Empowerment of women is a socio-political ideal envisioned in relation to the wider framework of women’s rights. It is a process that leads women to realise their full potential, their rights to have access to opportunities, resources and choices with the freedom of decision making both within and outside home. Empowerment would be achieved only when advancement in the conditions of women is accompanied by their ability to influence the direction of social change gained through equal opportunities in economic, social and political spheres of life.
The Constitution of India conveys a powerful mandate for equality and rights of women in its Preamble, Fundamental Rights, and Duties and also provides for specific provisions for affirmative actions. India is also a signatory to a number of UN Conventions, primarily Convention on Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Beijing Platform for Action and Convention on Rights of the Child where the commitment of the nation to protect and empower its women and girls is quite pronounced. The recent endorsement by India, of the ambitious 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will further change the course of development by addressing the key challenges such as poverty, inequality, and violence against women, which is critical for the global success of the goals as well.
Several paradoxical trends have been observed in the past few years. The growing acknowledgement of gender rights and equality is juxtaposed against increase in reporting of various forms of violence against women such as rape, trafficking, dowry etc.; expansion of new work opportunities for women alongside continued weak bargaining power in the labour market; increasing number of educated, aspiring career women entering the work place, while large sections of women are still in the low paid informal sector. Similarly, feminisation of agriculture and growing number of women farmers raises the larger issue of gender entitlements to land and assets ownership; growing state of art medical facilities has to be analysed against high Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR), Infant Mortality Rate (IMR), malnutrition and anaemia and lack of geriatric care and support; growing urbanisation and resultant migration of women in relation to the availability of safe spaces and social security net for vulnerable women. Though climate change has significant gendered impact, women have been sidelined in debates about managing climate change and environmental resources. The misuse of rapid advances in Information Technology (IT) and telephony has resulted in new and varied forms of sexual abuse such as cyber crimes and harassment of women through mobiles and internet. The regulatory frameworks are not in pace with the growth in technology as yet.
To institutionalize essential services and strengthen structures :
A society in which, women attain their full potential and are able to participate as equal partners in all spheres of life and influence the process of social change.
To create an effective framework to enable the process of developing policies, programmes and practices which will ensure equal rights and opportunities for women in the family, community, workplace and in governance.
- Creating a conducive socio-cultural, economic and political environment to enable women enjoyde jure and de facto fundamental rights and realize their full potential.
- Mainstreaming gender in all-round development processes/programmes/projects/ actions.
- A holistic and life-cycle approach to women’s health for appropriate, affordable and quality health care.
- Improving and incentivizing access of women/ girls to universal and quality education.
- Increasing and incentivising work force participation of women in the economy.
- Equal participation in the social, political and economic spheres including the institutions of governance and decision making.
- Transforming discriminatory societal attitudes, mindsets with community involvement and engagement of men and boys.
- Developing a gender sensitive legal-judicial system.
- Elimination of all forms of violence against women through strengthening of policies, legislations, programmes, institutions and community engagement.
- Development and empowerment of women belonging to the vulnerable and marginalized groups.
- Building and strengthening stakeholder participation and partnerships for women empowerment.
- Strengthen monitoring, evaluation, audit and data systems to bridge gender gaps.
- Pre- School education at the Anganwadi Centres will be strengthened and efforts will be made to improve access to pre-primary education for girl children by involving the community and sensitizing the parents. This will improve children’s communication and cognitive skills as a preparation for entry into primary school. This will help older children, particularly girls, to attend schools and prevent their poor performance and early dropouts by making them free from the responsibility of sibling care.
- In conformity with the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009, ensuring implementation of quality elementary education across board for all children including differently abled children and other marginalised children will remain a priority. Every effort will be made to effectively implement the RTE Act, 2009 by using the education cess particularly in addressing the infrastructure gap, availability of adequately trained teachers, promoting safe and inclusive school environment etc. in remote and tribal areas.
- Priority will be accorded to increased enrolment and retention of adolescent girls in schools, at post primary level it will be done through provision of gender friendly facilities like functional girls’ toilets, and higher recruitment of women teachers. Promotion of skill development, vocational training and life skills as a part of the secondary school education curriculum for adolescent girls and young women will be given importance. Efforts will be made to address the repetition rates for girls including those from the marginalised communities with varying underlying causes to arrest drop-out. A mission mode approach for literacy amongst women is envisaged.
- Efforts will be made to provide a supportive environment in schools and colleges through a responsive complaint mechanism to address discriminatory attitudes within the organisation and in practice, particularly on the issue of sexual harassment and intimidation of girls and young women. Opportunities for recreation and participation in cultural activities will be promoted.
- Continued efforts will be made for the gender sensitization of the faculty and curriculum, content and pedagogies for an understanding of concepts of masculinity and femininity and gender stereotypes. Gender champions in schools and colleges will be promoted to ensure gender sensitivity in the educational system.
- There is a need for quality management of government schools in terms of teaching, facilities and standards. Monitoring and evaluation by the community, Mothers groups and SHGs will be encouraged.
- Children of migrant families tend to get left out of the school system and existing schemes are not effectively coordinated or implemented. Innovative and accessible educational systems will be developed, especially in large construction sites, salt pan areas, plantations, and other manufacturing zones, which predominantly employ women labour.
- Major constraints that prevent women from accessing higher and technical/scientific education should be identified and girls will be encouraged to take up new subject choices linked to career opportunities. An inter-sectoral plan of action will be formulated for encouraging the enrolment of women in professional/scientific courses, by provision of financial assistance, coaching, hostels, child care etc.
- Distance from schools, especially secondary schools is an important factor that impacts enrolment and retention of girls in schools particularly in rural and remote areas and consequently impedes girl’s access to education. Innovative transportation models will be developed such as cluster pooling of mini buses, differently abled transport, tempos, autos in addition to increasing public transport frequencies.
- Through innovative partnerships with leading universities at the international level, opportunities for higher education will be may be expanded for ensuring access and quality to girl students and staff and also for nurturing of talent and entrepreneurship to contribute to the national development challenges.
- Distance education plays an important role in providing opportunities of higher education to women of all ages. Universities and academic institutions will be encouraged to launch online distance education courses to promote skill development and entrepreneurship for all women including those who had a break in their educational attainment.
- Adult literacy will have an added objective to link literacy programs to life skills, financial literacy, education on rights, laws, schemes etc. in partnership with government schemes such as NRLM
- Efforts will be made to remove the disparities in access to and proficiency in information and communication technology (ICT), particularly between socio-economically advantaged and disadvantaged children, and between rural and urban schools as the use of ICT has now become pivotal for the entire education system. Public-private partnerships (PPP) will be adopted for building ICT infrastructure, developing applications and locally relevant content using gender-sensitive language, operations and maintenance and developing the capacity of teachers required for harnessing the full capacity of ICT productive tools.
- Regular Audit on a continuous basis, of the various schemes and incentives, subsidies that are being offered to promote girls education will be undertaken to assess whether these interventions have resulted in transformative changes.
Violence Against Women
- Efforts to address all forms of violence against women will be continued with a holistic perspective through a life cycle approach in a continuum from the foetus to the elderly starting from sex selective termination of pregnancy, denial of education, child marriage to violence faced by women in private sphere of home, public spaces and at workplace. It will identify and combat violence and abuse through a combination of laws, programs, and services with the support of diverse stakeholders.
- Efforts to improve Child Sex Ratio (CSR) will be continued through a judicious combination of effective implementation of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994, and advocacy through awareness and sensitisation to change the mindsets by involving communities and the stakeholders for valuing the girl Child. Special measures to combat violence and crimes against adolescent girls in public and domestic spaces will be adopted.
- Trafficking of women and children is a cause for concern and will receive prioritized attention. Requisite steps for prevention of trafficking at source, transit and destination areas for effective monitoring of the networks of trafficking will be given a priority. Existing legislations/schemes for prevention, rehabilitation of victims of trafficking will be suitably strengthened. Efforts will be made to raise awareness regarding the subtle and violent nature of sex trafficking and how women and children subjected to this crime are victimized through coercion.
- There is need for effective implementation of The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 to ensure that all provisions of the Act are benefiting differently abled girls and women. To prevent violence and sexual exploitation of the differently abled, focussed advocacy and sensitisation of various stakeholders such as law enforcement, judiciary, panchayats will be undertaken
- Strict monitoring of response of enforcement agencies to violence against women will be put in place. Efforts will be made to ensure speedy /time bound trial of heinous crimes against women. Alternate dispute redressal systems such as family courts, NariAdalatsetc., will be strengthened.
- Efforts will be made to increase the representation of women in judicial positions across the board.
- Effective mechanisms for network and convergence of relevant institutions/agencies like National Legal Services Authority (NLSA), District Legal Service Agency (DLSA), National Commission for Women and Ministry of Women and Child development will be strengthened for providing easy and affordable access of justice to woman. NLSA, DLSA will create linkages with supportive institutions such as Shelter homes, One Stop Centres in order to give required legal aid to women staying in these homes.
- Efforts will be made to streamline data systems through review of various data sources (Census, NFHS, NSS, NCRB) to develop a compatible and comprehensive data base on Violence Against Women.
- Engaging men and boys through advocacy, awareness generation programmes and community programmes will be undertaken.
- Gender specific training incorporating gender sensitivity and a thorough briefing on the specific laws for women will be undertaken continuously for all ranks and categories of police personnel. Training for the judiciary, judicial schools, and all legal practitioners, will be accorded a priority for developing the specialized skills needed to investigate and prosecute cases related to gender based violence.
Advocacy and Stakeholder Partnerships
- There will be a strong emphasis on mind-set change through advocacy campaign, multi-sectoral actions, training, sensitization, awareness raising and community mobilization on the ground. Availability and misuse of diagnostic tools that enable sex determination that pose a serious challenge to survival, protection and empowerment of girl child will be strictly monitored.
- Societal institutions like the family and community will be gender sensitised to wean them away from patriarchal moorings. Effective strategies will be formulated for engaging men and boys in targeted gender sensitisation interventions to enable transformative behavioural change towards women with advocacy, gender sensitisation, capacity building and training programs.
- Women’s organisations and voluntary sector organisations will be empowered through capacity building and training programs to generate awareness on gender concerns and promote women’s rights and entitlements.
- Private/corporate sector have increasing presence in the economic growth of the country and gender balance in these enterprises is crucial. More employment and skill development opportunities for women will be promoted and adhering to laws and regulations relating to women will be ensured through systematic gender sensitization exercises. Companies will be encouraged to reserve a certain percentage of their CSR as gender component.
- Grass root level SHG capacities will be significantly strengthened to enable them to participate in planning and policy and make informed decision and choices on social and economic development programs. It will be the endeavour to institutionalize SHGs into cooperatives and federations so that these are economically self sustaining and can play a greater role in governance and decision making.
- Ministries/state government departments/local bodies/PSUs/Corporates etc. will review their administrative structures, recruitment and promotion practices, policies and programme implementation including the operational guidelines, to identify and reduce roadblocks to the formation of inter-and intra-institutional partnerships that facilitate convergence.
- To understand the translation of ‘why’ of undertaking convergence into the practical ‘how’ of fostering it in an individual institutional setting, and also to facilitate innovation in convergence, education and training programs will be designed and a cadre of officials developed, to facilitate convergence.
- Due to the blurring of boundaries between different sectors a framework/action plan for converged departments will have to be prepared to resolve overlapping issues like technology or facilitating labour mobility etc.
- The Village Facilitation and Convergence Service (VCFS) at the grassroots level facilitating communitization of services to women through the Village Coordinators would be strengthened and expanded. This would help in reaching out the information to women about all the government programs/schemes/ services and helping them to utilize those benefits, conduct capacity building training programs to create awareness and enhance their knowledge and skills, maintain a database, and coordinate with the outreach services of various departments.
- Legal awareness and legal aid are key facilitators for providing easy and affordable access to justice to woman. Effective mechanisms for network and convergence of relevant institutions/agencies like National Legal Services Authority, National Commission for Women and Ministry of Women and Child development will be strengthened towards this purpose.