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Women Awareness and Empowerment

(The article published in the Souvenir "SMARANIKA" on the occasion of the 113th Birth Anniversary of Gokulananda Geetiswami by the Guwahati Gokulananda Geetiswami Jonmoutsav Celebration Committee)

By Pratibha Sinha, Guwahati

Woman” in other words – the counterpart of man with equal mental faculty, the embodiment of love and affection, play a great part in the progress of a family, community, society & ultimately the country. The mental and physical contact of women with life is much more lasting and comprehensive than that of men. Woman is the magnificent creation of god, a multi faceted personality with the power of benevolence, adjustability, integrity and tolerance irrespective of caste, community, religion, nation etc.

In our society, each individual have the basic human right to utilize his or her own thoughts and ideas. But it is a matter of irony that in reality each one of us hardly gets any opportunity to display our own individual ideas. Especially the women, half of the society’s population are often being sidelined from taking any important decision. Apart from that women themselves are still ignorant about their own rights and policy formulated especially for them. For past many years, Indian women have suffered in the hands of the men folk under defined norms of society, social customs & traditions specially framed for women, faced extreme levels of exploitation and have been looked down upon as inferior sections of the society. But thanks to the help of feminists and other reformists whose efforts have enabled the women to uplift themselves by shedding their domestic tag. They have eventually managed to challenge and overcome the social and economic exploitation. Modern women have become very conscious of their rights, and empowering the women, as a whole has become a new motto of the world around.

Although the educated women belonging to the economically middle and upper middle classes are marching forward, yet those belonging to the economically lower classes and backward or rural areas are still lagging behind to know their basic rights and still uneducated. The cases of domestic violence & crimes on women are on the rise abruptly because of ignorance about presence of laws & legislations to help them to resolve their domestic problems & violence and safeguard their rights & privileges.

Although the country’s constitution says- women are legal citizens of the country and have equal rights with men but women are still powerless & unskilled as compared with their male counterparts and still mistreated inside and outside the home. Their existence as women on the globe is still to be realized. Hence, the need of the hour is to empower these underpowered sections of our society. Those women who are in an advantageous position should come forward to help their co-partners taking along with the male counterparts of the society. The first step in this connection is to empower the women folk by making them aware about their basic rights like political, social, legal and their reproductive rights and making them skilled to make themselves self-dependent economically.

The modern concept of “Women Empowerment” means full development of women to enable them to realize their full potential, enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedom by women on equal basis with men in all spheres – political, economic, social, cultural and civil, equal access to participation and decision making of women in social, political and economic life of the nation, equal access to women to health care, quality education at all levels, career and vocational guidance, employment, equal remuneration, occupational health and safety, social security and public office etc., strengthening legal systems aimed at elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, changing societal attitudes and community practices by active participation and involvement of both men and women, elimination of discrimination and all forms of violence against women and the girl child; and building and strengthening partnerships with civil society, particularly women’s organizations.

In the year 2001, the Government of India declared the year 2001 as ‘Women’s Empowerment Year’ to focus on a vision where men & women are same in every aspect of life. Women’s empowerment cannot take place unless women come together and decide to self-empower themselves. Apart from that men should come forward with broader mind and participate in the move with equal acceptance, interference and personal involvement in the process of empowerment & progress of women in the long run. The provisions of the Constitution of India granting equality to women in various spheres creates the legal framework within which the “Department of Women & Child Development” set up in the year 1985 as a part of the Ministry of Human Resource Development functions for holistic development of women and children. In addition, the Government of India has brought about specific legislation to protect and safeguard the rights of women. Women can demand their rights & privileges and empower themselves with the help of various policies, acts and policies framed for women, when they found obstacles in their self-progress in the normal process.

Some of the major policies and schemes undertaken by the Government of India and Department of Women and Child Development for welfare and empowerment of women are as under:-

i. National Commission for Women (NCW) - set up in January 1992
ii. SwayamSiddha (IWEP)
iii. Swadhar (amended on 25.09.2002)
iv. Rashtriya Mahila Kosh (RMK) - A National Credit Fund set up in March, 1993
v. National Nutrition Policy (NNP), 1993
vi. Mahila Samriddhi Yojana(MSY) – launched in October 1993
vii. Indira Mahila Yojana (IMY)- launched in 1995
viii. Balika Samriddhi Yojana (BSY) – launched in 2nd October 1997)
ix. Support to Training and Employment Programme(STEP) for women - launched in 1987 (re-amended on 20.10.2005)
x. Norwegian Agency for International Development also known as “Swawlamban” or 'Training -cum - Employment -cum- Production Centres'
xi. Kishori Shakti Yojana (KSY)
xii. Socio-Economic Programme(SEP)- implemented by the Central Social Welfare Board (CSWB)
xiii. "Distance Education for Women's Development & Empowerment" jointly undertaken by the Department of Women & Child Development, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and Indian Satellite Research Organisation (ISRO).
xiv. Education Work For Prevention Of Atrocities Against Women- started in 1982

Important Social Legislations implemented in the safeguard of women’s right by the Government of India are – (1) (Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, (2)The Special Marriage Act, 1954, (3) Hindu Succession Act, 1956, (4) Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956, (5) The Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Act, 1976, (6) The Factories Act, 1948, Mines Act, 1952 and Plantation Labour Act, 1951, (7) The Employee State Insurance Act, 1948, (8) The Maternity Benefits Act, 1961, (9) The Factories (Amendment) Act, 1976 , (10) The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, (11) The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abortion) Act, 1976, (12) The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, (13) The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, (14) The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1986, (15) Amendments to Criminal Laws, (16) Family Courts, (17)Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986, (18) The Commission on Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987, (19) Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act,2005, (Came into Force on 26/10/2006), (20) The Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment At Work Place Bill,2007, (21) National Commission for Women Act (set up in 1992)

Today it is realized that so long as women of the country are not uplifted and granted equal status with men in all walks of life – political, social, economic, domestic, educational etc, a society or a country could neither progress nor make any significant advance in any field. Now, with the encouragement of co-education, women are marching side by side with men in every walk of life and education is the tool that helps in creating awareness about different aspects, rights & privileges. Women are actually proving to be academically better and socially more active. When we come across the results of competitive examinations in all India civil services and Indian universities we can note that women capture most of the merit seats. Women are making sustained efforts to scale the leaders of social progress by dint of their zeal and dynamism and also contributing extensively towards the social transformation and building of the nation. Stating on the condition of women folk, Swami Vivekananda said –

“It is very difficult to understand why in this country [India] so much difference is made between men and women, whereas the Vedanta declares that one and the same conscious Self is present in all beings. You always criticize the women, but say what have you done for their uplift? Writing down Smritis etc., and binding them by hard rules, the men have turned the women into manufacturing machines! If you do not raise the women, who are living embodiment of the Divine Mother, don’t think that you have any other way to rise.”

To make the woman empowered, they should be educated and skilled in different professions either in the service sector or business sector or entrepreneurship. Women should be skilled and trained to enable them to run their own micro enterprises in different trades like Textile Design and Printing, Garment Manufacturing Technology, Jewellery Design and Manufacturing, Commercial Art/ Graphic Design, Interior Design and Display, Home Science, Nursery and Primary Teachers Training, Modern Office Management/ SP, Beauty Culture and Hair Dressing, Marketing, Advertising and PR, Journalism and Mass Media, Tourism and Ticketing, Aviation and Hospitality Management Arts & Crafts, Business Management, Information Technology/ Computers etc. Women should keep themselves well-informed, updated and make their fellow-women folk in rural and backward areas aware about all information related to the above trades, acts, policies etc. framed for their overall development.

"STREE SHAKTI PURASKAR" - Recognize achievements of Women

Five National Awards of Rs.1.00 lakhs along with a citation each to be known as "Stree Shakti Puraskar" have been instituted in recognition of achievements of individual women in the field of social development, who have triumphed over difficult circumstances and have fought for and established the rights of women in various fields viz. support and rehabilitation of women and children in especially difficult circumstances such as destitute women, widows, old aged and disabled women and victims of atrocities and conflicts . Also, achievements of women who have worked in the areas of education, health, agriculture and rural industry, protection of forests and environment and those who have created awareness and consciousness on women's issues through arts and media would be recognized and awarded by the Government.

These awards are given in the name of the eminent women personalities in the Indian history, who are famous for their personal courage and integrity - Devi Ahilya Bai Holkar, Kanngi, Mata Jijabai, Rani Gaidenlou Zeliang and Rani Lakshmi Bai. The Department of Women and Child Development invites nominations for the awards from Non-Governmental Organisations, Women Development Corporations, National and State level Commissions for Women etc. through the State Governments and Union Territory Administration. The awards are presented in New Delhi on the occasion of International Women's Day i.e. 8th March.

Bishnupriya Manipuri Women

When we talk about the present status of women from Bishnupriya Manipuri community, fortunately, these days we can note that Bishnupriya Manipuri women are shining in the fields of education, because the society and the families equally give them the rights of education. Nowadays we can find lots of Bishnupriya Manipuri women are proving their excellence as professionals like Teachers, Doctors, Lawyers, Executives, Writers, Artists or Social workers. Though we come across many educated & successful women in our community in cities and towns but still the overall condition of women’s life in villages & towns are still worse and not developed either in their domestic life or economically. Ignorant or illiterate or unskilled women in villages & towns are still there in large numbers. They need to be awakened and introduced with their rights and their role in the society through education, Mahila Samities, Self-help groups, NGOs, educated responsible person of the community or society etc. Initiatives have to be taken to make the women empowered & skilled in different trades suitable for women as mentioned above, voluntary arrangement of training-cum-workshop in various trade, follow-up of different national empowerment schemes & policies framed for women to help with financial assistance & other privileges. Also the women have to make aware about their basic rights & privileges available so that they can demand and avail their individual rights with authority.

In reality, women folk are still suffering a lot in our present society & community in the absence of real analysis of their problems and having the knowledge of their psychology to formulate appropriate law by the government and by enlightening the moral and religious binding to the public. Unless women are not empowered and are not allowed to act equally with the male counterparts, the overall progress and development of the community is hardly to achieve. Geetiswami Gokulananda, the social reformer and philosopher of Bishnupriya Manipuri also expressed his deep concern on the poor conditions of women in the society and raised his voice for their upliftment & development. His respect for women and deep concern for women can be noted from his written lines as under:-

“Juge juge cheita jelai jingesita
Shoktite Bhobani Bidyai Binapani
Dhairiate Dhoroni Bhoktite Brojo Gopini
Auter ongsho kala oiya paahurlai nijor shokti”

On the 113th birth anniversary of Geetiswami Gokulananda, I pay my due homage to him with due respect and honour remembering his contribution for the upliftment of Bishnupriya Manipuri community and the women folk concerned, his advices & reformative thoughts left behind him. Let his contributions inspire all of us to move ahead & work unitedly to fulfill all his unfulfilled dreams for the development & upliftment of the community as well as the upliftment of the poor condition of community’s women.

In his memory, I take the opportunity to write on the status of women in society, rights & privileges of women and different policies & schemes framed for the empowerment of women in different fields. Unless half the society’s population i.e. women are not kept healthy, then we cannot get a healthy society as a whole. The status of women in India has been subject to many great changes over the past few millennia irrespective of caste, community or religion. From a largely unknown status in ancient times to till today, to the promotion of equal rights by many reformers, the history of women in India has been eventful.

Today is Lamboishing (Sunday)

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  1. Very well put up, Pratibha!
    Indeed it is important.
    The problem we have in India is not govt bodies or associations. Its that voice, an extra effort to make your voice being heard, and the non-co operation from the only other gender. Equality! an ideal situation we talk about, not that its not happening...yes, to reach out to the grassroots would take time. Social changes, phychological
    changes etc.all combined BUT the voice must be raised more often than not.

    The truth is, its not the ignored lots who are to be blamed...more so to the educated lots, who put their eduction to rest when shy away from situations like this. I mean take this as an example- The site has more females readers than we think are visible. Now you should not be surprised to see not too many hands up for you, encouraging you for taking issues like this. They're happy being mute, inside their cosy four walls. The least we could do, is encourage others who practice.

    Pratibha, it does not end here.
    You as a women could possibly reach out with your thoughts to more people. what stops the females raising their concerns and coming out?

    Looking forward for more inputs from you.

  2. In support of Ms Pratibha's view I would like to add few more lines to her Woman Power.

    The woman appears weak,fragile and vulnnerable,yet there is enormous
    vitality waiting to be tapped.Even traditionally SHAKTI or power is associated with a goddess,(Kali and Durga) with the feminine.The woman plays a anchor role in keeping the family
    together and maintainig friction free relationship, yet she can also be considered a disrupting force for a well knit family if she desires.

    In modern times woman has to balance varius roles that of a mother, wife ,home maker with office responsibilities as a career.Sometimes she also is the sole bread winer,society expects her to be mature,patient,
    understandanding,soft spoken,mild,
    warm, caring and a picture of grace and charm. On the otherhand the present day circumstances demand that she be tough, independent, a solution provider,leader, one who brings up
    children well and takes care of husband.

  3. Thanks for the above comments and adding their thoughts in the article by the anonymous reader and Reboti uncle.

    Pratibha Sinha


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