As we debate the importance of the legislative and administrative initiatives to empower women, it is important to bear in mind that it is a necessary but by no means a sufficient condition for women’s empowerment.
The Constitution of India encapsulates the principles of equity, equality, equal rights and equal opportunities. Women in India got voting rights along with men, a remarkable achievement for a country that got its independence in 1947 when women in many European nations, with their economic prosperity did not enjoy similar rights. However, as experience suggest, neither the constitutional framework nor the periodic use of the ballot could significantly change the condition of women who continued to experience gender based discriminations cutting across social classes.
A focus on women's movements at the grass roots levels could be the most vocal champions of women's empowerment. At the grass roots, there were 1.2 million elected women representatives in local bodies in villages and towns, a representation of about 36 per cent. Despite barriers and challenges, grass root women are emerging from the shadows of the men and increasingly becoming a force to reckon with. Women organized through Self Help Groups (SHGs) have also found the ground beneath their feet and are increasingly taking up social responsibilities. They constitute important partners and catalysts in development and social change. It is in working with these and through women that social change occurs, affirmative action will support this in providing the framework for this work.
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