives and secured substantial financial assistance from the Gramin Banks there. They have improved their economic condition and have become a source of strength to their children. The Bangladesh experiment can be replicated in countries like India with profit.