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Smt. Anita Patnaik**

The status of women in India has been undergoing a sea-change. Supported by Constitutional guarantees to ensure dignity and equal opportunities, their active participation in all walks of life including education, politics, sport etc., has been growing. Taking note of women’s role in the nation-building activities, the Government had declared 2001 as the year of Women’s Empowerment by adopting a National Policy to offer “Swashakti” to women. Several laws have also been adopted to empower women socially, economically, legally and politically. Considering the role of rural India, the country’s backbone, the Government had taken several measures to strengthen Pachayanti Raj system with the active participation of women. This gave a boost to increase the number of women being elected to the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies, an indication to suggest their political empowerment.

National Policy for the Empowerment of Women – 2001

The principle of gender equality is enshrined in the Indian Constitution in its Preamble, Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Duties and Directive Principles of State Policy. The Constitution not only guarantees equality to women, but also empowers the State to adopt measures of positive discrimination in favour of women. Since the Fifth Five Year Plan (1974-78), India has been making a marked shift in its approach to women’s issues from welfare to development while keeping the empowerment of women as the central issue in determining their status in the society. The National Commission for Women was set up by an Act of Parliament in 1990 to safeguard the rights and legal entitlements of women. The 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Constitution in 1993 have provided for reservation of seats in the local bodies of Panchayats and Municipalities for women, laying a strong foundation for their participation in decision-making at the local levels. India has also ratified various international conventions and human rights instruments committing to secure equal rights of women. Key among them is the ratification of the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1993.

Goals and Objectives

The goals of the National Policy is to bring about the advancement, development and empowerment of women. The objectives include creating an environment through positive economic and social policies for development of women to enable them to realise their full potential, access to health care, quality education, employment, equal remuneration and social security. They also include elimination of discrimination and all forms of violence against women and the girl child and changing societal attitudes.

National Mission for Empowerment of Women

The Government has set up a National Mission for Empowerment of Women early this year and the same has been notified on 8th of March, 2010. The Mission aims at implementing the women-centric programmes in a mission mode to achieve better coordination. The Ministry of Women and Child Development is administering the Support to Training and Employment Programme of Women (STEP) scheme with a view to help assetless and marginalised women become economically self-reliant. The scheme also aims at providing training for skill upgradation, development of entrepreneurial skills, asset creation, mobilisation into small viable groups to enable beneficiaries to take up employment-cum-income generation activities.The Ministry has also launched the “Priyadarshini” scheme to empower vulnerable groups of women in a holistic and sustainable manner by addressing their social, political, legal, health related and economic problems through vigorous capacity-building by organising them into Self-Help Groups (SHGs).

Swarjjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY)

The Ministry is also implementing the Centrally sponsored scheme. The scheme is desinged to promote self-employment oriented income generating activities for the BPL households in the rural areas. Special safeguards have been provided for vulnerable sections by way of reserving 50 per cent benefits to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, 40 per cent for women, 15 per cent for minorities and 3 per cent for disabled persons. Since its inception, about 37 lakh SHGs have been formed and 134 lakh swarozgaris assisted, out of which, approximately 70 lakh (52 per cent) are women. The Rashtriya Mahila Kosh (RMK) scheme extends micro-credit support for income generation to poor women grouped into SHGs in unorganised sector.

India Vision 2020

India Vision 2020 document, while discussing about women in the labour force has, inter alia, mentioned that secure child care support services are necessary for working women. The 11th Five Year Plan document of the Planning Commission incorporated various schemes and programmes for women and child development. It also mentions about the setting up of creches in unorganised sector and restructuring and revamping of the existing Rajiv Gandhi National Creche Scheme for the children of working mothers.

Helplines for Women

As per 2001 census, there are 34.3 million widows and 2.34 million divorced and separated women in the country. The Ministry of Women and Child Development is implementing shelter-based schemes namely “Swadhar” and “Short Stay Homes” under which financial assistance is provided to the implementing agencies for providing support services to women in difficult circumstances. Under the scheme of Integrated Programme for Older persons implemented by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, financial assistance is provided to NGOs for running and maintenance of Multi Facility Care Centre for older widowed women. The Ministry of Rural Development is implementing Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme (IGNWPS) and Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS), under which central assistance is given towards a monthly pension of Rs.200 to widows below the poverty line in the age group of 40 to 64.

Women’s Leadership Summit 2010

The Ministry has organised a Women’s Leadership Summit in New Delhi on 6th of March this year as part of the celebrations for the International Women’s Day. The objective of the Summit, inaugurated by the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, was to showcase empowered women, those who had excelled in different fields. The central theme of the Summit was Inclusive Growth and Empowering Women of Rural India. Several women achievers spoke on challenges and opportunities for women in diverse fields such as corporate sector, financial services, agriculture, science, media, panchayati raj, sports, culture, education and law. Government’s 100 Days Action Plan

As part of the 100 days Action Plan, the government had proposed several measures to increase the representation of women. It has also proposed Constitutional amendment to provide 50 percent reservation for women in Panchayats and in urban local bodies and to increase the representation of women in government jobs.

India’s Tirade Against Anti-Woman Activities

The Government has been adopting several stringent measures to uphold the status of women in India by launching a tirade against injustices done to them. They included protection against domestic violence, stopping crime against child and women, human trafficking, sexual harassment at work place, eliminating beggary among women and street children, child marriages, harassment in dowry related matters, malnutrition among women and children, providing relief and rehabilitation to rape victims. The Centre has allocated Rs.11,000 crore to the Ministry of Women and Child Development for the year 2010-11, an increase of around 50 per cent over last year’s Budget Estimates of Rs.7,350 crore. (PIB Features)

Disclaimer : The views expressed by the author in this feature are entirely her own and do not necessarily reflect the views of PIB


**Freelance Writer


PIB Aizawl

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