A woman is a full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform. Nari shakti is a concept that has existed in Indian culture since time immemorial. The mother goddess has been worshipped from ancient times in various forms – Durga and Kali in East India, Mahishasura Mardini and Bhagawati in Kerala, etc. She has always been portrayed as the epitome of shakti, able to accomplish that which man cannot.
This, however, is only one side of the picture. The flip side is a grim scenario of women having no voice in their own lives, leave alone the decisions of the family. They had been subservient to the men in their lives. Their aspirations were not considered important enough to be encouraged. Their hardships were submerged in their responsibilities as mother, wife and daughter.
This facet of a woman’s life has undergone major transformation in recent times. The modern woman is no longer confined to the four walls of the house. Women are now realizing their worth in every way and demanding gender equality and justice both at home and in the workplace. They have broken the glass barrier in almost every field, be it technology, space science, sports or the armed forces. Almost every fifth woman is an entrepreneur – both in urban and rural India.
In recent years, Government has played a significant role in bringing about this transition. Right from recognizing the need to protect the girl child in the womb to protecting career women in their work place, a number of initiatives have been taken. Empowering woman through her journey to motherhood is an important agenda for the government. Schemes like the PM Matru Vandana Yojana give financial protection to women during their pregnancy and lactation period. A very significant move has been the modification of the Maternity Benefit Act allowing working women 26 weeks of paid maternity leave. Programmes like Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao programme and Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana take care of the girl child right from protecting her from female foeticide to ensuring her education and financial security. Only a healthy woman can be an empowered woman. The Ayushman Bharat Programme, National Nutrition Mission, Ujjawala Yojana etc take care of the health and nutritional requirements of Indian women.
Entrepreneurship development programmes have enabled women to stand on their own feet. Schemes like the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana, Stand up India, Start up India and SHGS under the National Rural Livelihoods Mission have helped to make women financially secure and independent. PM Jan Dhan Yojana has also played a critical role in the financial inclusion of women.
Safety and security of women at all places is high on the agenda of woman empowerment. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, the online complaint system, 181 women helplines, One Stop Centres and panic buttons are all geared to protect women in their journey towards empowerment. Triple Talaq, has been a big thorn in the progress of Muslim women. The Triple Talaq bill already cleared by the Lok Sabha seeks to remedy this situation by abolishing the practice.
Road to development cannot be travelled without the empowerment of women who form almost 50 per cent per cent of the Indian population. A multidirectional organized approach to women empowerment is sure to take the country way beyond this path.