Women Empowerment and Women Entrepreneurship

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“In most of the developing countries today, more and more emphasis is laid on the need for development of women and their active participation in the main stream of development process. Women have traditionally been involved in the informal economy, working in family businesses without formal position or pay.  Thus their economic contribution  is  often  undervalued  or  just  not  mentioned  at  all. In his  book  “The  Fortune  at  the  bottom  of  the  Pyramid”,  Prof.  C.K.Prahlad comments, “A well-understood but poorly articulated reality of development is the role of women. Women are central to the entire development process. There are also at the vanguard of social transformation”. It is also widely recognized that apart from managing household, bearing children, rural women bring income with productive activities ranging from traditional work in the fields  to  working’ in factories or running small and petty businesses. They have proven that  they can be better  entrepreneurs  and  development  managers  in  any  kind  of  human development activities. The empowerment of women also considered as an active process enabling women to realize their full identity and power in all spheres of life. Against the background of the patriarchal system of society, the women need special attention to ensure their development and participation in the decision making process at home, in the community and governance.

NEW DELHI/INDIA, 08NOV09 - C. K. Prahalad in India's Next Aspiration Session. Participants captured during the World Economic Forum's India Economic Summit 2009 held in New Delhi, 8-10 November 2009.  Copyright (cc-by-sa) © World Economic Forum (www.weforum.org/Photo Eric Miller emiller@iafrica.com)

NEW DELHI/INDIA, 08NOV09 – C. K. Prahalad, World Economic Forum’s India Economic Summit 2009 held in New Delhi, 8-10 November 2009. Copyright (cc-by-sa) © World Economic Forum (www.weforum.org/Photo Eric Miller emiller@iafrica.com)

Hence what is needed is a conducive environment to maximize their potentials. This conducive environment should include basic amenities such as better health and nutrition, education and sensitization to their rights and protection under the law and employment opportunities among others. over the decades, various strategies have been adopted to empower rural women with some mixed results. One of the  viable  strategies,  quite  often  talked  about,  is  the  role  of  enterprise  to empower rural women. For example, promotion of rural enterprise makes full use of family labour, requires less capital in production and uses locally available raw material. In addition, family ties and kinship linkages may help in promoting rural enterprise. Thus, enterprise  development has been considered, among other factors, a powerful tool to eradicate poverty  especially among rural women.

Among many possible examples, Grameen bank’s success is based on lending only to women. The entrepreneurs who were able to use the micro finance made available were women. The grameen phone ‘ladies’ are  the  entrepreneurs.  There  are  adequate  evidence  from  various  studies undertaken so far that the role of women in building a new society is inevitable. The SHGs at ICICI bank are all women, as are the shakti ammas at HLL. In the case of CEMEX, the company works only with women. Amul, a milk cooperative, depends on women for their milk origination in villages. Access to economic independence can change the long tradition of suppression of women and denial of opportunities. The success of Avon, Mary Kay and Tupperware in US  and  other  parts  of  the  world  are  also  based  on  the  role  of  women entrepreneurship.  There are many successful women forums and organizations that are trying to bring the rural women together for developmental works. The examples could be Working Women’s Forum (WWF), SEWA, Shri Mahila Griha Udyog Lijjat  and  Mann  Deshi  Mahila  Sah  Bank  Ltd.,  Mhaswad, Maharashtra, Gangai Vattara Kalanjia Mutuals among others. Although  the  evidence  is  overwhelming,  very  little  explicit attention  has  been  paid  to  actively  co-opting  women  in  the  efforts  to  build markets and lead the development process”.

The essence to empower rural women lies in catalyzing appropriate economic activities at the grass root level and  creating  new  opportunities  for  them  to  earn  higher  income  in  order  to improve  their  standard  of  living.  This objective could be  accomplished  by establishing enterprises that are based on the locally available  resources and preferably indigenous knowledge.

Development experience  shows  that  gender  inequalities  are  a  major  factor impeding   progress  towards  the  Millennium  Development  Goals  of  poverty reduction. This is particularly true in rural areas, where women are generally very involved in productive work but lack the access to assets that they need. As a result of this imbalance, rural women are often more vulnerable to poverty than men, and their limited ability to secure assets independently makes them more likely to be negatively affected. Indian Central the State Governments are taking steps to encourage women to set up small businesses.

Shabana Azmi

In one of the speeches of Shabana Azmi on gender and population in South Asia, she revealed the disadvantaged position held by women in India embedded in the Indian psyche:  endless cases of female infanticide, dowry deaths and abysmal access to literacy and health care. She noted that it is this differential treatment that lays the foundation for not only rapidly increasing population, but also in making millions of women endure lives of weakness and subjugation. In addition, she emphasizes education that reinforces gender equality as the most important  element  leading  to  women  empowerment.  However,  there  is  not enough   attention  being  given  to  the  quality  of  education.  Although  she acknowledges the  importance of legislation, she said that laws alone cannot bring about change. What are  needed, according to Azmi, are a change of mindset, a change of attitudes, and a commitment to gender equality.