Empowerment of Women in Rural Areas
The gap between urban and rural India would increase in the coming decade. However certain positive impacts of globalisation are expected to make their way into villages, which could check the disempowerment of women
India is one of the fastest urbanising regions on the globe. About half of the Indians would be urban dwellers in the coming decade and four more of its cities would become megacities. Such changes are bound to impact rural women in multiple ways. Dr. Suniti Wadhwa, Renowned Social Activist and Ex Municipal Councillor, South Delhi says, "The gap between urban and rural India would increase in the coming decade. However certain positive impacts of globalisation are expected to make their way into villages, which could check the disempowerment of women amidst the challenges that they would be facing."
The Scenario for Rural Women in the Coming Decade
The proportion of women in the rural workforce would tend to decrease due to economic pressures and migration of male breadwinners to cities. Between 1993 and 2011 it has fallen by 23%, 17% more than urban women.
The rural workforce participation of women might fall greater amongst the lower income class women. The reasons for this could be fewer agricultural work opportunities due to loss of land, shrinking of holdings and mechanisation of agriculture.
Lack of access to credit, poor healthcare facilities, the futility of education up to just secondary level to gain employment (there has been a more than 30 percent decrease in workforce participation in this category), climate change and economic crises would challenge the empowerment of women.
Possibilities of Empowerment of Women
Even though the trends are discouraging, there is another aspect to the future of rural women in India. Just as the disadvantages of globalisation and development come in many guises for rural women, so do the advantages. The following factors can contribute to empowerment in the coming decade:
Better transport infrastructure: More roads and buses allow opportunities for women to find work in fringe villages and big villages. As they come out of their confines, they enter a new world of possibilities.
Decision Making: About 50 percent of males migrate for employment reasons from villages to cities, 90 percent of which are from lower income classes. Going by this trend, a greater proportion of women would be left as the main immediate decision makers in their family. This can act as a push factor in political and economic empowerment.
The proportion of the educated population in rural areas is increasing. It has been shown that women with educated peers in their surroundings treat their daughters better. Besides their direct empowerment, better educational facilities can ensure heightened empowerment of the coming generation of women.
Electrification: It opens up development possibilities which can utilise women's labour and talents. It also helps with education.
The Way Ahead
The challenges facing the better well-being and empowerment of women in rural India are plenty. However, if the trends are read, there are ample doorways of opportunities. Loss of agricultural work does not mean shunning work altogether. An increasing number of women are becoming micro and small scale entrepreneurs. Healthcare is another important factor that can directly contribute to women’s betterment. Currently, More than 50 percent of rural women lack access to gynecological care. Maternal mortality is 132 percent higher as compared to cities. About 70 percent of women suffer from anemia. This needs to be addressed soon. It is not just development that can help rural women but the active role of policymakers, social workers, politicians and women themselves that has to make the most of it to turn it into the favour of rural women.
Water activist Amla Ruia speaks to mid-day