Indian schemes for uplifting women

The framework comes from the constitution

The Indian Constitution, which came into effect in 1950, contains several provisions that specifically address and aim to protect the rights and interests of women. Here are some key aspects: Article 14 guarantees equality before the law and equal protection of the laws to all individuals, including women. Article 15(1) prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth. Article 15(3) allows the state to make special provisions for women and children, recognizing the need for affirmative action. Article 16 ensures equality of opportunity in matters of public employment, prohibiting discrimination on various grounds, including sex. Fundamental Duties: Article 51A(e): It is the duty of every citizen to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women. The directive Principles of State Policy Article 39(a) says the state shall direct its policy towards securing that men and women equally have the right to an adequate means of livelihood. Article 39(d) ensures equal pay for equal work for both men and women. Article 4 directs the state to make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief. Specific Legislation and Amendments 73rd and 74th Amendments mandate the reservation of one-third of seats for women in Panchayats and Municipalities, promoting women’s participation in local governance. Maternity Benefit Act, 1961: Protects the employment of women during maternity and entitles them to a ‘maternity benefit’– that is, full paid absence from work– to take care of their child. Key Legal Provisions and Protections: The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005: Provides protection to women from domestic violence. The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961: Prohibits the giving or taking of dowry. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013: Provides protection against sexual harassment of women at the workplace. The Indian Penal Code (IPC): Contains provisions to address crimes against women, including sections on rape, kidnapping, cruelty by husband or relatives, and outraging the modesty of a woman. Women’s Representation: Despite these provisions, women’s representation in political and public life remains limited. Efforts continue to address the gap, such as: Women’s Reservation Bill: Proposes reserving 33% of seats in the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies for women. Efforts to improve women’s status also focus on education, healthcare, and economic opportunities. Thus, the Indian Constitution, through its various provisions and subsequent legislative measures, seeks to ensure the protection, equality, and empowerment of women.

India has implemented numerous initiatives aimed at empowering women across various sectors. These initiatives span education, healthcare, financial inclusion, employment, and social welfare.

Addressing these hurdles requires a multifaceted approach involving legal reforms, educational improvements, economic empowerment initiatives, healthcare access, and societal change to ensure a supportive environment for the empowerment of Indian women.

Here are some notable ones: a. Government Schemes and Programs Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (Save the Daughter, Educate the Daughter) Objective: To address the declining child sex ratio and promote the education and welfare of girls. Components: Campaigns to change societal attitudes, improve welfare services for girls, and ensure their education. Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana: Objective: To provide LPG connections to women from below the poverty line households. Impact: Reduces health hazards from traditional cooking fuels and empowers women by improving their quality of life. b. Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana: Objective: To encourage parents to build a fund for the future education and marriage expenses of their girl child. Features: High-interest rate savings scheme, tax benefits, and partial withdrawal for higher education. e. Mahila E-Haat: Objective: To provide an online marketing platform for women entrepreneurs to sell their products. Benefits: Enhances market access for women entrepreneurs and promotes digital literacy. c. National Mission for Empowerment of Women (NMEW): Objective: To strengthen the overall processes that promote all-round development of women. Components: Coordination and convergence of schemes across ministries, legal and institutional support, and capacity building. d. Educational Initiatives: Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV) Objective: To provide educational facilities to girls belonging to marginalized communities. Implementation: Establishment of residential schools at the upper primary level for girls. e. National Scheme of Incentive to Girls for Secondary Education (NSIGSE) Objective: To promote enrolment of girls from economically weaker sections in secondary schools. Incentive: Financial assistance and scholarships to eligible girls. f. Employment and Entrepreneurship: Stand Up India Scheme: Objective: To facilitate bank loans between Rs. 10 lakh to Rs. 1 crore to at least one woman per bank branch for setting up greenfield enterprises. Focus: Promotes entrepreneurship among women from SC/ST communities. g. Health and Nutrition: Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY): Objective: To provide cash incentives to pregnant and lactating women to improve their health and nutrition. Benefit: Financial assistance for the first live birth to ensure proper health care and nutrition.

Hurdles to empowerment

Despite various initiatives and legal frameworks aimed at empowering women, Indian women face several significant hurdles that impede their progress and overall development. Here are some of the key challenges: a. Economic Barriers: Economic Dependency: Many women remain financially dependent on male family members due to limited access to education and employment opportunities. Employment Disparities: Women often face wage gaps, limited job opportunities, and are overrepresented in informal and unorganized sectors without job security or benefits. Lack of Financial Inclusion: Access to financial services, including bank accounts, credit, and loans, is often limited for women, hindering their ability to start and grow businesses. b. Educational Barriers: Access to Education: Although enrolment rates for girls have improved, dropout rates remain high, particularly at the secondary level, due to economic constraints, safety concerns, and household responsibilities. Quality of Education: Inadequate infrastructure, lack of sanitation facilities, and gender-insensitive educational environments can deter girls from continuing their education. c. Health Barriers: Maternal Health: High rates of maternal mortality and morbidity persist due to inadequate access to quality healthcare, particularly in rural areas. Nutritional Deficiencies: Women, especially those in lower socio-economic groups, often suffer from malnutrition, impacting their health and productivity. Reproductive Health: Limited access to reproductive health services and information restricts women’s ability to make informed decisions about their bodies and family planning. d. Legal and Political Barriers: Implementation Gaps: Despite progressive laws, enforcement remains weak. Corruption, bureaucratic inefficiencies, and lack of awareness impede the effective implementation of legal protections for women. Political Representation: Women’s representation in politics is still low. Although measures like the Women’s Reservation Bill are proposed, they have yet to be fully implemented.  e. Technological Barriers: Digital Divide: Limited access to digital technology and the internet, particularly in rural areas, can hinder women’s ability to benefit from digital literacy, online education, and e-commerce opportunities. Cybersecurity: Women are often targets of cybercrimes, including online harassment and identity theft, which can discourage their participation in digital spaces.

Addressing these hurdles requires a multifaceted approach involving legal reforms, educational improvements, economic empowerment initiatives, healthcare access, and societal change to ensure a supportive environment for the empowerment of Indian women.

Dr Kavita Kumari
Dr Kavita Kumari
The writer is a guest faculty member of the political science department of the the B.N.Mandal University, Saharsa, Bihar, India, and can be reached at [email protected]

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