What comes to your mind when you hear the word women empowerment? Does that paint a picture of a bunch of women screaming on top of their voices, arguing about some baseless long-lost equality? Or does that make you understand the importance of being a voice to your peers and advocate for young girls and women who may not have the opportunity that us reading this have? Well, before getting into the topic, let’s discuss what women's empowerment actually means.
According to the definition — Women empowerment is a simple process of empowering women. Empowerment is when you create power in individuals over their own lives, society, and in their communities. People are empowered when they are able to access the opportunities available to them without limitations and restrictions such as in education, profession, and lifestyle.
In a country built around patriarchy, where women face shame and stigma if they don’t adhere to traditional roles as wives and mothers. Women are being pushed against social norms that limit their opportunities. There are gender inequality and a lot of shaming and victim-blaming. It is an uphill battle to be fought. Gender inequality is not only a pressing moral and social issue but it is critical to economic challenge. On the one hand, it is amazing to see with each passing year that more girls are enrolling in schools and colleges. But on the other hand, what’s alarming is that nearly 84% of them drop out before graduating. More women are going to college but fewer are working. According to the stats, more than 250 million Indian women could be employed but are not. Over 2.7 billion women are legally restricted from having the same jobs as men. Globally countries are losing over a hundred and sixty trillion dollars (i.e. more than one lakh thousand crores) in wealth because of the difference in earnings between men and women. One can only imagine what impact and change gender equality can bring to the economy of countries over the world. And to have a country achieve that, we’ve got to make only a few small but fairly important changes within ourselves and our society.
India’s culture has strong traditional influence embarked on us from a young age and we often fail to question the concept of prejudice and patriarchy. For a minute if I flip the whole picture and ask you to imagine and read the whole article as “Men Empowerment”, it might help you understand the magnitude and the need for change. We can bring a change by taking a few steps starting with dismantling India’s patriarchy and prejudice, which plays a major role in how we perceive the world. Followed by sexism, normalized misogyny, equal opportunity, right to work, equal pay, right to bodily integrity and autonomy, and much more.
Apart from women empowerment, there is one more concept that came to life in 1974 which was termed as Ecofeminism. It is a branch of feminism that sees environmentalism, and the relationship between women and the earth, as foundational to its analysis and practice. Ecofeminist thinkers draw on the concept of gender to analyze the relationships between humans and the natural world. There are different ways in which ecofeminism has been explained but I would like to decipher it with an Indian touch.
Ecofeminism basically suggests we can overcome three apartheids. The first apartheid is that we are separate from nature. In our philosophy and Vedas, it is suggested that we are part of nature and we have always talked about “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”, which means “the world is one family”. The second apartheid is that men and women different but are not unequal. They are related and they are mutually supported. What the other systematic patriarchal thought has done is taken what were horizontal relationships of difference between men and women which suggest that men are not women, a brown-skinned is not a white skin (which is right) and has created an artificial hierarchy between people. But there is no hierarchy because we live diversity which is recognized for its intrinsic quality. Therefore, we talk about everyone having their own Swadharma defined from within. A person’s Swadharma is their own unique role in life or way of being in the world, which it is their duty to realize and fulfill. The third apartheid is the economic disparity between capitalists (rich) and peasants (poor), the means of production being owned by a few people rather than the many who are doing the actual work.
We have all heard about the stories of the earth where we define it as a mother. At its core, ecofeminism reveals joint violence against women and the earth. Ecofeminism seeks to reveal the connection between the oppression of women and the destruction of the environment. It converges feminism and ecology as one undivided piece. It is understood very clearly that ecological issues were very much women’s issues. What the world is unable to recognize is that women are different but not unequal and how the world is one family. Because the same world that does violence to the earth and treats nature as dead is a world that views and treats women as second sex and the minute, we put both the things together, we get a whole different world. The challenge for the future generation is to bring the environment and women’s movement together to bring in economic and social justice, in terms of the future that works for the earth and all the species and for women. We can try to connect the deepest of our spirituality with the cutting-edge ecological science which is all about interconnectedness by redefining the economy in terms of caring and sharing and women’s values and showing that that’s precisely what keeps the earth alive and what will keep humanity alive.
Much has been achieved but much more needs to be done and it can be done. Picture it! Picture a world of equality. A world without gender stereotype. A world free from environmental destruction where we do not have to worry about climate change. A world where there is equal pay for equal work. A world without discrimination. And end to violence against women and nature. This is not a women’s issue. This is an issue for humanity.
It is said that girls with dreams become women of vision. May we empower each other to carry out such a vision because it isn’t enough to simply talk about equality. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to simply believe in it. One must work at it. Let us work at it. Together. Starting now.
Contributed by- Alvina Begum Zeba, Content Writer @Mitti Ke Rang
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