Women’s Empowerment Essay
Women empowerment, in simple terms and as the name indicates, means empowering women in society. In other words, it means raising women from the position of subjugation or that dependency to the position of independence or authority.
Women empowerment is one of the most resonating phrases and debated concepts in recent times. Why is there a lot of ballyhoo about it? Why do we actually need to empower women? What setback does society as a whole has to face when women are not empowered? How can we actually achieve women’s empowerment? We will discuss everything in detail.
First, it is pertinent to historically discuss women’s conditions in the past. Only then we will be able to understand why women actually demand their empowerment.
Historically, women have always been considered inferior to men. Being considered lower than men, women have always been confined to the four walls of the house.
Once the public sphere was closed to women, the women ultimately became economically dependent on men (father, brother, husband, etc). They couldn’t acquire knowledge and remained illiterate. Hence, perforce the women had surrendered their authority, free will, and control of life to men. (Read in detail)
Awareness in Women about their Rights
It was during the enlightenment era when women realized that their inferior position is unjustified. Through the publications of books like A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), women largely became aware of their unjustified sufferings.
Thus, it gave way to the different waves of feminism (the first wave of feminism that transformed into second and third waves in different time periods). Today, feminism is in its fourth wave. In all these waves, women raised multiple demands to challenge the authority of men over them and demanded equality or in some cases superiority.
Today, women in the west have considerably attained empowerment. In the global north, women are working side-by-side with men. However, in the third-world or developing nations like many South Asian countries (India, Pakistan, etc), women are still lagging behind men.
It is due to the unequal relations between men and women that the countries are suffering from multiple socio-economic problems.
Now, we will discuss the social and economic problems that countries face due to the lack of women’s empowerment or participation in the public sphere.
Lack of Women’s Empowerment and Consequent Socio-economic Problems
Lack of women’s empowerment results in multiple socioeconomic issues as follows:
Surge in Illiteracy
Illiteracy in society rises when women do not acquire an education. It is because illiterate women would not be able to groom their children well.
An illiterate woman is neither economically independent nor could rear healthy and educated children.
Malcolm X has rightly said, “The mother is the first teacher of the child. The message she gives that child, that child gives to the world.”
Thus, an illiterate woman will bring up her children accordingly. Those children would be morally deprived and more prone to social crimes and illegal activities. Whereas, educated mothers would produce educated citizens for the betterment of the nation.
Similarly, Napoleon has said, “Give me an educated mother, I shall promise you the birth of a civilized, educated nation.”
Thus, educated and empowered women will result in an overall literate society.
Poor Economy and Surge in Poverty
The more women would work in the public sphere or do jobs, the better the economic condition of the families and country will be.
Studies show that 79.4% of Pakistani women are housewives. Being housewives, these women are dependent on men in every aspect (psychologically, financially, decision-making, etc).
In under-developed countries, women represent untapped resources. Ultimately, the countries cannot rise and make progress unless the women work side by side with the men.
“No nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with you.” – Muhammad Ali Jinnah
Thus, without empowering women, we cannot expect a country to flourish. As it is said that men and women are two wheels of a cart. So, both wheels must be functional to run the cart smoothly.
Deteriorated Health Conditions of Women and Children
Economically dependent and unpowered women are neither able to provide a healthy diet for themselves nor for their children. Ultimately, the health indicators in the country remain negative.
Their children often suffer from malnourishment. Even, the health conditions of such women deteriorate with time. Simply, these women have neither control over their bodies and lives nor over their children.
Frequent Domestic Violence and Public Harassment Cases
Women without empowerment tend to face sexual harassment and domestic violence. These victims are unable to raise their voices because of the patriarchal society.
Studies show that 1 in every 4 women is a victim of domestic violence. Similarly, sexual harassment cases are also rampant.
Due to sexual violence and public harassment, women are often reluctant in leaving home.
Without women’s empowerment and representation in higher echelons of society, such issues cannot be addressed.
Factors behind Lack of Women’s Empowerment
Following are some prominent reasons for women’s inferior position in society.
Lack of Access to Education
As we have already discussed, the literacy rate of Pakistan women is merely 47 percent.
Sir Francis Bacon has aptly said ‘Knowledge is power’. Hence, being devoid of knowledge is akin to being devoid of power in a literal sense.
Hence, when it comes to women’s empowerment, we can easily understand the position of 53 percent of women who could not obtain knowledge due to multiple reasons.
In short, without education, no woman can be empowered no matter what society she belongs to.
Lack of Employment Opportunities
Financial stability boosts confidence and ultimately empowers a person. But, in many societies like Pakistan, India, and other such countries, women lack employment opportunities.
Furthermore, married working women have to go through with pregnancy duration and connected health fluctuations, maternity leaves, etc. So, numerous organizations avoid female staff just because they demand a full-time worker with fewer off.
Hence, without unemployment, they are financially dependent and subservient to men and lack empowerment.
Patriarchal Mindset of Society
In a patriarchal society or male-dominated society, women are confined to the private sphere. It is usually believed that women’s place is in the home while the public sphere is only for men.
Thus, confined to four walls, women are unable to get an education or do jobs. Ultimately, they mostly remain illiterate and dependent on men financially and in decision-making.
Patriarchy is common in most South Asian countries and the Middle East.
Moreover, if a woman wants to pursue her profession even after her wedding, then she/her family should communicate about this important matter clearly before they tie a knot. Otherwise, the couple ends up in a messy relationship or apart in the future.
Without challenging the patriarchal mindset of the societies, liberating and empowering women would remain a pipe dream.
Misinterpretation of teachings of Islam
Islam has ordained “Pardah” for women. But, this Quranic injunction is usually misinterpreted widely.
Under the garb of enforcing ‘Pardah’, some societies have actually deprived women of freedom.
Even during the times of the Prophet PBUH, women worked in the public sphere. Hazrat Khadijah (RA) did business. Khawlah bint al-Azwar (RA) was a warrior woman. Hazrat Aisha (RA) was a scholar.
However, being ignorant of true Islamic teachings, men do not allow girls/women to leave home or work side by side with other men. Ultimately, women can neither get an education nor work.
Lack of Government Will
Although the government has enacted laws to deal with domestic violence and sexual harassment cases, authorities are lax in enforcing these laws.
Male dominant police stations and courts do not treat women well. Ultimately, women are reluctant in reporting cases of violence and harassment.
Moreover, for working mothers’ children, there is an absence of “Good” babysitting opportunities where they could leave their children and provide them decent and learning ambiance at the same time.
There must be resilient working timings or some part-time opportunities should offer if someone needs to avail of this offer. 9-5 working hours are quite lengthy for some of the women as it practically consumes around 12 hrs of a day, i.e. time wasted in traveling if the person dwells at distance from the working spot.
Simply, it is a lack of government will to address women’s issues that further subjugate women’s position in society.
Steps for Women’s Empowerment
Having discussed prominent impacts and factors behind the lack of women empowerment, it is pertinent to suggest how women can actually be empowered.
The following are a few suggested steps if taken religiously would definitely help a long way in empowering women.
- The provision of education to girls will do a lot in empowering them.
- Generation of employment opportunities for women on the gross-root level will make them financially independent.
- Concerned authorities must deal with domestic violence and public harassment cases and enforce the law.
- Ulama must play role in highlighting the true teachings of Islam regarding Pardah and women’s rights.
- Women should emphasize learning other skills along with their educational degrees. Those could be digital skills, a small business startup, or women-oriented work like starting their boutique, food spot, remote working, etc.
- Women are advised to select their livelihood logically, which they can operate after their marital status and their children don’t feel ignored. After all women’s prime priority is to look after their children and provide them with a healthy upbringing.
- Last, but not least, the media should play role in highlighting women’s issues and educating them on their rights.
To cap it all, women’s empowerment will directly improve the socio-economic conditions of not only women but the whole society. Thus, steps should be taken to raise women by empowering them. In reality, women are born as free as men. No one can take away their freedom and confine them psychologically and physically by enforcing their own will. Hence, women’s empowerment is women’s right that no one can take away from them.