Gender Equity Woman Empowerment

Gender Equity Woman Empowerment



Empowerment is a multi-faceted, multi-dimensional and multi-layered concept. Women’s empowerment is a process in which women gain greater share of control over resources – material, human and intellectual like knowledge, information, ideas and financial resources like money – and access to money and control over decision-making in the home, community, society and nation, and to gain `power‘. According to the Country Report of Government of India, „Empowerment means moving from a position of enforced powerlessness to one of power“.

If NGO employees are advocating behavior change for self-empowerment such behaviour must also be modeled for successful transmission as suggested in the self-efficacy models of behavior change. Rural NGOs in India that depend on local population for employees face a limited labor pool who are as likely to be vulnerable to the traditional social pressures and therefore equally marginalized as their clients. This may cause a gap between what the employees may be trained to ‚preach‘ and what they may ‚practice‘ thereby diminishing their effectiveness to motivate change. We examine the employees of a successful rural NGO in India that has received accolades for its work in empowerment to establish if the employees actually ‘walk the talk‘. Using three empowerment instruments, including one developed for this study, we find that employees indeed ‘walk the talk‘ and their index of empowerment is related to their tenure in the NGO.

„Fight for gender equality is not a fight against men. It is a fight against traditions that have chained them – a fight against attitudes that are ingrained in the society – it is a fight against system – a fight against proverbial Laxshman Rekha which is different for men and different for women. The society must rise to the occasion. It must recognize & accept fact that men and women are equal partners in life. They are individual who have their own identity“.

Dr. Justice A.S. Anand


Man and woman are both equal and both plays a vital role in the creation and development of their families in a particular and the society in general. Indeed, the struggle for legal equality has been one of the major concerns of the women’s movement all over the world. In India, since long back, women were considered as an oppressed section of the society and they were neglected for centuries. During the national struggle for independence, Gandhi gave a call of emancipation of women. He wrote – :I am uncompromising in the matter of women’s rights. The difference in sex and physical form denotes no difference in status. Woman is the complement of man, and not inferior“. Thus, the first task in post-independent India was to provide a constitution to the people, which would not make any distinctions on the basis of sex. The preamble of constitution promises to secure to all its citizens- „Justice- economical, social, and political“. The constitution declares that the equality before the law and the equal protection of laws shall be available for all . Similarly, there shall be no discrimination against any citizen on the ground of sex . Article 15(1) guarantees equalities of opportunities for all citizens in matters of employment. Article 15(3) provides that the state can make any special provisions for women and children. Besides, directive principle of state policy which concern women directly and have a special bearing on their status directly and have a special bearing on their status include Article 39(a) right to an adequate means of livelihood; (d) equal pay for equal wok both men and women, (e) protection of health and strength of workers –men, women, children and Article 42 provides for just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief.

It is really important to note that though the Constitution of India is working since more than fifty-seven years – the raising of the status of women to one of equality, freedom and dignity is still a question mark.

The empowerment of women is one of the central issues in the process of development of countries all over the world. The contribution of writers and social reformers has been well documented. The Government of India has made Empowerment of Women as one of the principal objectives of the Ninth Five Year Plan (1997-2002) and also declared 2001 as the year of ‘Women’s Empowerment‘. These issues of gender equality are discussed in World Conferences, National and International Conferences, etc. Our Constitution has conferred and guaranteed equality before law, universal adult franchise and equal opportunities for men and women as fundamental rights. The imperative of gender partnership in matters of development has been recognised. In order to give a fillip to empowerment of women and appropriate institutional mechanisms and interventions have been consciously built into the development design.

Separate institutions for women and child development, departments at the Central and State levels, creation of the National Commission for Women and also State Commission for Women in several States are some of the important developments for the betterment and prosperity of women. The launching of Rashtriya Mahila Kosh, Indira Mahila Yojana, Mahila Samridhi Yojana, reserving of one third of the number of seats in Panchayats and the local bodies are programmes launched with a view to improve and empower women socially, economically and in political frontiers.

Empowerment is a multi-faceted, multi-dimensional and multi-layered concept. Women’s empowerment is a process in which women gain greater share of control over resources – material, human and intellectual like knowledge, information, ideas and financial resources like money – and access to money and control over decision-making in the home, community, society and nation, and to gain `power‘. According to the Country Report of Government of India, „Empowerment means moving from a position of enforced powerlessness to one of power“.

Women constitute almost 50% of the world’s population. As per as their social status is concerned, they are not treated as equal to men in all the places, through in the western countries women are treated on par with men in most of the fields, their counterpart in the east suffers from many disabilities. The disabilities on the one hand and the inequalities between men and women on the other, have given rise to what is known „Gender problem“. All one the world and particularly in South and East Asia and Africa the gender problem has assumed importance during the recent years the gender issue has become virtually a crucial point of argument. It is now widely believed that empowerment of women i.e., providing equal rights, opportunities and responsibilities to women, will go a long way in removing the existing gender discrimination. Women empowerment in contemporary Indian society in forms of their work, education, health and media images in the forms of their work, education, health and media images in the context of lineage, rule of residence and household chores, their context of lineage, rule of residence and household chores, their participation in social and political activities, their legal status in terms of marriage, divorce and inheritance of property, seeking wealth care should be taken into consideration. Empowerment in terms of knowledge and awareness of ones own life and society including legal raise their status with regarded to the lives.


Gender Inequalities refers to the obvious or hidden disparities among individuals based on the performance of gender. This problem in simple term is known as Gender Bias which in simple terms means the gender stratification or making difference between a girl and a boy i.e. a male or a female. In making biasness among the gender India has 10th rank out of 128 countries all over the world which is shameful for us . But this problem is increasing although government has banned the pre-natal sex examination. In India (in the older times) this problem is mainly seen in the rural areas because many rural people think that the girl child is burden on them. But now this is also being seen in the urban areas i.e. in offices, institutions, schools and in society. The afflicted world in which we live is characterised by deeply unequal sharing of the burden of adversities between women and men. Gender Inequality exists in most part of the world, from Japan to Morocco, or from Uzbekistan to United States of America (as stated earlier).

However, inequality between men and women can take very many different forms. Indeed, gender inequality is not one homogeneous phenomenon, but a collection of disparate and interlinked problems. The issue of gender inequality is one which has been publicly reverberating through society for decades. The problem of inequality in employment being one of the most pressing issues today. In order to examine this situation one must try to get to the root of the problem and must understand the sociological factors that cause women to have a much more difficult time getting the same benefits, wages, and job opportunities as their male counterparts. The society in which we live has been shaped historically by males.

Before thinking about the empowerment of women, one needs to understand the exact meaning of the word empowerment. According to Cambridge English Dictionary empowerment means „to authorize“. In the context of the people they have to be authorized to have control over their lives. When applied in the context of development the particular segment of population, the poor, the women, the vulnerable, the weak, the oppressed and the discriminated have to be „empowered“ to have control over their lives to better their socioeconomic and political conditions,. But the questions raised are, who empowers them and how to empower them? Ideally speaking no one empowers any one,

the best way us ‘self empowerment‘, by the segments of population mentioned above are handicapped both structurally and culturally to empower themselves without any outside help and affirmative action by the State and others. But still as long as these segments of population does not make any effort at self-employment. It would be long and arduous task and process for the outsiders to empower them.

Since the 1990’s women have been identified as key agents of sustainable development and women’s equality and empowerment are seen as central to a more holistic approach towards establishing new patterns and processes of development that are sustainable. The World Bank has suggested that empowerment of women should be a key aspect of all social development programs (World Bank, 2001). Although a considerable debate on what constitutes empowerment exists, in this paper we find it useful to rely on Kabeer’s (2001) definition: „The expansion in people’s ability to make strategic life choices in a context where this ability was previously denied to them.“ For women in India, this suggests empowerment in several realms: personal, familial, economic and political. Since the 1980’s the Government of India has shown increasing concern for women’s issues through a variety of legislation promoting the education and political participation of women (Collier, 1998). International organizations like the World Bank and United Nations have focused on women’s issues especially the empowerment of poor women in rural areas. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have also taken on an increased role in the area of women’s empowerment (Sadik, 1988). NGO’s, previously catering to women’s health and educational needs, have moved beyond this traditional focus to addressing the underlying causes of deprivations through promoting the economic and social empowerment of women. (McNamara: 2003). There are many challenges that face NGOs who make it their goal to empower women (Narayan: 2002; Mayoux: 2000; Malhotra and Mather: 1997).

Types Of Gender Inequalities

There are many kinds of gender inequality or gender disparity which are as follows:
1. Natality inequality: In this type of inequality a preference is given for boys over girls that many male-dominated societies have, gender inequality can manifest itself in the form of the parents wanting the newborn to be a boy rather than a girl. There was a time when this could be no more than a wish (a daydream or a nightmare, depending on one’s perspective), but with the availability of modern techniques to determine the gender of the foetus, sex-selective abortion has become common in many countries. It is particularly prevalent in East Asia, in China and South Korea in particular, but also in Singapore and Taiwan, and it is beginning to emerge as a statistically significant phenomenon in India and South Asia as well.

2. Professional or Employment inequality: In terms of employment as well as promotion in work and occupation, women often face greater handicap than men. A country like Japan and India may be quite egalitarian in matters of demography or basic facilities, and even, to a great extent, in higher education, and yet progress to elevated levels of employment and occupation seems to be much more problematic for women than for men. The example of employment inequality can be explained by saying that men get priority in seeking job than women.

3. Ownership inequality: In many societies the ownership of property can also be very unequal. Even basic assets such as homes and land may be very asymmetrically shared. The absence of claims to property can not only reduce the voice of women, but also make it harder for women to enter and flourish in commercial, economic and even some social activities. This type of inequality has existed in most parts of the world, though there are also local variations. For example, even though traditional property rights have favoured men in the bulk of India.

4. Household inequality: There are often enough, basic inequalities in gender relations within the family or the household, which can take many different forms. Even in cases in which there are no overt signs of anti-female bias in, say, survival or son-preference or education, or even in promotion to higher executive positions, the family arrangements can be quite unequal in terms of sharing the burden of housework and child care. It is, for example, quite common in many societies to take it for granted that while men will naturally work outside the home, women could do it if and only if they could combine it with various inescapable and unequally shared household duties. This is sometimes called „division of labour,“ though women could be forgiven for seeing it as „accumulation of labour.“ The reach of this inequality includes not only unequal relations within the family, but also derivative inequalities in employment and recognition in the outside world. Also, the established fixity of this type of „division“ or „accumulation“ of labour can also have far-reaching effects on the knowledge and understanding of different types of work in professional circles.

5. Special opportunity inequality: Even when there is relatively little difference in basic facilities including schooling, the opportunities of higher education may be far fewer for young women than for young men. Indeed, gender bias in higher education and professional training can be observed even in some of the richest countries in the world, in India too. Sometimes this type of division has been based on the superficially innocuous idea that the respective „provinces“ of men and women are just different.

Role of women in development process

The principal of gender equality was recognized in the United Nations Charter in 1945 and the UN Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the majority of development planners did not fully address the role of women in development process. In 1975, the first UN Conference of Women and Development was held at Mexico city under the motto, „Equality, Development and peace“. The need to integrate women into development was internationally proclaimed in the 1995 Beijing Conference. The Economic Survey (1999-2000) used an entire section on gender inequality. It began with a reminder of the commitment made in the ninth plan document of allocating 30 per cent of resources for women’s development schemes through „Women’s Component Plans“. According to Menon and Probhu (2001), there was a strong plea for investing in women’s equality on the ground that this made economic sense and spoke of „the social rate of return on investment in women“ being greater that the corresponding rate for men. According to Paten (2002), women’s development can be attained by improving here status and bargaining power in the economy.

Sushma Sachay (1998) argues that approaches and strategic for women empowerment could be possible by outlining the mechanisms and tools that till influence for women empowerment. Decisions making process, multidimensional process that are enable worn to realize their full identity and powers in all walks of life.

As a Concept

Gender Inequalities refers to the obvious or hidden disparities among individuals based on the performance of gender. This problem in simple term is known as Gender Bias which in simple terms means the gender stratification or making difference between a girl and a boy i.e. a male or a female. In making biasness among the gender India has 10th rank out of 128 countries all over the world which is shameful for us . But this problem is increasing although government has banned the pre-natal sex examination. In India (in the older times) this problem is mainly seen in the rural areas because many rural people think that the girl child is burden on them. But now this is also being seen in the urban areas i.e. in offices, institutions, schools and in society.

However, inequality between men and women can take very many different forms. Indeed, gender inequality is not one homogeneous phenomenon, but a collection of disparate and interlinked problems. The issue of gender inequality is one which has been publicly reverberating through society for decades. The problem of inequality in employment being one of the most pressing issues today. In order to examine this situation one must try to get to the root of the problem and must understand the sociological factors that cause women to have a much more difficult time getting the same benefits, wages, and job opportunities as their male counterparts. The society in which we live has been shaped historically by males. However, in many parts of the world, women receive less attention and health care than men do, and particularly girls often receive very much less support than boys. As a result of this gender bias, the mortality rates of females often exceed those of males in these countries. The concept of missing women was devised to give some idea of the enormity of the phenomenon of women’s adversity in mortality by focussing on the women who are simply not there, due to unusually high mortality compared with male mortality rates. In some regions in the world, inequality between women and men directly involves matters of life and death, and takes the brutal form of unusually high mortality rates of women and a consequent preponderance of men in the total population, as opposed to the preponderance of women found in societies with little or no gender bias in health care and nutrition. Mortality inequality has been observed extensively in North Africa and in Asia, including China and South Asia.

Empowering may be understood as enabling people, especially women to acquire and possess power resources, in order to make decision on their own or resist decisions that are made by others that affect them. A person may said to be powerful when he/she has control over a large portion of power resources in society. The extent of possession of various resources such as personal wealth, such as land skills, education, information, knowledge, social status, position held, leadership trains, capabilities of mobilization.

The National Policy on Education (1986) suggested certain strategies to empower women. Accordingly, women become empowered through collective reflections and decision making enable them to become agency of social change. The global conference on Women Empowerment (1988), highlighted empowerment as the best way of making own partners in development the development of women and children in Rural Areas (DWCRA) program was initiated as a sub scheme of the national wide poverty alleviation program i.e., the Integrated Rural Development Program (IRDP). It aims at imparting self reliance to rural areas through income generating skill s along with group

organization skills. Keeping this in view the year 2001 was celebrated as „The Women’s Empowerment Year“. Human resource development and empowerment of women unlock the door for modernization of society,. Instated of remaining as passive beneficiaries, women must become active partner. Participation and control over resources of power are considered as the critical indicators in the process of development discharged women especially in rural areas, possess the least proportion of these resources and as a result they are powerless and dependent on the powerful and wealthy.

Focusing On India

While there is something to cheer in the developments I have just been discussing, and there is considerable evidence of a weakened hold of gender disparity in several fields in the subcontinent, there is also, alas, some evidence of a movement in the contrary direction, at least in one aspect of gender inequality, namely, natality inequality. This has been brought out particularly sharply by the early results of the 2001 decennial national Census of India, which are now available. Early results indicate that even though the overall female to male ratio has improved slightly for the country as a whole (with a corresponding reduction of the proportion of „missing women“), the female-male ratio for children has had a substantial decline. For India as a whole, the female-male ratio of the population under age 6 has fallen from 94.5 girls for hundred boys in 1991 to 92.7 girls per hundred boys in 2001.

While there has been no such decline in some parts of the country (most notably Kerala), it has fallen very sharply in others, such as Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat and Maharashtra, which are among the richer Indian States. Taking together all the evidence that exists, it is clear that this change reflects not a rise in female child mortality, but a fall in female births vis-à-vis male births, and is almost certainly connected with increased availability and use of gender determination of foetuses. Fearing that sex-selective abortion might occur in India, the Indian Parliament banned some years ago the use of sex determination techniques for foetuses, except when it is a by-product of other necessary medical investigation. But it appears that the enforcement of this law has been comprehensively neglected. This face of gender inequality cannot, therefore, be removed, at least in the short run, by the enhancement of women’s empowerment and agency, since that agency is itself an integral part of the cause of natality inequality. Policy initiatives have to take adequate note of the fact that the pattern of gender inequality seems to be shifting in India, right at this time, from mortality inequality (the female life expectancy at birth is by now two years higher than male life expectancy in India) to natality inequality. Indeed, there is clear evidence that traditional routes of changing gender inequality, through using public policy to influence female education and female economic participation, may not serve as a path to the removal of natality inequality.

A sharp pointer in that direction comes from countries in East Asia, which all have high levels of female education and economic participation. Despite these achievements, compared with the biologically common ratio across the world of 95 girls being born per hundred boys, Singapore and Taiwan have 92 girls, South Korea only 88, and China a mere 86. In fact, South Korea’s overall female-male ratio for children is also a meagre 88 girls for 100 boys and China’s 85 girls for 100 boys. In comparison, the Indian ratio of 92.7 girls or 100 boys (though lower than its previous figure of 94.5) still looks far less unfavourable.

However, there are more grounds for concern than may be suggested by the current all-India average. First, there are substantial variations within India, and the all-India average hides the fact that there are States in India where the female-male ratio for children is very much lower than the Indian average. Second, it has to be asked whether with the spread of sex-selective abortion, India may catch up with – and perhaps even go beyond – Korea and China. There is, in fact, strong evidence that this is happening in a big way in parts of the country.

There is, however, something of a social and cultural divide across India, splitting the country into two nearly contiguous halves, in the extent of anti-female bias in natality and post-natality mortality. Since more boys are born than girls everywhere in the world, even without sex-specific abortion, we can use as a classificatory benchmark the female-male ratio among children in advanced industrial countries. The female-male ratio for the 0-5 age group is 94.8 in Germany, 95.0 in the U.K., and 95.7 in the U.S., and perhaps we can sensibly pick the German ratio of 94.8 as the cut-off point below which we should suspect anti-female intervention. The use of this dividing line produces a remarkable geographical split of India. There are the States in the north and the west where the female-male ratio of children is consistently below the benchmark figure, led by Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Gujarat (with ratios between 79.3 and 87.8), and also including, among others, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir, and Bihar (a tiny exception is Dadra and Nagar Haveli, with less than a quarter million people altogether).

On the other side of the divide, the States in the east and the south tend to have female-male ratios that are above the benchmark line of 94.8 girls per 100 boys: with Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Assam (each between 96.3 and 96.6), and also, among others, Orissa, Karnataka and the north-eastern States to the east of Bangladesh (Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh). One significant exception to this neat pattern of adjoining division is, however, provided by Tamil Nadu, where the Female-male ratio is just below 94, which is higher than the ratio of any State in the deficit list, but still just below the cut-off line used for the partitioning (94.8). The astonishing finding is not that one particular State seems to provide a marginal misfit, but how the vast majority of the Indian States fall firmly into two contiguous halves.

Classified broadly into the north and the west, on one side, and the south and the east, on the other. Indeed, every State in the north and the west (with the slight exception of the tiny Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli) has strictly lower female-male ratio of children than every State in the east and the south (even Tamil Nadu fits into this classification), and this indeed is quite remarkable.

The pattern of female-male ratio of children produces a much sharper regional classification than does the female male ratio of mortality of children, even though the two are also fairly strongly correlated. The female-male ratio in child mortality varies between 0.91 in West Bengal and 0.93 in Kerala, on one side, in the southern and eastern group, to 1.30 in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, with high ratios also in Gujarat, Bihar and Rajasthan, in the northern and western group. The north and the west have clear characteristics of anti-female bias in a way that is not present – or at least not yet Visible – in most of the east and the south. This contrast does not have any immediate economic explanation. The States with anti-female bias include rich ones (Punjab and Haryana) as well as poor States (Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh), and fast-growing States (Gujarat and Maharashtra) as well as growth failures (Bihar and Uttar Pradesh). Also, the incidence of sex-specific abortions cannot be explained by the availability of medical resources for determining the sex of the foetus: Kerala and West Bengal in the non-deficit list, both with the ratio of 96.3 girls to 100 boys (comfortably higher than the benchmark cut-off of 94.8), have at least as much medical facilities as in such deficit States as Madhya Pradesh or Rajasthan. If commercial facilities for sex-selected abortion are infrequent in Kerala or West Bengal, it is because of a low demand for those specific services, rather than any great supply side barrier.

It would also be important to keep a close watch on whether the incidence of sex-specific abortions will significantly increase in States in which they are at this time quite uncommon. It was never meant to be an elitist idea. It has come and assumed from the grassroots level. The women parliamentarians have been able to make many changes to address the state of women in India. But one can never say enough has been done for women.

In India, this problem is mainly in work places i.e. related to Sexual Harassment and Wage Payment and related to inheritance. Although, judiciary decided in favour of the deceased i.e. the suffered parties. There are many landmark and famous cases of gender discrimination in work place like that of Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan it was held that a woman was brutally gang raped in the village of Rajasthan. The incident reveals the hazards to which a working woman may be exposed and the depravity to which sexual harassment can degenerate; and the urgency for safeguards by an alternative mechanism in the absence of legislative measures. In the absence of legislative measures, the need is to find an effective alternative mechanism to fulfil this felt and urgent social need. So, a writ of Mandamus was filed in Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Indian constitution. Later the Supreme Court decided that direct that the certain guidelines and norms would be strictly observed in all work places for the preservation and enforcement of the right to gender equality of the working women. These directions would be binding and enforceable in law until suitable legislation is enacted to occupy the field.

Since Article 15(3) itself hints substantive approach, its application for giving special educational facilities, for giving representation in local bodies and for protection in places of work has a substantive dimension. Upholding a service rule that preferred women in recruitment to public employment to the extent of 30% of posts, the Supreme Court stated in Government of A.P. v. P.B. Vijayakumar: „To say that under Article 15(3) job opportunities for women cannot be created would be to cut at the very root of the underlying inspiration behind this Article. Making special provision for women in respect of employments or posts under the state is an integral part of Article 15(3)“.

Also, In Mackinnon Mackenzie & Co. Ltd v. Audrey D’Costa The Court observed that there was discrimination in payment of wages to lady stenographers and such discrimination was being perpetuated under the garb of a settlement between the employees and the employer. The Court finally not only made it mandatory to pay equal remuneration to lady stenographers as their male counterparts but also observed that the ground of financial incapability of the management cannot be a ground to seek exemption from the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976.

Andhra Pradesh’s Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act 1986 is a piece of legislation that ought to be replicated in all our states. The Act confers equal rights of inheritance to Hindu women along with men, thus achieving the constitutional mandate of equality. An important measure undertaken to thereby eradicate the ills brought about by the dowry system while simultaneously ameliorating the condition of women in Hindu society

But now after the decision of the Supreme Court in Gurupad Khandappa Magdum v Hirabai Khandappa Magdum and that till such time, such ascertained share is handed over, the Hindu Undivided Family (HUF) would continue to be treated as the owner of such assets, notwithstanding the ascertained shares of such female heir as part of the corpus of the Hindu family, even as held in State of Maharashtra v Narayan Rao Sham Rao Deshmukh . And also after the amendment of Hindu Succession Act in September 2005 under Sec. 3(2), the right of a Hindu widow to get the full share of her late husband in coparcenary property (with limited interest — later enlarged to absolute right) continues or has been curtailed now. It means that From September 2005, daughters also have become coparceners.

So, these are some landmarks where the legislature and judiciary had performed a well job i.e. by serving in favour of the deceased or victim in a way that the truth or right should not to fail.

Role and Empowerment

We will now realize the vital importance of the terms such as role, empowerment and function for an understanding of society. These terms tell us how individual and groups organize themselves as well as relate to each other. Very simple, role tells us about what is expected from individuals in a particular situation. While empowerment deals with her or his expectation arising out of the situation. Similarly, a role deals with duties and obligations wile empowerment deals with rights. For instance, it is commonly assumed that the most is a women, a wife a cook, a teacher of her children and daughter-in-law and so on. What happens when the mother is also the principal of the local village school? Not only does she have to deal with a range of roles and empowerments, but also with he tensions that may raise out of her ole s mother and her role as an administrator.

„Woman reposes more closely on the central surface of life, while man hunts it in the boundaries of existence, always concerned to overcome, and in the last analysis, to kill. A woman has a secret alliance with eternal life and man with the principle of death. Woman wants to embrace the contradiction of life and to reconcile them in the act of degree so. Man on the other hand release the tension between opposites by annihilating one of the sides, the one he finds unpleasant. He seeks the solution not in love and reconciliation, but in over coming and annihilation. He has a militant and not an erotic manner. The male principle borne of isolation, makes solitude thermal, seeks being in itself and disturbs life as a wholes his being is battle and self service, his will to- life is concerned with ascertaining his own person or overthrowing that of the stranger until the motive of salvation kindles with in him. Woman with her sustaining constitutions is at one and is harmony with the basis of the world. But man wants to change the world to bring it forward to overcome it“.

This paper addresses one specific challenge that is faced by NGOs located in rural areas that wish to promote women’s empowerment. These NGOs have little or no access to skilled social workers. They must often depend on the local population for their employees, employees who may be vulnerable to the similar social pressures and are often equally marginalized as their clients. For rural NGOs to be successful they must attract employees who must at some level be relatively more empowered than the clients. They must have certain credibility to be able to effectively persuade their marginalized clients to alter their ways of thinking on many long-standing traditional issues, such as dowries, child labor, and patriarchal subjugation. The literature of behavior change in the health field suggests that self-efficacy is one of the four most commonly cited constructs for behavioral change 1. Although stated for different purposes and from different perspectives, the literature on self-efficacy can be brought to bear on issues of empowerment. Self-efficacy determines when an individual will undertake new behaviors such as self-empowerment. Low self-efficacy beliefs of women in rural India often stem from the limited and disadvantaged positions women have in society. This makes any behavior change towards self-empowerment difficult if it merely relies on verbal persuasion. The best way by which self-efficacy is acquired is by combining persuasion with role modeling in a supportive and appreciative environment (Bandura, 1997).

NGO employees must model empowered behaviors in order to evoke sustained behavior modification for the empowerment of women they serve. Rural NGOs, who have to often depend on the same local pool for clients and employees, find it difficult to promote empowerment effectively (Goyder: 2001). Despite the training given to employees to promote empowerment among their clients, there may still be a gap between what the employees ‘preach‘ and what they may ‘practice‘ in their own lives. This, in turn, may make them less effective and impede the NGO from achieving its goals (Turton and Farrington: 1998; Tillman: 2003).

In this paper we seek to explore how a relatively small and isolated rural NGO in Village Jaisakarra, P O Jaisakarra, Kanker – 494 337, Madhya Pradesh , Disha-Samaj Sewi Sanstha (DSSS) has been successful in the empowerment of rural women living in highly patriarchal and traditional societies Background Disha-Samaj Sewi Sanstha (DSSS for short) is a successful rural NGO in India that has received accolades for its success in empowering the women of the region and drawing them out of the cycle of dependency.

Research Question

In this paper we seek to explore how DSSS, a relatively small and isolated rural NGO in Village Jaisakarra, P O Jaisakarra, Kanker – 494 337, Madhya Pradesh , Disha-Samaj Sewi Sanstha (DSSS) has been successful in the empowerment of rural women living in highly patriarchal and traditional societies. The Indian Government as well as CIDA profiles DSSS as a model NGO in the arena of women’s empowerment. In particular we investigate the employees at DSSS, who come from the same villages as the clientele, and examine whether they are significantly different in their levels of empowerment than those they help. Is a gap between the rhetoric and reality of empowerment among the employees? Are employees whose aim is to empower women, empowered themselves? Do they practice what they preach? We seek to uncover the reasons for their success.

Literature Review

To understand the change women undergo in becoming empowered we look at two sets of literature: behavior change and women’s empowerment. In the first set of literature we review what leads to successful change, and in the second set of literature we review what is understood as empowerment for women.

Behavior change

We first start with a review of the self-efficacy literature and focus on the criteria for successful behavior change. Bandura (1986) suggests that a person’s self-expectations determine whether or not certain behavior will be undertaken, the extent of effort expended by the individual, and whether the individual can persist in the face of challenges encountered. This notion of self-efficacy is mediated by a person’s beliefs or expectations about his/her ability to achieve certain tasks effectively or exhibit certain behaviors (Hackett and Betz 1981).

For example, individuals with low self-efficacy regarding their behavior limit their participation when making difficult behavior changes and are more likely to give up when faced with obstacles. Their efficacy beliefs about themselves serve as barriers to change, and in this case, their own empowerment (Hackett and Betz 1981). Furthermore, these authors state that self-efficacy is not necessarily an in-born trait and can be acquired and nurtured. This fact makes these concepts particularly relevant to our study. Bandura (1986) identifies four ways in which self-efficacy and self-efficacy expectations are acquired: performance accomplishments, vicarious learning, verbal persuasion and physical/affective status.

Performance accomplishments are beliefs that stem from the reactions with which individual accomplishments are greeted. A negative assessment can lower confidence and

self-efficacy beliefs; conversely a positive assessment encourages self-efficacy beliefs and the self-efficacy expectations that similar behaviors will be well received in the future. Vicarious learning results in beliefs that are acquired by observing modeling behaviors. When the modeling behavior is undertaken within similar contexts5 such as gender, economic and social class it presents a realistic option. Thus, one of the most effective strategies for enhancing self-efficacy beliefs and self-efficacy expectations is that modeling behavior is context specific. It is of little use for a woman of low social class to observe the success of an entrepreneurial woman born to a family of high social standing with access to resources that are unavailable to the poor woman.

Other ways such as ‘verbal persuasion‘ and ‘affective status6‘ encourage selfefficacy. Persuading women to attempt positive behavior change and providing a supportive environment in which women can attempt change, further enhances self-efficacy. Changes based on verbal persuasion, affective status and modeling behavior can lead to significant changes in self–beliefs and self-expectation. These ‘personal factors‘ according to Bandura (1986) and Pajares (1996), from an integral part of a triadic relationship necessary for change. They suggest that there is a reciprocal relationship between ‘personal factors‘, ‘behavior‘ and ‘environmental factors‘, which result in social change.

Changes in personal factors (such as self efficacy) can affect an individuals‘ behavior (willingness to take risks), which can impact on environmental factors (family and society). These relationships are reciprocal and reinforce each other. This suggests that strategies purposefully introduced in order to enhance women’s personal factors (self efficacy) can lead to reinforcing behaviors (such as self assertive behavior) which in turn can impact and reinforce environmental factors (such as alteration of familial relations). The interaction and reciprocity of the triadic relationship can result in a positive and significant change for women.


5 In India, where this research is based, we include caste as a determinant of class for successful modeling


6 ‘Affective status‘ suggests that people learn best in a supportive environment, people do not easily learn in high stress situations, such as criticism.

Women’s Empowerment

Although the notion of women’s empowerment has long been legitimized by international development agencies7, what actually comprises empowerment, and how it is measured, is debated in the development literature. Malhotra, Schuler and Boender, 2002 provide an excellent review of this debate. They review the many ways that empowerment can be measured and suggest that researchers pay attention to the process in which empowerment occurs. The frequently used Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) is a composite measure of gender inequality in three key areas: Political participation and decision-making, economic participation and decision-making and power over economic resources (HDR: 2003). It is an aggregate index for a population and does not measure Empowerment on an individual basis. It is made up of two dimensions: Economic participation and decision-making (measured by the percentage of female administrators and managers, and professional and technical employees), and political participation and decision-making (measured by the percentage of seats in parliament held by women). For our purposes GEM is limited and does not capture the multidimensional view of women’s empowerment. It cannot be assumed that if a development intervention promotes women’s empowerment along a particular dimension

that empowerment in other areas will necessarily follow. A number of studies have shown that women may be empowered in one area of life while not in others (Malhotra and Mather 1997; Kishor 1995 and 2000b; Hashemi et al. 1996; Beegle et al. 1998).

While we do not attempt to resolve this debate, we take the position, that women’s empowerment can be measured by factors contributing to each of the following: their personal, economic, familial, and political empowerment. We make a point to include household and interfamilial relations as we believe is a central locus of women’s disempowerment in India. And by including the political, we posit that women’s empowerment measures should include women’s participation in systemic transformation by engaging in political action (Batliwala 1994; Bisnath and Elson 1999; Kabeer 2001; Narasimhan ,1999; and Sen and Grown 1987;) Amin, Becker and Bayes (1998) split the concept of women’s empowerment into three components each measured separately:

7 Women Key to Effective Development (December 6, 2001) World Bank Press) Engendering Development –

Through Gender Equality in Rights, Resources, and Voice is a Policy Research Report by the World Bank

Inter-spouse consultation index, which seeks to represent the extent to which husbands consult their wives in household affairs; Individual autonomy indexes which represents women’s self-reported autonomy of physical movement outside the house and in matters of spending money; and the Authority index, which reports on actual decision-making power (which is traditionally in the hands of the patriarch of the family). These indices are similar to those of used by Balk in her 1994 study. Comparable components of empowerment are included in the eight indicators by Hashemi (1996): mobility, economic security, ability to make a small purchases, ability to make larger purchases, involvement in major decisions, relative freedom from domination by the family, political and legal awareness, and involvement in political campaigning and protests.

Several different efforts have been made in recent years to develop comprehensive frameworks delineating the various dimensions along which women can be empowered (Malhotra, Schuler and Boender, 2002) We construct four separate components of empowerment in Table 1 that draw from many of the authors mentioned earlier and especially rely on Hashemi (1996) and Amin Becker and Bayes, (1998), as their work seems most relevant for rural women in India.

These measures in Table 1 reflect our belief that to measure women’s empowerment more fully and in the broadest sense, it is necessary to add an individualized component representing her political autonomy to the autonomy within the family. Given that the legislation in India reserves special seats for women in elected bodies, even at the village level, an empowerment index for rural women should include her awareness of political issues and participation in the political process.



Personal Autonomy Index Generally(1) Occasionally(1/2) Never(0)

Visiting Respondents‘ home

Visiting Village Market

Visiting Hospital

Helping a relative with family

Family Decision Making Index Wife(1) Joint Decision(1/2) Husband Alone(0)

Family Planning

Children’s education in School

Day to day expenditures of family

Medical treatement

Going outside Home

Entertaining guests

Favorite things

Economic Domestic Consultation Index Generally(1) Occasionally(1/2) Never(0)

Buying Household Furniture

Education/expense of Children

Purchase of Land

Purchasing Women’s Clothes

Purchasing medical treatment of Family

Purchasing Children’s clothes

Purchasing Daily Food

Political Autonomy Index Generally(1) Occasionally(1/2) Never(0)

Awareness of any political issue

Voting according to own decisions

Campaigning politically

Standing for elections


As this paper seeks to explore how a relatively small and isolated rural NGO in Village Jaisakarra, Disha-Samaj Sewi Sanstha (DSSS) has become a model for the development and empowerment of rural disenfranchised women, a few words on the choice of the NGO are appropriate. Using a database from the directorate of NGOs in India we examined several successful women led NGOs in different parts of India. The criteria for inclusion were that the NGO cater to rural women of lower castes who face traditional gender and class discrimination.

We also stipulated that the NGO must be a successful grass roots organization that has the empowerment of women as its mission. It should have received attention for its success both locally and internationally, and whose founder/director had time to meet with us and would allow us to survey the employees. After a limited search, based on telephone calls, we decided to use DSSS as it met our criteria.

Research methods

Ethnographic and survey research was undertaken at DSSS. Face to face interviews were conducted with DSSS employees, and participant observation of the meetings and activities that took place at DSSS during two weeks in January in 2008 followed by visit in January 2009 to present our findings and tie up some loose ends. We also observed and

documented the various programs at the village level where the women gathered at a prearranged time to participated in a variety of programs (such as the micro credit program or listen to consciousness raising speeches, plays and puppet shows). To document the levels of empowerment among women in the NGO we drew our data from the employees who were responsible for the services that were designed to empower the rural village women. At the leadership level we interviewed nearly all of the ‘„Supervisors“(15/16)11 of the various programs. These „Supervisors“ administered the `Field workers‘ who went into the villages and worked directly with the village women. We interviewed 32 of the 57 „`Fieldworkers“‘ who assisted the „`Supervisors“‘. We also chose to interview 25 local women living the area that the NGO served. They represented women who were eligible to be among the `Recipients‘ of the services of the NGO, by the fact they lived in the areas the NGO served. Although these are potential recipients we call them `Recipients‘ for convenience. We chose not to interview current recipients of services, as we wanted to establish a baseline of empowerment among the village women from whom the employees were drawn. As all of the employees lived in the neighboring villages before seeking employment (and still continue to live in these villages) the findings on the empowerment indices of the `Recipients‘ may also be seen to reflect the those of the employees before coming to the NGO We chose to interview women employees (`Supervisors‘ and `Fieldworkers‘) and eligible women `Recipients‘ to ascertain the main research question, of whether the employees were ‘walking the talk‘ and if the employees were significantly different from the recipients. In other words did the women employees who intervened to help promote the empowerment of women were themselves empowered. We were seeking to establish whether the employees own individual levels of empowerment were significantly different from the recipients of the services. Furthermore, we interviewed individuals at both levels of hierarchies in the organization to ascertain if all employees had same or differing levels of empowerment. We decided to interview half of the `Fieldworkers‘. We ended up with a sample of 32/57 of `Fieldworkers‘. The latter was an opportunistic sample, in that we simply interviewed all the employees who happened to be present in the DSSS headquarters on the days we visited. During the period we visited the NGO, there was a rotation of the `Fieldworkers‘ assigned to duties at villages coming in to meet with the `Supervisors‘. We were thus able to interview 32 of the `Fieldworkers‘. The sample of women eligible to be recipients was done by employing two of the NGO employees to visit every third house in the village and identify women who would be likely potential recipients. We were able to get a sample of 25 women who were willing to be interviewed. Two `Supervisors‘ helped us fine tune and translate our instrument for the `Recipients‘, which included the measures of women’s empowerment used for the employees. Additionally, we trained one local woman to undertake the interviews due to their fluency in the language.


In this section we turn to the findings obtained from the interviews. We present our findings as follows: Section A presents general demographic data of all three groups of respondents: `Supervisors‘, `Fieldworkers‘ and `Recipients‘ and examines for any differences in these three groups; Section B presents empowerment levels of all three groups of respondents and a statistical analysis of the data and Section C presents qualitative findings on the NGO based on interviews with the executive director of the NGO who has run the NGO for the last nineteen years.

Section A: Demographic and socio economic data

The women in our study are all from the district of Jaisakarra, P O Jaisakarra, Kanker. There is a wide age spread in the total number of respondents (72) 12. They range in age from 21 to 65; most women are married and lived with their husbands and have an average of 2.74 children. Only five women in our study did not live with a spouse, 3 of the women are divorced and two are widowed. Divorce is not common in the rural areas and the general tradition is to put up with an abusive spouse or a bad marriage. With reference to caste 89% (64 / 72) of the women categorize themselves as low caste or `OBC‘ or Other Backward Classes. This is a `catch all‘ category developed by the Government of India census to include some of the most marginalized caste segments of Indian society. Four of the `Supervisors‘ belong to the higher castes, as do two of the `Fieldworkers‘ and one from the group of `Recipients‘. Family structure is relevant to discussion of empowerment. As many of the questions relate to domestic decisions making to establish empowerment levels family structures can influence the responses. The traditional family structure in India is not a nuclear family, it a joint family. In this system, when a son marries, he continues to reside with his parents with his wife and their children. The daughter on the other hand goes to her husband’s home and lives with his parents, unmarried siblings, and the families of his married brothers. The parents of the husband, in a joint family, tend to hold decision-making authority that often overrides the authority of any of the married sons or their wives.

Twenty-nine of the seventy two (40.28%) women in our study live in traditional joint families, whereas the rest lived in a nuclear family setting, which is far less than the norm in of Jaisakarra, P O Jaisakarra, Kanker over 50% .The women had an average of 6.13 years of education

In this area where alcoholism is rampant, we asked our respondents if they hadproblems related to alcohol consumption. We find that half of the women (36) suggested that they had experienced problems related to the alcohol consumption by their husbands. This ranged from beatings and the use of household money for alcohol to unemployment. The differences between the groups were striking, in that the least amount of alcoholism was present in the families of `Fieldworkers‘ (6/32) and the most in the `Recipients‘ (23/25), where as the half the `Supervisors‘ experienced alcohol related problems. We then compared the differences of the means of several socio demographic variables and the means of the empowerment index between the three groups: `Supervisors‘, `Fieldworkers‘ and `Recipients‘, to see if they differed significantly on any of the socio demographic variables and empowerment levels (See Table 2). While they appeared significantly different on the number of all counts with the exception of age, the Scheffe Post Hoc test showed that not all the differences were significant.


11 One supervisor was a man and therefore not included.

12 This number includes 15 „Supervisors“, 32 Field workers and 25 eligible recipients.

Table 2

Comparision of Means of socio Economic Data and Empowerment Index for ‘Supervisors‘, ‘ Fieldworkers‘ and ‘ Recipients‘



Field workers



F-Test 3 groups

T-test for 2 groups S and F sig 2 tailed







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