For centuries, women all across the world have struggled to get access to basic human rights. The pace of progress has been different in different countries. While urban women living in developed and developing countries have come a long way in empowerment, rural areas still remain resistant to this concept.
Even in the current day and age, most rural women in India suffer from gender norms that view their roles merely limited to being a mother and a wife. Most women receive almost no formal education or opportunities to become financially independent.
To empower rural women, every society needs to go through the stage of actionable steps to improve the living conditions of rural women and altogether raise rural society.
We have compiled 5 ways in which we can empower rural women:
1. Education & Skill development
Through various government schemes and programs, the enrollment of female children in schools improved over the years. Unfortunately, the dropout rates of women are staggering. As per Save The Children, almost 70% of female students dropout of highschool.
The main reason being the increasing responsibility of housework, lack of proper menstrual hygiene management facilities and unfair gender norms set by society.
To conquer this challenge, we need to develop awareness programs and schemes that address the problems faced by female students and focus on decreasing the dropout rates.
Another step to empower women is providing vocational education and skills development training to match the market needs and obtain employment.
2. Improving representation in communities
Women representation in communities is comparatively much lower than men. Traditional norms often hinder women from participating in policies that concern them. As a result, their needs are barely taken into account.
Therefore, it is crucial to form and support rural women empowerment movements and form policies that require a minimum representation of women in every aspect that concerns them such as labour unions, politics, education and local administrations.
3. Accessible Financial Services
Even though many rural women work as daily wage workers, they do not have full liberty over their earnings. Rural areas are governed by patriarchy in which the male member of the family is responsible for handling finances and expenditure.
Hence, designing easily accessible financial services that directly connects women to their bank accounts and not mediated through their husband is necessary. In addition, creating secondary financial products that allow women to save, borrow and lend money safely can also provide much-needed support.
4. Social Protection in the rural economy
In many rural areas, women work much longer than men in terms of both employed and non employed (household) work. Nevertheless, they are paid much less in terms of daily wage. In India, Madhya Pradesh accounts for the lowest daily wage for rural women.
Besides, there is not even a slight consideration of factors like maternity leave, menstrual hygiene etc. Therefore, the rural women workforce is on a decline in India.
Some organisations like the International Labour Organisation (ILO) monitors and ensures that women are paid equally for their work. But, it is also our responsibility as a society to support local women labour unions that protect rural women from getting exploited.
5. Education on female health & hygiene
Many rural households are crippled with poverty due to the lack of family planning. Owing to the limited household income, children are unable to receive formal education and are dragged into child labour. To fight this challenge, women of the household need to be educated and advised on family planning.
Another common concern faced by rural women is the lack of menstrual hygiene facilities. Nearly 23 million girls dropout of school every year due to menstruation. The lack of proper menstrual hygiene also results in many health concerns like infections, UTIs and kidney diseases. By supporting NGOs that work to counter this challenge, we can improve the health and living conditions of rural women.
Lastly, in order to progress collectively, we cannot leave the rural women behind. With the current wave of rural transformation, we need to support the unheard voices of rural India. By educating, supporting and empowering women, we can truly transform our society.