Empowerment of Women: Government Perspective

Empowerment of Women- Government Perspective



  • The principle of gender equality is enshrined in the Indian Constitution in its preamble , fundamental rights, fundamental duties and directive principles.
  • The Constitution not only grants equality to women, but also empowers the state to adopt measures in favour of women.
  • In keeping with this principle of equality and inclusive growth, every effort is made to empower the women and nurture children, which together constitutes over 70 per cent of the total population of our country.
  • Empowerment, as an enabling process will only be achieved when an improvement in the condition of women in terms of health, education, safety and security including financial security is achieved.
  • Providing quality and affordable healthcare to the large Indian population, particularly the poor and underprivileged, is a formidable task for the Indian Government.
  • Since 2005, the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), now renamed as the National Health Mission has led to improvement in health care service delivery through better infrastructure, drugs, and equipment and availability of human resources in health facilities at different levels in rural areas.
  • Health being the pre requisite for improvement of survival indicators, priority continues to be laid on increasing access to health services.
  • Maternal under-nutrition is a major challenge in India with more than one third (35.6 per cent) having low Body Mass Index (BMI).
  • Similarly, malnutrition continues to adversely affect majority of women in India with the result, every third woman is undernourished and every second woman is anaemic.
  • To address the issue of maternal and child malnutrition, The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme has been universalized and strengthened.
  • ICDS, one of the world’s largest and most unique outreach programme for early childhood care and development covers all the districts and blocks in the country through 14 lakh Anganwadi Centres and symbolizes India’s commitment to addressing the nutritional need of 1.9 crore expectant and nursing mothers and 8.4 crore children under the age of six.
  • Village Health and Nutrition Days are conducted in rural areas as an outreach activity, for provision of maternal and child health services.
  • To accelerate the pace of reduction Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) in several interventions have been made by the Government.
  • Some of the key steps include the promotion of institutional deliveries through the Janani Suraksha Yojana, absolutely free and no expense delivery, including caesarean section under the Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakaram (JSSK) for all pregnant women delivering in public health institutions, Mother and Child Protection Card to monitor service delivery for mothers and children, Mother and Child Tracking System to ensure antenatal, intra-natal and postnatal care along with immunization services and Maternal Death Reviews (MDR) to take corrective action at appropriate levels and improve the quality of obstetric care.
  • The Right to Education (RTE) Act 2009 was enacted in April 2010 to make free and compulsory elementary education a right for all children and a flagship programme,
  • Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) was rolled to universalize access to education at primary and upper primary levels.
  • As a result, enrolment of girls in schools, both in rural and urban areas across the country, has shown a steady increase over the years and dropout rates have come down.
  • A nationwide sub-programme to the SSA called Padhe Bharat, Badhe Bharat has been launched to ensure that learning levels of class I and II students in reading, writing language comprehension and mathematics is at par with the world.
  • The campaign aims to ensure that every school provides teaching-learning for 200 school working days, with 800 instructional hours.
  • Vidyanjali (School Volunteer Programme) is another initiative under SSA to enhance community and private sector involvement in Government run elementary schools across the country. This programme has been envisaged to bring together people willing to volunteer their services at schools which really need them.
  • Consequent to the developments of SSA, there has been an increasing demand for secondary education in the country. To enhance access to secondary education for all children in the age group of 14-18 years and to improve its quality, the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) is under implementation since 2009 onwards.
  • The CBSE has also come out with a special scheme called Udaan for girl students. It is a mentoring and scholarship scheme which aims at addressing the lower enrolment ratio of girl students in engineering colleges and also aims to enrich and enhance teaching and learning of mathematics and science at senior secondary school level by providing free online resources for all.
  • While the Rashtriya Uchchattar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) is being implemented for the holistic development of higher education,
  • Government has also launched a new web-based portal named as Vidya Lakshmi (www.vidyalakshmi. co.in) under Pradhan Mantri Vidya Lakshmi Karyakram to provide educational loans for the students seeking Higher Education.
  • Vidya Lakshmi is a first of its kind portal providing single window for students to access information and make application for educational loans provided by banks as also government scholarships.
  • Though women in India have been holding influential positions across sectors and achieving new heights in higher education, gender bias still exists.
Safety and Security:
  • Ensuring gender equality, and combating discrimination and violence against women are integral to our national pursuit of forging inclusive society and development.
  • The Government is determined to end violence of all kinds against women and girls and has framed enabling legislations.
  • Some of the recent enabling legislations to address gender based violence to provide safe environment for women to work and live and fulfill their potential are, for example, The Criminal Law (Amendment), Act 2013 which has been enacted to make the punishment more stringent for offences like rape and has broadened the definition of sexual assault and harassment.
  • New offences like acid attack, sexual harassment, voyeurism and stalking, disrobing a woman, have been incorporated in the Indian Penal Code. The Act has also made provisions for greater accountability of public officials including the health care providers for immediate relief to the woman affected by violence.
  • The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 aims to provide a safe and secured environment for women to work.
  • The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005; for protection of the rights of women who are the victims of violence of any kind within the family;
  • The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, for prohibition of solemnisation of child marriages;
  • The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 to protect children from offences of sexual assault;
  • The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act (PC & PNDT), 1994 for prohibition of sex selection, before or after conception.
  • The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 provides for proper care, protection and treatment to the child by catering to their development needs, and by adopting a child friendly approach.
  • The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2016, passed in the Rajya Sabha which increased the maternity leave for working women from 12 to 26 weeks will definitely promote female workforce participation in India.
  • For ensuring women’s safety pertaining to the strategic areas of prevention, protection and rehabilitation, Government has established a Nirbhaya Fund under which, the key programmatic interventions have been made and so far, 15 proposals amounting to around Rs. 2000 crores have been recommended under the Nirbhaya Fund.
  • These include the One Stop Centres for facilitating/providing medical aid, police assistance, legal counselling/ court case management, psycho social counselling and temporary shelter to women affected by violence,
  • Women Helpline for providing 24 hour emergency and non-emergency response, Investigative Units for Crime against Women (IUCAW) in all police districts of the country, installation of CCTV surveillance cameras in coaches to strengthen security on trains, National Emergency Response System, creation of Central Victim Compensation Fund (CVCF), Cyber Crime Prevention against Women & Children (CCPWC) and so on.
  • The multi-sectoral Beti Bachao Beti Padhao initiative also aims to to secure a bright future and welfare of the girl child in India and address the declining child sex ratio and related issues of disempowerment of women over a life-cycle continuum.
  • Other programmes to support and provide relief to women affected with violence are the Victim Compensation Scheme, Swadhar and Short Stay Home Schemes for relief and rehabilitation of women in difficult circumstances including the victims of rape.
  • Mahila Police Volunteers (MPVs) are in the process of being recruited at the state and UT level for creating a link between women and police, especially at the grassroots. The broad mandate of MPVs is to report incidences of violence against women such as domestic violence, child marriage, dowry harassment etc in the neighbourhood to the police.
Financial Security:
  • The flagship programmes like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM) while providing livelihood security to thousands of rural women have also provided them with economic security, empowered them and created rural assets simultaneously.
  • Another example of mainstreaming women in the economy is the Rashtriya Mahila Kosh (RMK), which is working exclusively for poor women, providing them with regular funds and facilitating market linkages.
  • To promote such women entrepreneurs and Self Help Groups, Mahila E-Haat has been launched as a start up initiative by the RMK for meeting the aspirations and needs of women entrepreneurs.
  • This web based marketing, initiative under Digital India, will facilitate the access of women to the global market and promote the development of relations between the business community and women entrepreneurs.
  • Financial Inclusion is one of the top most priorities of the government. Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana has given confidence to lakhs of women in opening their first bank account and a breakthrough to overcome the vicious cycle of poverty and debt.
  • According to the third annual survey by the Gates Foundation 47 per cent women now have a PMJDY bank account”.
  • Further, to promote skills and employability of women, the sectors which employ a large number of women have been identified under the National Skill Development Policy and Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) launched to help them securing a decent employment to move out of poverty.
  • With a mission to secure the financial future of the girl child, a small savings scheme Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana has also been launched under the Beti Padhao Beti Bachao 87 lakh accounts have been opened up to June 2016 under SSY across the country.
  • These are, no doubt, significant steps forward in such a large, plural, democracy.
  • However, the patriarchal mind-set which results in denial of equal opportunities to women in various spheres such as nutrition, education and employment and also result in violence against women continues to be a challenge.
  • The strategy to empower women is an ongoing effort and has been proposed in the new National Policy for Women.
  • Seven priority areas including health, education, economy, governance and decision making, violence against women, enabling environment in terms of housing and infrastructure, safe drinking water and sanitation, mass media and sports, social security and support services etc. and environment and climate change have been outlined in the draft policy.
  • Government acknowledges the emerging issues such as making cyber spaces safe place for women, redistribution of gender roles for reducing unpaid care work, review of personal and customary laws in accordance with the Constitutional provisions, ensuring the rights of women adopting artificial reproductive techniques, recognizing the needs of single women and creating an enabling environment for women to participate in entrepreneurial activities and is committed to address these challenges.
  • With the SDGs in place, it would be critical in realizing the objectives of a truly inclusive, equitable, people centered and transformative post- 2015 development agenda with a gender perspective. This would be only possible through combined efforts and contribution of all relevant stakeholders, including the civil society and the private sector.
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