Oxford Dictionaries defines empowerment as ‘making (someone) stronger, more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights’.
There are several organizations, activists and campaigns like Going to School and Sarathi Development Foundation that advocate women empowerment and emphasize on self-reliance of women in our society. Other initiatives like Majlis Legal Center helps victims of violence access their legal rights and provides socio-economic support.
While these and other similar organizations have their own approach to empowerment, a critical common thread that lies at the core is financial independence.
Why financial independence?
As defined above, empowerment means giving someone the ability to “control their life and claim their rights”. Financial independence is not only a source of confidence but also gives women the credibility to participate in important matters of decision making, for themselves and their families.
This is relevant to both, women from low income communities, as well as women from affluent families, where making women financially independent is not considered a priority.
What happens when women are not financially independent?
When women earn for themselves, they are immediately more in control of their lives.
This is especially important for women who are live in abusive households. It has been reported that 70% women in India face some form of domestic violence. One such form of conducting this violence is by using ‘controlling behavior’ i.e., restricting access to financial resources. Hence, women who face abuse often have no option but to continue living in the same house with their abuser as they lack financial independence, which would otherwise enable them to have a choice.
When parents don’t think their daughters should be financially independent, they can choose to neglect their education. This translates into an extremely troubling statistic: in rural India, 1 girl out of 100 reaches grade 12.
What happens when women are financially independent?
Research shows that when women earn income they reinvest 90% of it into their families, as compared to only 30% to 40% for a man.
But, that’s not all. Having women participate in the workforce benefits India as a whole. At the launch of an initiative called W20, where women leaders from the world’s top 20 economies gathered, International Monetary Fund’s chief Christine Lagarde said, ‘India's GDP can expand by a whopping 27 % if the number of female workers increases to the same level as that of men’
Read about the empowered Indian woman here.
What can we as a society do?
Recent campaigns such as #Heforshe or the #ShareTheLoad that advocate gender equality are examples of changing ideologies. If reading this article has influenced your thinking, then speak to people around you and help them understand the importance of educating girls and giving them the choice to gain employment or become an entrepreneur.
We need independent and empowered women. Supporting women to be financially independent is a key step towards that.
About the Author:
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