Political Empowerment

UG degree women's empowerment வரலாறு

Political Empowerment

Participation of women in the political field and in various decision-making bodies is an important tool for empowerment. The participation of women at all levels of governance structures is the highest need of this hour for women’s actual empowerment. Alida Brill (2000) holds that, “Without our own voices being heard inside the government areas and halls of public policy and debate, we are without the right to accountability – a basic establishment of those who are governed.” In other words, “Empowerment is not giving people power; people already have plenty of power, in the wealth of their knowledge and motivation, to do their jobs magnificently. We define empowerment as letting this power out” (Blanchard, Carlos, & Randolph, 1996). It encourages people to gain the skills and knowledge that will allow them to overcome obstacles in life or work environment and ultimately, help them develop within themselves or in the society. Women throughout the world have been struggling to break away the shackle of bondage, subjugation, oppression and all kinds of ill treatment both within and outside of their families. Without bringing them in the corridor of power where they can formulate policies and programs and implement them, the survival of women is very difficult. Pam Rajput (2001) also supports the view. According to Rajput, “Empowerment of women in all spheres, in particular the political sphere is crucial for their advancement and the foundation of a gender equal society. It is central to the achievement of the goals of equality, development and peace.” Without political participation it would be very difficult for women to increase effectiveness, capacity, challenging the existing power structure and patriarchal ideology. Politics decide who will get what and how much. Hence, empowering women politically is the highest need of the hour. Women’s political empowerment implies the decentralization of power and authority in the deprived, oppressed and powerless people who have not been able to participate in the decision making processes and implementation of policies and programs of both government organizations as well as familial and societal matters. Tiwari (2001) examines the issue of women’s empowerment in the context of Indian society and feminist women’s liberation approach in the present day environment. He has suggested a few measures for women’s empowerment which “….primarily focus attention on rejecting all restrictions, controls, limitations, values etc., on the ground that these are imposed on women only by patriarchy and are the revelation of male dominance…” But Kumud Sharma (1991-92) has rightly pointed out that “the term empowerment refers to range of activities from individual self-assertion to collective resistance, protest and mobilization that challenge basic power relations.” The Country Report of Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing (1995) envisages that, “empowerment means moving from a position of enforced powerlessness to one of power. It would promote women’s inherent strength and positive self-image.” Bidyut Mohanty (1999) feels that the enactment of 73rd and 74th Constitution (Amendment) Acts needs citation are meant for women’s empowerment. Mohanty holds that, “the idea was to facilitate women’s participation in grassroots politics, thereby empowering them to become partners in the decision-making process.” Shakuntala Narasimhan (1999) expresses her opinion in regard to women’s political empowerment. She opines that the word empowerment means “…. Bringing women into the main-stream of national activity as equal partners alongside men….” The feminist scholar and activist Srilatha Batliwala (1995) expresses her view of empowerment as “the process of challenging existing power-relations, and of gaining greater control over the sources of power, may be termed as empowerment.” According to Chandra (1997), “Empowerment in its simplest form means the manifestation or re-distribution of power that challenges patriarchal ideology and the male domination.” Mahatma Gandhi also spoke in favor of women’s empowerment. He declares that, “According to me empowerment may mean equal status to women, opportunity and freedom to develop herself” (Gangrade, 2001, p. 1). Kamala Bhasin (1998) also broadly defines the term empowerment. Bhasin cites that, “It means recognizing women’s contribution, women’s knowledge; it means helping women fight their own fears, and feeling of inadequacy and inferiority; it means women enhancing their self-respect and self-dignity; it means women controlling their own bodies; it means women becoming economically independent and self-reliant; it means women controlling resources like land and property; it means reducing women’s burden of work, especially within the home; it means creating and strengthening women’s groups and organizations; it means promoting qualities of nurturing, caring, gentleness not just in women but also in men.” Women’s empowerment is closely related with welfare and their development. Nobel laureate Amartya Sen equates development with freedom, which he thinks, empowers women. The disempowered people should come forward and take active part in the development process. The backwardness of a particular segment of society i.e., women, is mainly due to their failure to take part in development activities; though the failure is caused mainly by the obstructions put up by the patriarchal society. Also it is equally true that ‘no one can empower any one.’ Real empowerment is possible only by one’s own effort. In this regard Karl says that, “empowerment is a process and is not, therefore, something that can be given to people ….the process of empowerment is both individual and collective, since it is through involvement in groups that people most often begin to develop their awareness and the ability to organize to take action and to bring about change” (Karl, 2002, p. 6). Prasad (2002) views that, “Empowerment is a process geared towards participation, greater decision making and transformative action through awareness and capacity building”. Empowerment can otherwise be cited as a multipronged process, which requires pooling of resources to gather power and strength. Since empowerment of women depends largely on their participation in social and political activities, it is necessary to understand the nature of political participation also. Various scholars have defined the term political participation in different ways. But there is a common thread that connects of them. It is closely related with power and it very much exists in democratic societies. Miller holds that, “It is the activity which aims at bringing government to bear in a particular direction, to secure particular results” (Carolyn, 2008, p. 90). Lasswell assumes that, “Political process is the shaping, sharing and exercise of power” (Niroj, 2000, p. 15). By joining politics people feel themselves empowered. It is a ladder for upward mobility in society. It is a route to empowerment for the deprived and the powerless. Through political participation, people find opportunities to change and influence public decisions and to bring them in their favor. They can also protect their self-interest and legitimate rights and promote justice for the common men. Traditionally the concept of politics is related to government structures. But currently the notion of politics is taking a new and different shape. Movements, strikes, protests, demonstrations, struggles, processions etc. have become the legitimate expression of political engagement. Political participation and shouting slogans have grown as the language of influencing and bargaining different decisions and policies of different government and non-government organizations in favor of its participants. But is should be remembered that empowerment of women would never mean the acquirement and use of power and authority by the women to subjugate and dominate their opposite sex or to one group of women by another. That is not desired at all. Women’s empowerment means to distribute equal power and authority between men and women and creating an environment of freedom from domination and suppression. Promilla Kapur (2001) has rightly viewed that, “Woman’s empowerment in reality is to empower herself and not overpower men.” Vishwanath Ramesh (The Yojana, March 2003, Vol. 47, p. 5) also argues for women’s empowerment. He upholds that, “The empowerment of women concerns women gaining control and power over their own lives. It involves awareness raising, building selfconfidence, expansion of choices, increased access to and control over resources.” But he strongly opposes the idea of empowering women from outside, because he feels it should come out from within. He further highlights that, “As a general definition, however, we suggest that empowerment is a multidimensional social process that helps people gain control over their own lives. It is a process that fosters power (that is, the capacity to implement) in people, for use in their own lives, their communities, and in their society, by acting on issues that they define as important”

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