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RURAL EMPOWERMENT & WOMEN EMPOWERMENT IN INDIA

 

Dr. R. Karuppasamy M.Com., MBA. M.Phil., Ph.D

Director, SNS College of Technology, Coimbatore, India.

 

and

 

C. Arul Venkadesh  MBA, PGDPM, (Ph.D)

Assistant Professor, Coimbatore Institute of Engineering and Technology, Coimbatore, India.

 

Abstract

 

“You can tell the condition of a nation by looking at the status of its women”

           

-          Jawaharlal Nehru.

 

The emergence of women entrepreneurs and their contribution to the national economy is quite visible in India. The number of women entrepreneurs has grown over a period of  time, especially in the 1990s. Women entrepreneurs need to be lauded for their increased utilization of modern technology, increased investments, finding a niche in the export market, creating a sizable employment for others and setting the trend for other women entrepreneurs in the organized sector. While women  entrepreneurs have demonstrated  their potential, the fact remains that they are capable of contributing much more than  what they already are. Women’s entrepreneurship needs to be studied separately for two  main reasons. The first reason is that women’s entrepreneurship has been recognized during the last decade as an important untapped source of economic growth. Women entrepreneurs create new jobs for themselves and others and also by being different. They also provide the society with different solutions to management, organisation and business problems as well as to the exploitation of entrepreneurial opportunities. The second reason is that the topic of women in entrepreneurship has been largely neglected both in society in general and in the social sciences.

 

The challenge faced by over 60% of children in India is not access to education, but access to quality education. We need to supplement the poorly funded government schools with resource that will improve the quality of education and help the students compete with children from urban centres. Rural Empowerment Program (REP) was initiated as a pilot to bring together various organizations that work in the area of education to come and work in one village. This will give them an opportunity to work with each other and learn from each others 'best practices'. The final goal is to take their best practices and build one new model that will be effective, cost efficient and sustainable thorough government, private, non profit and public participation. This also allows us to avoid duplication done by multiple NGO's in the area of education. The first village that has been picked is Jambumadai in Trichy dist, TN.

 

Introduction

 

SEPT. 11 has left an indelible mark in human memory like no other event preceding it. The world is rife with happenings of lesser magnitude. A quick look at news headlines takes us to several hotspots around the world. Be it Middle East, Eastern Europe, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa or Latin America. Killings, suicide bombings, rivalry, fanaticism, hatred et al the world over tempts us to think afresh at the root causes of such a scenario. The commonly perceived plank of religion is ruled out as the real cause since no religion professes killing fellow human beings. All religions teach peaceful coexistence, respect for human dignity, kind-heartedness and higher plateau of spiritual living. A meditated deeper thinking leads one to conclude that the two main culprits for the malaise are poverty and illiteracy. And poverty and illiteracy are bound in a vicious circle so strongly that efforts so far to break it have produced little results.

 

Let us look at some facts and figures on poverty and illiteracy. More than 1.2 billion of the world’s 6 billion people still live on less than $1 a day, the vast majority of them in Africa and Asia. More than a billion do not have access to clean drinking water, and 3.4 million die each year of diseases brought on by bad water and poor sanitation. About 850 million people are illiterate, two-thirds of them women, and 2 billion people have no access to electricity. Millions of kids never attend school.

 

 “In some respects, conditions are worse than they were 10 years ago,” UN Secretary General Kofi Annan noted in a report released earlier this year.

 

Poverty

 

Poverty is a worldwide phenomenon and no talk of economic development of a country or region would be sensible without devising effective ways to alleviate poverty at the lowest levels. And providing food, medicines and other necessities to poor families does have its importance but is not the effective way to banish poverty. The most effective way is the one in which the individual is taught the skills and given assistance to enable him to stand on his own two feet.

 

A very effective way has been modeled by Dr. Md. Yunus in micro financing of poorest of poor in Bangladesh and has proved to be very successful. A concerted effort on these lines the world over is of paramount importance to defeat the demon of poverty.

 

Illiteracy

 

Illiteracy in some ways is more illusive than it seems. Teaching of three R’s does not cover the purview of a sound education. If a graduate degree holder is a suicide bomber, he is not educated properly. Proper education entails basic education bolstered with moral, ethical and human values. "Achieving truly sustainable development means creating a world that is fit for children", UNICEF's Executive Director Carol Bellamy said in her address at a plenary session of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, recently concluded in Johannesburg. "Something as simple as providing safe water and clean toilets in schools will not just help protect children from deadly diseases - it will keep millions of them, especially girls, going to school. And, making sure children get a quality basic education can help a single generation make a huge leap," she said. Thus it becomes clear that to break the vicious circle of illiteracy and poverty, a two-pronged sustained attack must be mounted. Although the process is going to take time but the results are going to be far reaching.

 

Imitative

 

The population of school going children is ever increasing. The government setup has failed miserably to keep pace with the demand. Private schools have started everywhere to satisfy needs of parents looking to admit their children into good schools. It is commonly observed phenomenon that a private school next door to a government school has its rolls bulging in spite of higher fees and expenses. The teachers of government schools hate this scenario for obvious reasons, of course, and have coined the term “teaching shops” to describe private schools. Many private schools have been started by NGOs on a non-profit basis where the expenses are met primarily with fees and other charges and some donations. But most private schools started by individuals are for-profit. Some of the private schools have excellent academic standards, which justify their hefty fee structures. Others do make a living out of them. And there is nothing wrong with this scenario. At least children in these schools do get some education. The cost versus need equation is balanced by the parents seeking to enhance their child’s future.

 

The spate of private college openings is not evident to that extent. In States where the rules and regulations governing private college education are relatively conducive, several NGO initiated institutions in medicine, engineering and information technology have started. A recent development is opening of coaching centers in all metropolitan cities and smaller towns. These centers thoroughly coach high school students seeking admission to professional institutes like medical, engineering, MBA, CA etc. Some of them have attained high popularity by producing great results

 

An alternative to college and university education has lately developed as Open Universities. Distance education is imparted on prescribed curricula and students study on their own to appear in their examinations at specific centers. This is cost effective way to earn a degree and students enroll while pursuing their vocation. The element of classroom coaching is missing and the real knowledge gain is less than desirable.

 

Entrepreneurship Development of Rural Women Through Self Help Groups

 

Women comprise half of human resources they have been identified as key agents of

sustainable development and women’s equality is as central to a more hoslistic approach towards estabilizing new patterns and process of development that are sustainable. [Birendra Kumar Jha, 2009]. The contribution of women and their role in the family as  well as in the economic development and social transformation are pivotal. Women constitute 90 per cent of total marginal workers of the country.

 

Rural women who are engaged in agriculture form 78 per cent of all women in regular work [Harendar Kumar, 2009]. Experience of NIRD action research projects reveal that, the operational aspects, such as the extent of enabling that goes into the community self help processes and sharpening the mind set of women. Men and the project administrators are low or critical components that determine their extent to which empowerment may or may not take place. The role of micro-credit is to, improve the socio and economic development of women and improve the status of women in households and communities. The micro entrepreneurships are strengthening the women empowerment and remove the gender inequalities. Self Help Group’s micro credit mechanism makes the members to involve in other community development activities.  Now-a-days economic development is one of the factors that have changed the entire scenario of social and cultural environment within the country especially for the women. The rural women are engaged in small-scale entrepreneurship programme with the help of Self Help Groups. Through that they were economically empowered and attaining status in family and community Rural women play a vital role in farm and home system. She contributes substantially in the physical aspect of farming, livestock management, post harvest and allied activities. Her direct and indirect contribution at the farm and home level along with livestock management operation has not only help to save their assets but also led to increase the family income. She performs various farm, livestock, post harvest and allied activities and possesses skills and indigenous knowledge in these areas.

 

SHG is group of rural poor who have volunteered to organise themselves into a group for eradication of poverty of the members. They agree to save regularly and convert their savings into a Common Fund known as the Group corpus. The members of the group agree to use this common fund and such other funds that they may receive as a group through a common management. The group formation will keep in view the following broad guidelines.

 

Generally a self-help group may consist of 10 to 20 persons. However, in difficult areas like deserts, hills and areas with scattered and sparse population and in case of minor irrigation and disabled persons, this number may be from 5-20. The women were empowering themselves technically to cope with the changing times and productively using their free time and existing skills for setting and sustaining enterprises. They were engaged in starting individual or collective income generation Programme with the help of self-help group. This will not only generate income for them but also improve the decision-making capabilities that led to overall empowerment.

 

Conclusion

 

Women’s entrepreneurship is both about women’s position in society and about the role of entrepreneurship in the same society. Women entrepreneurs faced many obstacles specifically in market their product (including family responsibilities) that have to be overcome in order to give them access to the same opportunities as men. In addition, in some countries, women may experience obstacles with respect to holding property and entering contracts. Increased participation of women in the labour force is a prerequisite for improving the position of women in society and  self-employed women. Particularly the entry of rural women in micro enterprises will be encouraged and aggravated.  The rural women are having basic indigenous knowledge, skill, potential and resources to establish and manage enterprise. More over Formation and strengthening of rural women Entrepreneurs network  must be encouraged. Women entrepreneur networks are major sources of knowledge about women’s entrepreneurship and they are increasingly recognized as a valuable  tool for its development and promotion for the nation.

 

References

 

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§         Wilkinson, A. 1998. Empowerment: theory and practice. Personnel Review. [online]. Vol. 27, No. 1, 40-56. Accessed February 16, 2004.

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§         Jayapalan (2001). Indian society and social institutions. Atlantic Publishers & Distri.. p. 145. ISBN 9788171569250.