Women who number 407.1 million according to 1991 census, represent 48.1 per cent of country’s population of 846.3 million. The development of women has always been the central focus in the developmental planning since Independence. However, it was only in 1980s that women were recognized as a separate target group and given their rightful place in developing planning by including a separate chapter viz., Women and Development in the Sixth Plan Document (1980-85). This marked the breakaway from the welfare approach and further to the empowerment concept. The Finance Minister in his budget speech of 2000-01 had announced the year 2001 as “Women Empowerment Year”. Thus all the efforts in women’s empowerment of the Government have been directed towards main streaming of women into the national development process by raising their overall status, social, economic, legal, and political – to a level at par with that of men. Major programmes that compliment and supplement the other developmental and welfare programmes, particularly, in the sectors of health, education, rural development etc., implemented by the department and initiatives undertaken in the area of women’s empowerment are related with employment and training; socio-economic programme; through different schemes like rashtriya mahila kosh; mahila samriddhi yojna, indra mahila yojana and women development corporation with welfare and support services.
In our country, women comprises the majority of the population below poverty line and are very often in situation of extreme poverty, given the harsh realities of intra-household and social discrimination, macro economic policies and poverty education programmes will specially address the needs and problems of such women. This is much evident after the historic ICPD Cairo, 1994, where gender equality and mainstreaming of gender was the main issues. The authenticities of this paradigm shift still remain questionable when compared with women ’s right. India as approaching towards 21st century, right to marry, healthy sexual relationship to conceive, desire to have number of children, choice of family planning method, abortion practice and right of education etc; still are not under their control. Even after fifty years of independence, their gynecological problems are considered as normal and natural. Thus they become silent sufferers in the orthodox illiterate rural society. Pregnant women with such negligence not only affect her health but also to her child. Besides, empowerment against atrocities done on them and demand for their legal justice, lagged far behind when compared with the dynamic feminist character of western world. State like Kerala being, the prime example; that has achieved all demographic targets. On the contrary there was sudden rise in the number of cases of women's atrocities simultaneously. One should also take a notice that mothers and children not only constitute a large group, but they are also a “vulnerable” or special-risk group. Since the mother is also the first teacher of the child, it is for these reasons; the mother and child are treated as one unit for any developmental programmes associated to them.
These current efforts resulted with evidence of the epidemic levels of violence against women and rampant sex discrimination in the urban and rural areas of India. Numerous factors are involved in encouraging rape, trafficking of women into forced prostitution, custodial violence, abuse against women workers, domestic violence, and human rights violations related to reproduction and female sexuality. Whether it is war, violence or welfare, it is the woman who suffers most either as discrimination or as an element of enjoyment. The early widows never have any property right and right to work outside the family or the community. Some who dare are thrown out of the family, leaving them at the mercy of the Almighty or other human creature for ill rational behaviour. In the name of the religion the women are used as an element to produce next generation rather than a human being. They are forced for the domestic work leaving their education aside. Later economic dependency on the male counter part made them as a silent sufferer. Besides, the benefits of the growing global economy have been unevenly distributed leading to wider economic disparities, the feminization of poverty, increased gender inequality through often deteriorating working conditions and unsafe working environment especially in the informal economy and rural areas. The situation of women is same in almost every part of the country.
The Vardaan Foundation has taken initiative for improving the socio-economic conditions of the economic backward women living in below poverty line. Moreover today Self Help Groups (SHGs) of women in India have been recognized as an effective strategy for the empowerment of women in rural as well as urban areas: bring women to gather from all spheres of life to fight for their rights or a cause. Since the overall empowerment of women is crucially dependent on economic empowerment, women through these SHGs work on a range of issues such as health, nutrition, agriculture, forestry etc., also including income generation activities and seeking micro credit. In the area project, this would be initially done with income generating activities thereby providing work and wages to needy women living below the poverty line. Later these activities would be expanded through cooperative efforts as micro credit schemes for the needy women. The organization has outlined a series of priority actions cum research projects
- Investing in infrastructure to reduce women’s and girls’ time burdens
- Improving Reproductive Health of females especially adolescent CMW women
- Combating violence against girls and women
- Eliminate gender inequality in employment
- Provide opportunities for poor women and girls in the matter of education by strengthening post-primary schooling
- Ensure women and girls for property and inheritance rights for women and girls.
- Increasing the role and participation of women reservation in all government and semi government sectors
- Ensure justice for combating violence and other atrocities against girls and women