Rural Women Empowerment: The New Face of Modern India

The road to new India lies in the empowerment of village women and creating a new set of women leadership in rural India.

The International Women’s Day hasbeen about celebrating the achievements of women in making their space in the‘man’s world’. Beginning in the year 1911 when it was first marked, its firstfocus was on the political achievements of women, like getting the right tovote. Slowly and steadily with more milestones achieved and as the three wavesof feminist movement unrolled, the world found much more to celebrate.

The fourth wave of feministmovement focused on intersectionality and marginalization of women.  Intersectionality is complex with a lot ofinvisible layers.  In India,intersectionality can be understood along the lines of caste, class, religion,and place of residence. Sometimes, a certain group in society faces multiplelayers of discrimination. For instance, in certain white dominant societies, ablack woman may be discriminated along the lines of gender and colour both.Similarly, in India a Dalit woman generally bears the burden of being a womanalong with being a part of the Dalit community.  The discrimination a woman may face withrespect to her caste, class, or religion in the urban setting is different fromwhat a woman in the rural setting may face even if she belongs to the samecaste, class, or religion. The women issues and women problems are different in the two settings, even thoughthey stem from the same foundation – gender.  There are unsaid and undefined lines ofsocio-cultural norms that people, especially women are either not allowed tocross, or are frowned upon if they do. In the urban areas, these lines thoughpresent, are still somewhat hazy whereas in the rural setting these lines aremore rigid. The feminist movement has made its presence felt in the urbansetting, but its essence is yet to make inroads in the rural India.

About WomenEmpowerment | TheIndian Rural View

Speaking of rural women, these womenliving in villages have been the major contributors in terms of labour in thehousehold as well as in the fields, but this labour is under-represented or hasbeen disguised. Womenempowerment in India cannot possibly be realized while isolating 406million village women.The objective of womenempowerment in the rural setting should revolve primarily aroundeconomic empowerment along with social empowerment. Without financialindependence, women can not possible feel secure in their own spaces – even inurban areas – let alone remote villages of a society like India.

The benefits of women empowerment in the rural settingcan have long lasting impact in the longer run. As women are empowered, they maymake informed choices – which allows them both personal agency and autonomy inlife.

Here are some ways we can helpempower rural women as stakeholders of the social sector:

1.Formation of Self-Help Groups: Aself-help group is usually composed of 10 to 25 women between the ages of 18and 40. The women come together to form an informal group, where they may realizethe power of a collective and start their own ventures or businesses. Thesebusinesses can promote any indigenous activities or talents like making fooditems like papads, pickles, or items like handcrafted toys, household items,and such. The benefits of an SHG are many, among which is that they can qualifyfor bank loans and do not fall prey to debt-cycles of informal loan sector.

2.Education for Adults: One ofthe greatest barriers to the women development in a rural setting is the lackof education since the women typically are married young and are mostly engagedin household work. Even if they are engaged in economic activities their lackof education makes it easier for them to be exploited by their employers. Speciallycomposed educational sessions including life skills, basic literacy, familyplanning and such can help them become more aware of their rights and open newavenues to their independence.

3.Vocational Skills and Training: Sometimes,women in villages are devoid of learning opportunities sine they were younggirls. This leads to lack of refined skill or skills at large that areemployable or can be converted into a venture. Training them in vocations suchas handicraft, spice manufacturing, organic agriculture, and others can helpthem in earning a living for themselves. For the women who know sometraditional crafts, sometimes they need upskilling or re-skilling. Vocationaltraining may help them refine their skills and help earn a better income.

4.Enterprise Skills: The womenin rural setting are financially dependent on their male counterparts or othermale members of their family, like their fathers or husbands. Providing themwith vocational training may prove as not enough, as villages do not alwayscome with the best employment opportunities and migration would contribute to adifferent burden. If they are equipped with enterprise skills, they can starttheir own business, and are not extracted from the villages and can still earna living for themselves without being dependent on the males in the family.

5.Life Skills Training: Workingon the need for womenempowerment, we also must take into consideration the soft skills andlife skills training of the rural women. Women from rural settings though havebeen engaged in economic activities, lack skills such as identifying andexpressing their emotions, decision-making, self-awareness, stress management,gender related issues. The womenempowerment introduction needs to address these issues.

6.Rural Health Camps: Women development andtheir empowerment in Indiais especially incomplete without taking into consideration women health. As pergeneral findings by various studies, many women present as anaemic and sufferfrom various health issues. The health-care system though in place, sometimesproves inadequate or insufficient to handle all the problems that the womenface. Organising rural health-camps regularly can help bridge this gap and providea safe space to these women to talk about their issues.

7.Access to Financial Facilities: Women inrural areas lack financial knowledge, even simple tasks such as opening a bankaccount is unknown to them. They are also unaware of various governmentfinancial schemes that are made for their benefits. The road to women economicempowerment lies with providing them financial literacy. Educating them aboutbasic financial like how to open a bank account, how to avail governmentschemes and how to secure a loan can help them attain financial freedom.

Prayatna, as an NGO for women empowermenthas been implementing various women empowerment projects across numerous states of thecountry. Some of our focuses include soft skills training, life skillstraining, vocational skills training, enterprise skills training, among others.We work with women under projects categorized under thematic areas primarilyincluding livelihood, healthcare.

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