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Women's rights and gender equality: Milestones and challenges

ByHindustan Times
Dec 30, 2023 09:00 AM IST

This article is authored by Anupama Katkar, chairperson, Quick Heal Foundation, New Delhi.

The journey toward women's empowerment in India is imbued with a history of remarkable milestones. From the courageous women who fought for the right to vote during the Independence movement to the historic moment in 1956 when the Hindu Succession Act granted daughters equal rights to ancestral property, the trajectory has been one of progress. The Preamble of the Indian Constitution itself promises justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity for all citizens, regardless of gender. These milestones signal a future where women stand shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts.

Women (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Since Independence, India has made significant progress in the journey towards empowering women across various facets of life, including education, health, economy, politics, and social justice. The National Policy for the Empowerment of Women in 2001 aims to eradicate discrimination and violence against women while promoting their active participation in decision-making processes. The Right to Education Act of 2009 ensures free and compulsory education for all children aged 6 to 14, with special provisions benefiting girls and disadvantaged groups. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act of 2005 guarantees 100 days of wage employment to rural households, with a focus on empowering women. Furthermore, a recent breakthrough is the Women's Reservation Bill of 2023, passed by Parliament, proposing a 33% reservation of seats in the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies for women.

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However, as we celebrate these victories, it is impossible to ignore the stark realities that persist. A fundamental roadblock that hinders the realisation of women's rights is the lack of confidence and resources that many women face while trying to spread their wings and leverage opportunities. Rising to the occasion, women display a remarkable ability to excel at anything and everything they pursue, owing to their innate multitasking skills. Time and again, they have demonstrated their competence as effective leaders across diverse sectors. Being traditionally entrusted with managing the household has hard-wired women generation by generation to excel at multitasking. Managing chores, finances, complex relationships, and expectations - all at once - is essentially entrepreneurship as we know it today. What can truly empower women is their own willpower and determination - their willingness to step out of their comfort sone and take control of their lives.

Especially in rural India, challenges are more acute due to a pervasive patriarchal mindset, limiting women's potential. Legal frameworks exist, but implementation lags, emphasising the need for comprehensive support systems. Therefore, dismantling stereotypes is crucial for creating an environment where women can freely explore, dream, and achieve. Breaking free from these shackles requires women's own determination, confidence, and a seal to make a difference.

The future must recognise women based on merit, irrespective of gender. Educational initiatives should reach every corner, empowering girls with knowledge and skills. It envisions a future where every girl, regardless of location or social standing, can shape her destiny.

Heading towards the future of women's rights in India requires a vision transcending present challenges. Collective commitment is essential for furthering women's rights and gender equality. The road ahead demands unwavering determination, driven by the belief that an empowered future for every woman in India is not just a possibility but an inevitability. It envisions a world celebrating women's resilience, hearing their voices, and acknowledging their contributions.

This article is authored by Anupama Katkar, chairperson, Quick Heal Foundation, New Delhi.

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gender india progress
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