Maneka Gandhi on Women Empowerment : India updating National Policy for Women

women empowermentThe roles played by women in various aspects of life cannot be counted on fingers. At home, in office, in society, as mothers, wives, sisters, daughter, citizens, leaders are to name a few. But the question arises is that are they treated fairly and equally? Are they empowered enough by the society? The nineteenth century witnessed reform movement for women, with various issues like sati practice, violence, child marriage and employment being addressed.

After the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing during September 1995, the Department drafted National Policy for the Empowerment of Women after nation-wide consultations to enhance the status of women in all walks of life on par with men and actualize the constitutional guarantee of equality without discrimination on grounds of sex. With the introduction of the National Policy for Empowerment of Women, the Government of India had declared the year 2001 as Women’s Empowerment Year.

As of now, in the 60th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), Union Minister Maneka Gandhi declared that India is updating the National Policy for Women to establish a solid foundation for accelerating its commitment to women’s empowerment made in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

The Commission on the Status of Women kick-started on March 14, 2016, and will last until March 24. Representatives from the UN system, member states and civil society from around the world are expected to participate in reviewing the progress so far towards gender equality and women’s empowerment and planning new initiatives and actions. Over 400 events have been planned throughout the city for the CSW and the priority theme for the events will be on women’s empowerment and sustainable development, given that this is the first session of the Commission since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda in September 2015.

maneka gandhi at un commission on status of women
Union Minister Maneka Gandhi at the 60th session of the UN Commission on Status of Women, in New York, USA

Talking about the views set forward by Maneka Gandhi, Minister for Women and Child Development on the first day regarding women empowerment in India. She said, “We have adopted both enabling legislative and policy framework for the advancement of women and undertaken awareness generation and sensitization programmes to fight social prejudices and stereotypes.”

She also said that as India begins to implement the new universal agenda for sustainable development, the enabling conditions for realizing gender equality and women’s empowerment are already in place in India. This raises the question that really there is no gender disparity in India and the women empowerment is in place? If this is so, then why the below mentioned few things are still prevalent:

  • Time and again cases of female infanticides are still reported.
  • A certain section of the society does not send girls to schools once she attains puberty.
  • Some are not sent to schools ever.
  • Numbers of pre-age marriages are also significant.
  • Dowry related harassment and deaths are still in the news now and then.
  • Harassment at work place, sexual or otherwise.

The list has no end. But such attitude and gender bias is eating away a talent pool. The respect has been replaced by discrimination.

During the round-table session, she also told, “Enhancing national institutional arrangements for gender equality and women’s empowerment that many of the Sustainable Development Goals which form the core of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development are already being implemented through flagship programmes of the government such as ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan’, ‘Make in India’, ‘Digital India‘, ‘Skill India’, ‘Smart Cities’ and ‘Jan Dhan Yojana’.”

Lastly, the thought that pops up in my mind is that irrespective you launch as many flagship programmes you can, but till the above-mentioned problems of India will not get addressed, No programme will be successful.

A lot is still to be done, miles to go….

I sometimes question myself and so do many of us: Are women getting their due share in the society?

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