Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Economic Empowerment of Kashmiri Women

Roshan Ara says it is hard enough to be a woman in the present circumstances, but being respected by the society as a women with a professional career is even harder

(Ms. Roshan Ara, 45, was born in Warihama, in Budgam district. She attended the Government High School Aripanthan, and the Government Higher Secondary School Beeru. She graduated from the Government Womens College (GWC) Srinagar, University of Kashmir, and the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), New Delhi. Ms. Roshan Ara has degrees in B.Com, M.Com, M.A. Economics, B.Ed, M.Phil, Diploma in Women's Empowerment and Development, and Ph.D. work underway titled 'Managing Work and Family Roles: A Study of White Collar Working Women in Kashmir.' She is presently a Lecturer in Commerce, Department of School Education, Government of Jammu and Kashmir, Srinagar. During leisure time she enjoys reading newspapers & journals, staying engaged on Women's Issues, and writing articles for newspapers & journals.)

Economic Empowerment of Women

It is a universal fact that women’s powerlessness and helplessness rises out of their lack of access to education and high waged skilled jobs. Empowerment of women, being a worldwide slogan and one of the Millennium Development Goals, aims at empowering of women in different spheres of life. There are various components of women empowerment like political empowerment, social empowerment, economic empowerment, legal empowerment and psychological empowerment. Economic empowerment has been recognized as the dominant one because it exerts a strong influence on all other components of empowerment. It is a reality that if women gain economic strength they will gain visibility and voice at home, workplace and the community.

Thus it is imperative for women to know their economic role and increase their power and command on material resources. Women’s economic welfare is very much related to the betterment of family and the nation as a whole. Economic empowerment of women will help save half of our population from the clutches of poverty and reduce the deep rooted gender gaps in the society. It will increase the women’s self-confidence, self-image and also their basic needs of survival. Economic empowerment will generate new ideas among women and help them to develop new consciousness and will power. Thus the need of the hour is to improve women’s access to credit and finance which forms the basis of overall development.

Women’s role and participation in the process of development as such cannot be ignored. However in practice women are still kept away from the positions of power and decision making and their participation in political and economic activities is limited to a considerable extent.

Economic dependence of women makes them subjugated and vulnerable to emotional and psychological violence. Economic exploitation of women is the root cause of other types of violence’s that women face. It makes them resource less and helpless and does not allow them to live a dignified life. They find their very survival too difficult. As most women are caught in abject poverty, they cannot take a proper care of their own health and children. Thus economic inequality forms the basis of their economic slavery. All forms of slavery had their basic roots in some kind of economic dependence. Economic empowerment of Saudi Arabian women serves as an example for the whole women folk. Contrary to popular perception, most of the Saudi women are highly empowered because of their participation in trade and commerce. These women get a due share from the property of their husbands and they own different assets like houses, land, bank balances, cars and business establishments. Economic empowerment of women has been highly valued in Islam. But reverse is the case in our society where women are not occupying the same position socially, politically, intellectually or economically as men and their powers also do not match to those of their male counterparts.

A women is kept powerless, resource less and helpless. Women’s perfection lies in their economic strength and it can lead to the perfection of the whole society. The causes and consequences of economic under estimation need to be thoroughly analysed. A woman does 3/5th of world’s work but earns only 1/10th of world’s income and owns only 1/100th of world’s assets. She is a fulltime labourer who works without any break and payment. She remains overburdened with household work, care of children and also works shoulder to shoulder with men in other fields. Women working in any capacity whether a peasant, artisan or otherwise has to perform her household work equally. She cannot escape herself from this responsibility which is considered to be the job of women only. While as men who only work outside the home in different capacities do not share the burden of household work. The traditional definition of gender roles still persists.

Women are purposefully being kept away from the assignments carrying monetary benefits because in a male dominated society men feel their supremacy in economic control and authority. They even try to snatch the wealth of women by the means of their might. Throughout the world majority of women are caught in abject poverty. The percentage of adult poor females far exceeds that of the poor adult males. Women face hunger, starvation and humiliation due to poverty. The problem of unemployment is chronic in general but the problem of unemployment among educated women is more alarming. Women in our society are not in a position to get easily adjusted in the local job market after the completion of their degrees. Women face many hardships for getting a job because they are physically less mobile as compared to men. They cannot move to far off places in search of better jobs due to family obligations and other security reasons. Therefore government should create ample employment opportunities for women so that they can be well adjusted in the local job market. Women need to be imparted training for entrepreneurship, leadership and managerial roles so that they can establish their own business units and run them effectively. Handicrafts sector which is the main source of livelihood at grassroots level for women in our state should be strengthened and enhanced further.

The society should change its negative mind set towards business women. Men should leave their ego and strengthen the hands of women entrepreneurs and help them to be the job providers and not the job seekers. Thus government should create opportunities to facilitate the availability of credit and finance for women entrepreneurs. The procedure for registration should be made easier for women. A big hurdle in the way of approaching to banks for financial assistance is that women are asset less and they cannot keep anything as mortgage against the sanctioned loans. All their property, in most cases, is recorded in the name of their male members. Therefore, various financial institutions and developmental agencies like NABARD (National Bank for Agricultural Research and development), SWDC (State Women’s Development Corporation), and SWAB (Social Welfare Advisory Board) should come to the rescue of these women. Special grants, subsidies on loans should be offered to needy women entrepreneurs. Government should create better avenues of professional and vocational education and re-structure the present educational system.

Globalisation, modernisation and industrialisation have adversely affected female population in many ways. Women have lost their skill and their scope for jobs in factories has become deficient. Therefore it is now a global concern to bring women into mainstream economic activities so as to ensure their equality and empowerment.

Economic empowerment emphasises the need for re-distribution of the available resources of the society. Women should themselves strive to get free from economic deprivation and individualism. Enabling conditions have to be created by enhancing their vision, knowledge, skill, expertise and innovation. They should try to make themselves economically productive so that they can live a dignified life. Men should realise that the treasure of the world does not belong to them only but it also belongs to women. They should not forget that women are also human beings and have their own needs and aspirations which can be fulfilled through money. Poverty in general and extreme poverty in particular has a significant gender dimension. Women’s special needs should be given a due consideration.

The health and nutritional status of women is an indicator of human and social development of a society. There are inadequate and gender insensitive health services. Women’s health needs are diverse in nature in different regions, ages and classes. The dominant patriarchal structure has a major impact upon their lives. Poor women don’t get adequate nutrition during pregnancy and lactation. The dietary intake of women in lower economic groups is deficient by 500 – 600 calories. Poor nutrition results in birth of low weight babies which in turn leads to infant mortality. Thus it is important to challenge the gender relations and power structure of the society. Economic empowerment of women can act as a panacea for most ills in society and it can lead women to have choices on their health. They can take a good care of themselves as well as their families. Economic empowerment will help in irradiation of many social evils like prostitution, immoral trafficking of women, HIV/ AIDS etc. It will change the lives of poor women and help them to gain a good status at their homes as well as in their community.

By consolidating and enhancing their economic position women will become the tax payers for the government, job providers to people and can assert their standing as individuals. Economic empowerment of women is poised to go a long way in bringing about a new world order, a world where masculine and feminine elements of civilisation will be more properly balanced.

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