Women’s empowerment through education

Women's empowerment has long existed in different cultures and societies. However, the concept of women's empowerment was introduced at the 1985 World Conference on Women. Education enables women to respond to challenges, confront their traditional roles, and change their lives. Hence, we cannot neglect the importance of education with reference to women's empowerment. To this day, our society is still dominantly shaped by normative gender roles in which women are expected to be homemakers and men are expected to provide for the household. In most cases, this automatically creates a hierarchy and reverence for the moneymaker, which in many cases often leads to domestic abuse, primarily against women. Financial independence and abilities developed through a formal education system enable women to break this social cycle and be able to stand along with the opinionated moneymaker. It also provides them with the strength to step out and learn the ways of this world instead of being confined to domestic chores.

When it comes to women's empowerment through education, it is often misconceived as an education that we received only in schools and colleges. But women's empowerment through education refers to education at any level, such as vocational training, awareness campaigns, etc. Empowering begins with knowing your worth, understanding your rights, and advocating for gender equality, among other things. Education can increase women's empowerment through increased knowledge, self-confidence, and understanding of gender equality. Being aware of one’s rights creates a better environment for women to excel in any situation. Jawaharlal Nehru once said, "To awaken the people, it is the women who must be awakened. Once she is on the move, the family moves, the village moves, the nation moves."

There is no doubt that there is a transition in women's careers, and we are now seeing more women working in previously male-dominated sectors like engineering, computer science, and medicine. Women still encounter considerable obstacles to equitable participation in public life despite the enormous gains made since the women's rights movement of the 1960s. We cannot define our society as truly democratic unless women are equally represented in the political and public spheres. Also, we must keep in mind that society gains when women also occupy positions of power.

Nonetheless, despite these changes in women's status, discrimination against women is still an issue. In some cases, sexual harassment against women at work and at home still occurs. Women in the past had to deal with problems like child marriage, sati pratha, restrictions on widows getting remarried, exploiting widows, etc. Nonetheless, almost all of the persistent societal issues have gradually subsided, giving rise to new challenges. It’s no coincidence that some of the lowest paying professions are dominated by women: cleaning, caring, and catering are commonly considered "women’s work." Even within female-dominated professions, such as secondary school teaching, leadership roles tend to skew towards men disproportionately.

As women become more educated, they can obtain the specialist skills that qualify them for more diverse positions. A population with more educated women is also less likely to subscribe to the irrational gender stereotypes that drive employment segregation. Education can also increase the political participation of women. When women are better represented in politics, women’s voices are heard, and issues that impact women are more likely to be centered in public discourse. This results in expanded opportunities for women.

Several women empowerment programs, including "Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao," "Nari Shakti Puraskar," "One Stop Center (OSC)," "Women Helpline (WH)," and others, have been introduced by the national and state governments of India over the years to address the issues that women and girls are facing. However, we still have a long way to go and acknowledging women's rights and values in Indian society is the step for empowering women, and promoting girls' and women's education lead to societal advancement and economic development. 

The Degree of Thought Column is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. The column explored contemporary social, cultural, political, and educational issues and challenges around us. However, the views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC-accredited, UCG-recognized Commerce and Arts college. Currently, the Degree of Thought Column is managed by the department of Mass Communication, and the editorial team are Dr Jenny Lalmuanpuii, KC Gabriela and Rinsit Sareo. For feedback or comments, please email: [email protected].