City Sunday

Empowering women in rural India

By Renu Agrawal

The nation has a policy of “Beti Padao, Bati Bachao”. However, what can be our role in achieving this ardent task. In our country, around 70% of the population lives in the villages. Due to this, the country’s development takes a back seat. If each one of us wishes to empower the rural areas and want to have development in villages then it is important to empower the women and the girls. When we look into the problems of girls and women of rural India, it has been found that the major problems are the lack of education and the right to lead their lives with human dignity and equality.

It is very vital that they must overcome these obstacles. The child marriages need to be abolished. The main avenues where we can play a very vital role for rural girls and women are to educate them so that they can come out of poverty, patriarchy, increasing rate of rapes, domestic violence and child marriages. We must bring in more programmes starting at the school level to conduct various competitions in Anganwadi schools like debates, poetry, theatre, videos and short movies. Work on the mid-day meals to combat malnutrition, yoga and meditation can be conducted in educational centres.

They should be taught towards confidence building, right to question, taking their own decisions, learn about ladies hygiene and the importance of having toilets. Citing real-life examples of women standing their ground in these matters can be mentioned, thus highlighting the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan initiative of the government. Personal hygiene of women folk means teaching an entire family, an entire area and an entire village free from open defecation free (ODF) thus ensuring a clean India.

It is possible to make literacy mission 100% practical. Giving them economic independence,   by bringing them towards urban areas and by giving jobs, teaching them various skills starting from tailoring to becoming policymakers. Teaching skills will empower them to have new start-ups and become independent. Vocational training programmes can be conducted suitably to the surroundings which can be a precursor for her to be financially independent. Conducting self-defence classes for the rural girls and women in order to boost their confidence can be another initiative which will go a long way in ensuring the safety of women. Teaching them to save money, to have their own bank accounts and manage their own finances by themselves.

With the required skills, women can start their own cottage or small-scale industry.  As mobility is important if a bicycle club can be opened where bicycles can be given like books in a library. They should be taught to apply for bank loans which can help them for new start-ups or higher education. Another major thing is to help them build women networks. This will make them secure and dependable on each other. We can teach, have awareness camps, demonstrations on hygiene, nutrition, deliver talks, start meritorious fellowships in schools and colleges and have debate competitions.

All these activities will bring in a lot of confidence in them and make them self-reliant to move hand in hand with the people in urban areas. When the women have awareness it will help in stopping child marriages and other social evils targeted at girls and women in rural India. Another important avenue is to teach them family planning and reproductive hygiene. For demonstrations of hygiene, one may have live shows and talks.

Today, girls are no less and many are coming forward in agriculture. For this, demonstrations of various modern techniques of agriculture can be shown. This will empower them with the latest techniques. Composting of wastes, usage of organic seeds and manure for cultivation can also be demonstrated. Live demonstrations of dairy farming, starting up of women co-operative societies and management of Anganwadi Kendra’s can be given. They could be policymakers initially in their villages to take up various posts in the zilla and gram panchayats.

This will motivate them to move further in the national policies. In India, the government is trying to reduce domestic violence by law. For this counselling centres can be set up in rural areas. This will bring a sense to tackle problems and solving methods into them. Political participation of women should be increased and for this, we can mould them. Empowering women means empowering the society as a whole. For good results, it is important that the initiatives are implemented. We can help them in becoming leaders who can come in public and politics with confidence. Ultimately the role of each one of us is huge to empower the girls and women of rural India. A combined effort and willingness of rural folk, the government and NGO’s can ensure a long-term development of rural India.

(The writer is ex-Chief Scientist, CFTRI, Mysuru)


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