Womens Education And Empowerment In India Sociology Essay


Women constitute almost half of the population in the world. But the prevailing masculine ideology made them suffer a lot as they were denied equal opportunities in different parts of the world. The rise of feminist ideas have, however, led to the tremendous improvement of women’s condition through out the world in recent times. India being a developing nation and having huge tussles among its political, religious and administrative organs resulting into blocked development and the worst effect of that we can witness into women condition .They do not have proper chance to learn and grow and access to education has been one of the most pressing demands of women’s rights . Women education in India has also been a major preoccupation of both the government and civil society as educated women can play a very important role in the development of the country.

History of Women Education in India(4,6): Although in the Vedic period women had access to education in India but as the time grew they lost this right to avail education and academic exposure. However, in the British period there was revival of interest in women’s education in India due to Britisher’s strong influence to the core Indian education system. During this period, various socio religious movements led by eminent persons like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar emphasized on women’s education in India. Mahatma Jyotiba Phule, Periyar and Baba Saheb Ambedkar were leaders of the lower castes in India who took various initiatives to make education available to the women of India. They also ensured about their participation in the social gatherings and events by introducing them into polity and administration at all levels. However women’s education got a fillip after the country got independence in 1947 and the government has taken various measures to provide education to all Indian women. As a result women’s literacy rate has grown over the three decades and the growth of female literacy has in fact been higher than that of male literacy rate. While in 1971 only 22% of Indian women were literate, by the end of 2001 54.16% female were literate. The growth of female literacy rate is 14.87% as compared to 11.72 % of that of male literacy rate and is on growing path.

Government has taken a step forward by making education compulsory and free to girl child till the age of fourteen. They are getting reservations in public sector exams and private sectors like Banks, Transport Services, Hospitality and Tourism, Healthcare etc. (4. Freedom Struggle By- Bipin Chandra Pal)

Table – The Literacy Rate in India 1901-2011

Percentage   of     Literates    to   total    population

Year                                                         Persons                  Males           Females

1901                                                  5.3                           9.8                 0.7

1911                                                  5.9                         10.6                 1.1

1921                                                  7.2                         12.2                 1.8

1931                                                  9.5                         15.6                 2.9

1941                                                 16.1                         24.9                 7.3

1951                                                 16.7                         24.9                 7.3

1961                                                 24.0                         34.4               13.0

1971                                                 29.5                         39.5               18.7

1981                                                 36.2                         46.9               24.8

1991                                                 52.1                         63.9               39.2

2001                                                65.38                       76.0               54.0

2011(Recent data) 74.04 82.14 65.46

The above table shows that there is an improvement in women literacy in India during the years. But when we compare it with male literacy it becomes a concern area. (9. Censusindia.gov.in)

Importance of Women Education in India(7): Women education in India plays a very important role in the overall development of the country. It not only helps in the development of half of the human resources, but in improving the quality of life at home and outside. Educated women not only tend to promote education of their girl children, but also can provide better guidance to all their children. Moreover educated women can also help in the reduction of infant mortality rate and growth of the nation.

Education is a potent tool in the emancipation and empowerment of women. Its true that greatest single factor which can incredibly improve the status of women in any society is education. It is indispensable that education enables women not only to gain more knowledge about the world outside of her shell and home but helps her to get status, positive self esteem, and self confidence. It imparts necessary courage and inner strength to face challenges in life. Apparently it also facilitates them to procure a job and supplement the income of family and achieve social status. Education especially of women has a major impact on health and nutrition as an instrument of developing a sustainable strategy for population control. Moreover educated women can play an equally important role as men in nation building. Thus there is no denying fact that education empowers women. For example the different organs of the United Nations and experts on women’s liberation argue for women’s education as the basic step to attain equality with men. ( 7. Saraswathi Mishra, Status of Indian Women, Gyan Publishing House, New Delhi, 2002)

Obstacles : As we have discussed earlier to improve women education and condition in India various initiatives and corrective measures have been done but still a lot is expected to be accomplished.


Women education is a multi-dimensional phenomenon. No single factor or cause can be held responsible for very low literacy rate of women in India. Subsequently it is associated with combination of many factors including social, cultural, economic, educational, demographic, political and administrative and so on. The following are the some of the important factors which could be attributed for the present poor state of affairs of womenfolk in education.

The Lower Enrolment: The lower enrolment of girls in schools is one of the foundational factors which stand as stumbling block for women empowerment in India. Reliable sources indicate that more than 50 % of the Non-Starters (those who have never been to school) are girls.  According to the latest statistics, two out of every ten girls in the age group of 6-11 are still not enrolled in schools. (1)

Higher drop-out rate among girls from schools: The incidence and prevalence of drop -outs among girls especially in rural, tribal and slums areas seem to be quite high. According to available sources, occurrence of drop-out and stagnation amongst girls is nearly twice that of boys all over India. (1)

Girl Child as Second Mother: In many families girl children play the role of second mother by shouldering the responsibilities of household work such as looking after the sibling, fetching water, collecting firewood, bringing fodder for cattle, cleaning and cooking etc.  In rural India especially in poor families this traditional sex role makes girl child handicapped and conditioned by the attitude of mother and the family and discourages girl child to go school as it becomes secondary and unimportant. Hence girl child is getting deprived of her basic and fundamental right of education and freedom. (8)

Bonded Labor System: This social evil is a quite discouraging phenomena which stand as barrier for girl’s education in rural areas for the underprivileged families of washer men and agricultural labor , scheduled caste and scheduled tribes.

Caste System as a Barrier : Children belonging to low caste families are forced to learn skills and work ways and not encouraged to go to school due to various factors. Strict instruction /threat from high caste communities for their selfish motives of keeping them as domestic servants and child laborers in the farms or factory. We can witness this through the stories of various factories and farm houses in industrial cities of India. Media is also playing a crucial role here in promoting as well as resisting these mishaps. (8)

Bane of Dowry: Dowry system and other social practices act as main causes of the neglect of the girl child and discrimination against girl child including the deprivation of right of education. In many families especially poor and down-trodden think that if their daughters are educated more, they have to accumulate more assets and properties to provide as dowry in large proportion at the time of marriage, so prefer rather to either stop their children with average education and so on but never higher education. This prevails more in underprivileged families and communities. (1)

Child Labour Practice: A large segment of child population in India is engaged in child labour practices. According to UN sources  India is the most child labour populous nation in the globe with more than 50 million child labourers indulged in beedi works , carpet making , bricks,  mining , quarrying ,glass, bangles, match and fireworks, gem polishing ,handloom works. zari,  embroidery ,coir industry, domestic works, construction etc. In most of these industries girl children are preferred for high productivity and low cost. (8)

Poor School Environment for girls: In general the school environment for girls in India is not really interesting and encouraging. The subjects taught in schools are also not related to the environment of girl children. The methods of teaching are mostly out – dated, rigid and uninteresting. There are still hundreds of schools with poor basic amenities such as drinking water, latrine and toilet facilities, improper building, and inadequate number of teachers’ especially female teachers preferable for any parents for safety of their girl children from different types of exploitation and abuse. (7)

Female age at marriage: There is high association of female literacy with female age at marriage.  By and large the female age at marriage of 18  ( recently 21 years ) as prescribed by various legislations not at all followed in India .It is very much ignored and neglected by the families of parents with low literacy and illiteracy background. This obnoxious practice discourages female children to continue their schooling and higher education as they enter into family life at the early age which is not advisable from the physical and mental health point of view and also of social development. (7)

Inferiority, subservience and domesticity : The female child in Indian culture especially in rural, tribal and poor families is expected to develop the qualities of inferiority; subservience and domesticity which place sever limitations on her education and development. They are considered to be lesser important for getting knowledge of outside world and exposure to education and liberty. (6)

Poverty as a Barrier: In many poverty stricken families, children especially girls are considered as economic   assets as they bring income for livelihood as well to save from economic crises due to death or incapacity of parents (sick/ handicapped/aged).

Ineffective Law Enforcing Machinery: Indian constitution and various legislations pertaining to education to children assure free and compulsory education all children of this nation but unfortunately the enforcement machinery fail to discharge its duties and responsibilities to the satisfaction of the public interest and welfare of women. Due to this wrong implementation of right policies also women of our country is getting severely affected. (5)

Demographic Factors: The high population growth rate, rapid urbanisation, migration etc also attribute immensely for the poor literacy level of women and girls in India. In these frequent transition girl Childs and women are getting neglected, uncared and unheard. (5)

Poor Political Will and Conviction: Government officials, policy makers, politicians etc of our country have neither political will nor conviction for the empowerment of women in general. The only think about their personal benefits and money making ignoring the welfare of the community for whom and by whom they have reached to that position. It is a very sad and disappointing aspect of India’s democracy. (5)

Gender discrimination: It still persists in India .Male are still dominating and commanding the social structure of the nation and lot more needs to be done to improve women’s participation in this regard e.g. women’s education. The gap in the male-female literacy rate is just a simple indicator. While the male literary rate is more than 75% according to the 2001 census, the female literacy rate is just 54.16%.Prevailing prejudices, low enrollment of girl child in the schools, engagements of girl children in domestic works and high drop out rate are major obstacles in the path of making all Indian women educated. (6)

Poor Academia: Another reason for poor quality of women education here is the poor quality of teachers in government schools .Government schools are unable to attract good quality teachers due to inadequate teaching facilities and low salaries. The government currently spends only 3% of its GDP on education which is inadequate and insufficient. To improve the quality of education, the government needs to spend more money from its coffers on education. (4)

Steps to improve their Participation :

A – A significant development in recent years has been the mushrooming of community-based organizations and initiatives at the local level for women. Reports indicates that self-help programs, often in the form of savings and credit or micro credit schemes, have succeeded in changing the lives of poor women, enhancing incomes and generating positive externalities such as increased self-esteem.

“Micro credit is about much more than access to money. It is about women gaining control over the means to make a living. It is about women lifting themselves out of poverty and vulnerability. I is about women achieving economic and political empowerment within their homes, their villages, their countries.” (5)

In this whole paper we have discussed about women condition in India in terms of access to education, opportunity to learn and grow and problems in achieving the same and at last some of the measures to rectify the errors and making things happen.

B-One more initiative taken by the government is the voucher system. Under the voucher system, parents are allowed to choose a school for their children and they get full or partial reimbursement for the expenses from the government. But however, the voucher system has also a draw back because it will further aggravate the problem of poor quality of education in government schools. Such a system will shift resources from government schools to private schools. This will worsen the situation of government schools which are already under-funded. Moreover, if the same amount given as vouchers can be used to build infrastructure in schools then the government can realize economies of scale. (6)

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C -The government of India has also felt the need to put in place an appropriate institutional mechanism to look after the Education Rights of Women and thus instituted the formulation of All India Women’s Conference, National Women’s Commission and State Women’s Commission. At the same time government has approved special grants and allowances to NGO’s working for the cause of women upliftment and social mobility. Self Help Groups have also been constituted at Panchayat level to provide a platform for the rural women to discuss issues such as family planning, child marriage, widow remarriage, Sati, domestic violence. Mother Teresa’s Women University has greatly helped in the cause of women empowerment who received Noble Peace Prize for her genuine social work. (6)

D – India is getting a great help from World Bank for the betterment of women education and their empowerment in the country .It has approved funding for Andhra Pradesh Rural Poverty Reduction Programme (APRPRP) thus garnering international support for the upliftment of women. Women’s reservation Bill in the Lok Sabha has gained momentum with Govt. of India promising the reservation of one-third seats in Parliament for the women. (8)

E – One of the recommendations of National Policy on Education (1986) by the Government of India is to promote empowerment of women through the agency of education and it is considered to be a land mark in the approach to women’s education of illiterate. The National Literacy Mission is another positive step towards eradication of illiteracy in the age group of 15-35 years. Women’ education has assumed special significance in the context of India’s planned development, as it is incorporated in every Five-year plans as the major programme for the development of women. Universalization of elementary education, enrolment and retention of girls in the schools, promotion of balwadies and crutches, raising number of schools and colleges of arts , science, and professional for girls , Politechniques, girls hostels, multipurpose institutions and adult education programmes are some of the steps being  taken by both central and state governments in India to boost-up women’s education. (5)

F –  Since the prevailing situation of poor or less enrolment of girls in schools closes the doors for development and prosperity of future generation of women, concerted efforts must be initiated jointly by the government, parents and civil society to achieve universal enrolment for girls without any compromise. The enrolment can be made even mandatory for every girls by the government in the realm of compulsory education. (5)

G -The Ministry of Education both at Centre and State level should work out strategic steps to stop firmly the ongoing high drop -outs among girls especially in rural, tribal and slums areas with the serious involvement of voluntary organisations in every locality to realize zero drop-out among girls. (7)

H -The poverty stricken families can  be identified through proper research and necessary poverty alleviation  services be provided to strengthen the income  thereby to enable the families to send their children to schools and colleges without much financial difficulties

I -Bonded Child labour and Child labour  practice must be abolished with strict administrative measures and the relieved children form bondage  should be integratedinto schools with suitable defence social mechanism.

J – Appropriate steps should be taken by the educational authorities with the participation of communities in order to bring the girl children to the main stream of education and development at every level including family and community.

K -The female child in every Indian family irrespective of socio-economic status should be moulded to overcome the challenges of inferiority; subservience and domesticity which place sever limitations on her education and development. Every family irrespective its socio-cultural and economic background can take it a challenge to bring up their girl children as dignified human being with empowerment in physical , mental, economic and social dimensions of life. (7)

L – The Midday meal scheme and other educational supportive services like free text books,  Note books , Fee uniforms , Free Bicycles, Free bus , scholarships Free bus pass and so on  as done in the state of Tamil Nadu can be provided in all states and union territories to lift up the literacy level among girls. (6)

M – As social evils like dowry, child marriage , caste system and other practices deprive rights of education for children belonging to poor and underprivileged families and communities, they should eliminated through well-designed packages of mass awareness programmes and social welfare measures with full support of  public, political parties, NGOs and government agencies. (7)

N – The electronic and print media can play significant role in building a good and positive image about girls and women in general in the society by giving no focus for such advertisements and news fetching commercial gain at the cost of depicting women as an object. This would help in changing the society ‘s attitudes towards girls and their roles to treat every girl or woman as human being with self respect and dignity. (7)

O – Government, voluntary sector and philanthropic organisations and individuals should come forward to provide free education for poor girls and provide free  hostel facilities  for girls studying in schools and colleges in every state of India. This will certainly encourage children of poor families to pursue good and higher education without much impediments. (6)

P – The schools of social work, departments of women studies, Women Universities and other educational institutions in hand with  NGOs  and social service organisations such as Rotary Clubs , Lions Clubs , women lib organisations associations can work together to improve the educational status of the womenfolk in this country on mutual respect and understanding. (7)

Q – The parents of children belonging to poor, underprivileged families  must be specially educated with proper social formula to help them  to understand the significance of education  for their girl children as foundation for empowerment. (1)

R – Government, NGOs and public should work hand in hand to implement the minimum age at marriage (21and above) Awareness should be created to institutionalise it as a traditional practice cut acrossing castes, religions, community etc. (5)

S – Government officials, policy makers, political parties and others should have adequate political will and conviction to empower women in India without double standard mind

T – The law enforcing machinery should be made really effective with efficient monitoring vigilant system to implement the constitutional and legislative provisions and administrative measures to assure free and compulsory education for all children of this nation without any gender discrimination. (7)

Its true that there is great deal of requirement to uplift women education in India at the grass root level because majority of the female population live in the rural areas .They do not avail the basic things in their life and to get education is still a distant dream for them. However Indian government is coming up with various scheme in their five year plan to make the situation healthy and encouraging for these women. In 1990s, grants from foreign donor agencies enabled the formation of new women-oriented NGOs(3). Self-help groups and NGOs such as Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) have played a major role in women’s rights in India. Many women have emerged as leaders of local movements. For example, Medha Patkar of the Narmada Bachao Andolan.

Companies like NIIT Ltd. (2) has come up with the project called Affirmative Action where they are taking girls from the down trodden areas and training them about English language, basic computer knowledge and after that helping them to get jobs in Retail, BPO ,Hospitality sectors. In this way the are educating them and by providing jobs women are getting empowered in taking decision, participating in family income and by helping their kids to make the future bright and opportunity oriented. (2 , 3)

There is no doubt about the fact that development of women has always been the central focus of planning since Independence. Empowerment is a major step in this direction but it has to be seen in a relational context. A clear vision is needed to remove the obstacles to the path of women’s emancipation both from the government and women themselves. Efforts should be directed towards all round development of each and every section of Indian women by giving them their due share.

The status of women in India has been subject to many great changes over the past few millennia. From equal status with men in ancient times through the bad phases of the medieval period, to the promotion of equal rights by many reformers, the history of women in India has been on better track. In modern India, women have acquired high offices in India including that of the President, Prime minister, Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Leader of Opposition, etc. The current President of India is a woman. (5)

A review of government’s various programmes for women empowerment such as Swashakti, Swayamsidha, Streeshakti, Balika samrudhi yojana and another two thousand projects reveal that little has been done or achieved through these programmes. The discrepancy in the ideology and practice of the empowerment policy of women in India constitutes its continued social, economic and social backwardness. Women make up 52% of our country’s population. Hence there can be no progress unless their needs and interests are fully met. Empowerment would not hold any meaning unless they are made strong, alert and aware of their equal status in the society. Policies should be framed to bring them into the mainstream of society. It is important to educate the women. The need of the hour is to improve female literacy as education holds the key to development. (2 , 3)

There is no doubt about the fact that development of women has always been the central focus of planning since Independence. Empowerment is a major step in this direction but it has to be seen in a relational context. A clear vision is needed to remove the obstacles to the path of women’s emancipation both from the government and women themselves. Efforts should be directed towards all round development of each and every section of Indian women by giving them their due share.

I believe with the likes of Pratibha Patil, Sonia Gandhi, Indra Nooyi, Chanda Kochar etc. bagging the top jobs, it would not be long when India would be boosting of its Gender Equality Index (GEI) and Gender Development Index (GDI).Lesser will be the social stigma of women exploitation which have haunted it for many years gone by.


Empowerment can be defined as the totality of the following or similar capabilities:

Having decision-making power of their own

Having access to information and resources for taking proper decision

Having a range of options from which you can make choices (not just yes/no, either/or.)

Ability to exercise assertiveness collective decision making

Having positive thinking on the ability to make change

Ability to learn skills for improving one’s personal or group power.

Ability to change others’ perceptions by democratic means.

Involving in the growth process and changes that is never ending and self-initiated

Increasing one’s positive self-image and overcoming stigma

Conclusion: From these discussions we can say that the most common explanation of ‘women’s empowerment’ is the ability to exercise full control over one’s actions. The last decades have witnessed some basic changes in the status and role of women in our society. There has been shift in policy approaches from the concept of ‘welfare’ in the seventies to ‘development’ in the eighties and now to ‘growth’ in the nineties and now trumpet of ’empowerment’. This process has been further accelerated with some sections of women becoming increasingly self-conscious of their discrimination in several areas of family and public life. They are also in a position to mobilize themselves on issues that can affect their overall position.




Approximately 250 words