Women empowerment and gender equality are two terms that we often hear currently. But what do they stand for? What exactly do they mean?
It is commonly understood that women empowerment is limited to giving women the freedom to vote, study, work and become self-sufficient. While gender equality is often taken for considering women equal to men and providing them with the same rights as men.
These two terms short yet the need of the hour cover a wider and deeper set of challenges which women deal with on a daily basis. This not only affects women at an individual, personal level but the entire world at all levels – social, psychological, economic, and many more. The world is progressing towards achieving gender equality but the pace at which it is going will take at least 99.5 years for it to be achieved while as many as 257 years in economic participation.
As per a report by World Economic Forum, the world economy loses $12 trillion every year due to gender inequality and the violence that women face. The resources and energy spent on preventing violence against could be utilized in making more sustainable civilization, if violence against women did not exist.
This, sadly, isn’t the case. Even though more women focused and friendly laws and cultural spaces are being constructed every day, the present world is far from being a women friendly space. In India itself, while the GDP rate was at 6% in the last two decades, the participation of women in labour force reduced 23% (in 2019) from 34% (in 2001), as per World Bank.
Women empowerment, gender equality and gender justice are more than the known challenges like child marriage, domestic violence, rapes, dowry, etc. The current world order also needs to address pay gap, workplace violence, social and cultural injustice, legal rights to work and hold property.
As per World Economic Forum, globally, 33,000 girls are married before they turn 18; women are 47% more likely to get severely injured in a car injury because the car safety features are designed for men; women spend 40 billion hours on unpaid labour in doing domestic chores; in past 50 years, 85 countries have not had a female head of state.
In India, women are paid as less as a third of the pay received by men for the same or more work; more than 23 million girls drop out of school every year due to absence of toilets and lack of awareness about menstruation; girls belonging to families of top 20% receive an average of 9 years of education, most girls in the lower strata never even step inside a classroom; over 8 million girls were aborted in one decade (Census 2011).
As per Credit Suisse, women in India hold only 20% of the $6 trillion household wealth. When a woman is raped or becomes a victim of acid attack or dowry related violence or honour killing, the culprit gets life imprisonment or death sentence in rarest of rare cases. Even this takes decades to serve justice to the victim who may never recover from the pain of the atrocities she is subjected to. In case of life imprisonment, the culprit is free after serving 14 years in prison, sometimes even less. Gender justice is still a big question mark in a world that aims settle the first human colony on Mars by 2024.
From fighting for the right to vote during suffrage to fighting for right to their very body in the twenty first century, women across all ages, geographies and eras have faced and overcome the unthinkable. From developing the theory of radioactivity to being a crucial part of discovering the DNA, women have engrained their achievements in every field when given the chance.
In order to truly empower women, our country and the world needs to work harder in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of gender equality by 2030. Gender equality, gender justice, women empowerment, women safety – all of these begin at home and in community. Inculcating behavioural change towards girls and women in their communities, sensitising boys as they grow up towards girls, and promoting equality between a girl and a boy child are the start line of the journey to make the world a liveable place for women.
To know more about how Smile Foundation is working for women empowerment visit: https://www.smilefoundationindia.org/swabhiman.html