WORLD OF WOMEN
By Mridula Sinha
For two decades ‘empowerment’ word has come and expanded in a way that the persons who do not know even the meaning of it also use the word. Empowered person means the man or woman who is enjoying all sorts of powers, which enable him or her to take decisions or enjoying the life the way he or she wants. Educational, political, economic or social empowerment, whichever, they make a person powerful.
For decades this word has taken its shape in government files also. After Independence the new government was formed and for uplifment of downtrodden and other sections of society, ‘welfare’ word was used in government files. In due course the decision makers felt the word irrelevant or below the dignity of the target groups and the word ‘development’ replaced it. For one and a half decade the ‘empowerment’ word is used in place of ‘welfare’ and ‘development’.
The year 2001 was celebrated by Atal Bihari Vajpayee government as “women empowerment year”. A few people know that it was my suggestion and the Prime Minister and Human Resource Development Minister Dr Murli Manohar Joshi was kind enough to take it seriously and honoured my suggestions. Many useful decisions were taken, such as chalking out “Mahila Niti”, starting ‘Mahila Budget’, increasing the emoluments of Anganwari workers from Rs 200 to Rs 1000, enactment of three important laws, etc. The voluntary organisations and the government agencies observed the year very successfully. They were successful in driving the government and society’s attention towards the problems and solutions. Menfolk started thinking of empowering women in their houses also.
One could see the happiness on the faces of fathers, husbands, teachers and government officials also while participating or organising programmes on women empowerment. This was the achievement of the celebration. The society is aware of the fact that men are also working hard to make the women empowered.
In recent past some laws have been enacted for empowering aged persons and children also. Actually the aged, children and women come from the same family. They may or may not be living under one roof.
Now I feel the time has come when the society and government should come forward to empower the ‘family’, not women, children or aged one of the same family. Family is the first and last unit of the society. Not only that, family is the first school for children, where they receive the seeds of behaviours, which they carry for whole life.
The problems of young men, women, children and the aged are interlinked and depend on each other. In Indian concept of the family, persons live for each other, not for oneself. The duty of one becomes right of another. Family members are not concerned of their rights. By investing their duties they earn their rights. In joint families children could not recognise their parents, as they get same attention and affection from all the members of the family. Small children could suck the milk from other lactate women of the family. There was no difference.
Now the time and situation have changed. In urban areas we find existence of only nuclear families. But there also at least three generations can live together. Situation is quite different. Most of the urban resident women are seen in offices, Malls, or other places. Kids are in creches, children in schools and old ones are in old-age-homes. The concept of creches took its shape only because the elder ones of ‘Dadas’ and ‘Dadids’ are in old age homes. Virtually they built the houses, reared the children with a hope to living with their grown up sons and grand children. Living with grand children is the tonic for their old age. Now the situation has totally changed. In cities like Delhi, DDA has made only two bedroom houses for middle income group families, one for parents and another for one or two children. There is no room for grand parents.
One cannot think of one family in three ways and find solutions. While empowering women, child or aged ones separately, family is being dismentled. Children are not happy in creches or hostels, aged ones are not comfortable in old age homes. So both age groups should be under one roof. In 2001 only, while celebrating woman empowerment year, I had suggested that old age homes and creches should be combined. At least they should be under one roof, outside their original roof.
Family empowerment will lesson some problems of government, society and family itself. Governments have three separate departments to deal separately for development and empowering women, children and the aged ones. They are treated as separate units. As they are emotionally attached, dealing with their problems, coming to solutions – by the government or society – are not according to their physical, mental and emotional requirements. If they live under one roof, different problems of the different age groups get solved unitedly. Solution of ones problems exist’s in another’s presence only. There should be one government agency for empowering the family. It will become easier for government or society to get solutions of the family problems. Family will be empowered, not its member separately. Sometimes while searching the ways for solution of a problem, we create more problems. This is happening with the family also. We are ruining the very concept and requirements of the family while affording hard empowered individuals.
Once standing in the campus of an old age home, when asked to give blessings for institution, I said: “I wish, this old age home is abandoned”.
Of course, there is no need of old age homes. Aged people should remain in their very homes only. Family should be provided facilities for creating proper atmosphere and comfort for the three generations. Let us come forward to empower family as a whole, not members of the family separately. The society and the government agencies should at least start thinking about it. Planning and execution will certainly get shape in due course.