What Women Want

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According to the United Nations Population Fund, an international development agency, “Education is one of the most important means of empowering women with the knowledge, skills and self-confidence necessary to participate fully in the development process.” The thought rings true more in India than probably in any other developing country in the world, where women have been working hard to shine through in a male dominated society.

Even though statistics suggest otherwise, immense progress is being made in women’s education in the country. Since fewer girls enroll in schools and many are forced to drop out, their literacy rate is lower than men’s education. To improve the situation, the government introduced the scheme of free education for the girl child until class 12. However, according to Sita Anantha Raman in “Women’s Education”, Encyclopedia of India (vol 4), since 1947 the Indian government has tried to provide incentives for girls’ school attendance. In 1986, the New National Policy on Education laid emphasis on expanding occupational centres for girls and expanding the base for and primary and secondary education, in both rural and urban areas. Raman, however, also maintains that “while he educated Indian women workforce maintains professionalism, the men outnumber them in most fields and, in some cases, receive higher income for the same positions.”

As of the decade ending 2010, there were 1800 exclusive women’s colleges functioning under the country’s various universities. The number in two years would have gone up, but not down. In fact, in recent years, the empowerment of women has been recognized as the central issue in determining the status of women. The National Policy for the Empowerment of Women was established in 2001 with the goal of ‘creating an environment through positive economic and social policies for full development of women to enable them to realise their full potential’. Considering the fact that women’s education plays a defining role in a nation like ours, this number is not large enough to cater to the current population. In many areas and communities, we still remain a maledominated society and no number of initiatives or laws can change that.

On a more positive note, it is heartening to see that many nonprofit organisations are working on teacher sensitisation towards the girl student and looking at training and curriculum development in that specific area. It is, however, important to understand that merely enrolling girls and women in education and training programmes will not lead to the final goal. It is equally important that the education they receive is appropriate and forms the basis of lifelong learning, and provides knowledge, skills and attitudes for an active citizenship.

After all, it is a said that ‘if you educate a man, you educate a person, but if you educate a woman, you educate a family.’ That is the power of a woman.

Volume 1 Issue 9

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