On this International Women’s Day, indeed the whole world is celebrating and glorifying womanhood starting from Facebook newsfeed, Twitter and WhatsApp it’s the same story everywhere. I still wonder what really is meant by “empowering women”. When just for a single day our phones’ galleries are filled with Happy Women’s Day wishes and the next day we go back forgetting everything. What’s the point of making women feel special for a day to nothing the day after for the sun had set for the day.
There are a series of questions that arise in this context. Women’s empowerment ─ is it political empowerment? Economic Empowerment? Social Empowerment?
Even though each of these categories are not mutually exclusive, they are mutually reinforcing. It is true that women’s empowerment is a kind of buzzword that fails to convey the complexity of its meaning. Empowerment is giving someone the authority or power to do something. I don’t accept this perception of women empowerment, for I believe women empowerment should be a much wider, comprehensive and inclusive concept for all women irrespective of social class.
However, in a developing world of ours where gender inequality is often rife, the distribution of wealth always uneven, and all the power concentrated in handful of influential people, female empowerment means and has always meant giving women the platform to choose their own direction of life. The process initiates with financial aid, but the empowerment itself could be political or economic – the choice is theirs. Women have always proven themselves far better economic agents than their male counterparts. Aiding them with financial support, would indirectly empower other women too. What one fails to understand is that the financial empowerment is the base requirement for empowerment in its wider meaning.
However, women’s empowerment is not (or should not be) purely economic. It is political, social and cultural. It implies transforming gender power structures and political mobilization. Patchwork solutions like special seats for women in Parliament or reserved seats in public transport, college, or university won’t solve the issue of women empowerment.
They say educating a daughter and sending her to school is equivalent to educating the whole of mankind. No doubt there has been a remarkable progress in the growing role of females in socio-economic development and we owe it to education. There’s no denying in the fact that even though the enrolment rate in schools for both boys and girls may be 50:50, but there are fewer girls than boys who finish university. The challenge here is to reduce the attrition rate.
At the heart of women empowerment lies the demand for a more robust global sisterhood: one in which no women are relegated to passivity and silence, their choices aren’t limited to what is set by the society but beyond. It’s high time we must understand the fine gender line helps to keep women not on a pedestal, but in a cage. Thus, a gender-equal society would be one where the word “gender” wouldn’t exist. Where everyone can be themselves and women won’t be discriminated on basis of their caste, religion, socio-economic status, skin colour and her body shape. Her choice of dress won’t define her character neither will her shade of lipstick.
Hope there is a day when this day is not needed. When women can feel as special and equal every day. I welcome all folks to celebrate their balance of androgynous mind. Let’s look forward beyond the well-known myth ─ feminine essence,instead celebrate all colours of her body and her mind.