Chris' Original Blogbeque

A fresh, vinegar-based examination of life

what does women’s empowerment look like in India?

Posted by Chris on October 3, 2007

No matter how I look back on what I’ve done, or what I do while I’m here, I know that I will have greatly benefited from conversations I have had with those who are experienced in the field of development. I do not plan to make this a career but there are lessons and an ethos that is applicable to all areas of life. My first week I was talking to the director of IITD and his brother, who leads an organization called the West Bengal Voluntary Health Association.

Women’s Empowerment is one of the major goals of development in the Indian context. I asked them what their definition of women’s empowerment is, that is, what does it look like—what would you see that would indicate empowerment. I wanted to know specifically if they different goals than an American might see. For example, some American feminists want the elimination of the expectation of child-bearing. I doubted that would be a goal of Indian development. Anyway, they did not address that part of my question (their English isn’t great, my Bengali/Hindi barely exists) but from the following list I think you can see what I was getting at.

1. Respect
2. Dignity
3. Economic capacity- ability to spend
4. Access to health care
5. Leadership roles, even w/o literacy
6. Equal status (i.e. wages)
7. Legal rights (property, inheritance)
8. Decision-making ability in family
9. Reproductive choices
10. Right to work
11. Right to education
12. Right to nutrition for themselves and female children

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