When it comes to empowering women, India has progressively done a lot to bring in gender parity. After opening up of the Indian economy almost three decades ago and the establishment of several corporates in India, it has given numerous opportunities to the women. In this article, we will try to understand how CSR activities can foster the process of women empowerment in India.
India possesses almost one-fifth of the total population of the world. Unfortunately, India continues to be one of the most patriarchal societies in the world. Although the situation has improved considerably in the past two decades, a lot needs to be done. As per the latest Corporate Gender Gap report, India, in contrast to some of the countries in the west remains one with the lowest percentage of women employees.
Percentage of women employees: India (23 per cent), the US (52 per cent), Canada (46 per cent), Finland (44 per cent)
The lower percentage of women indicates that there is an urgent need of women empowerment in India with a holistic approach in areas of social, political, economic and health. For a better tomorrow, equal participation of women and men with the sense of shared responsibilities. Many people believe that https://crossbarriers.org/women-empowerment-in-india-and-csr-as-a-catalyst/the change must come from the top –the state, in contrast, it has been observed that real and sustainable change most of the time have come from the bottom –from us.
For a better and brighter tomorrow equal and full participation of both men and women are required. Sense of shared responsibility for both productive and reproductive life is what it is required in not only for the maintenance of the household but society at large. Hence empowering women is essential for discrimination and prejudice free as well as spiritually and materialistically flourishing society.
While there are several NGO’s and self-help groups that are working in the direction of women empowerment and are bringing real change, social corporate responsibility (CSR) activities have also turned out to be very productive for the social welfare including areas relating to the upliftment of women. Recently, the Indian Parliament made CSR as statuary compliance on the part of the corporates. Before we move on to how CSR can bring real change, we must understand in details what women empowerment mean in the context of India?
The founding fathers of modern India were very much concerned about bringing in the principles of gender equality. The constituent assembly debates (CAD) that resulted in the formation of the Constitution of India, witnessed deep discussions on issues such as the idea of the egalitarian society and women empowerment. These principles are enshrined under various parts of the document including the Preamble, Fundamental Rights, Directive Principles and lately added Fundamental Duties.
Real change occurs from the bottom up; it occurs from person to person, and it almost always occurs in small groups and locales and then bubbles up and aggregates to larger vectors of change. –Paul Hawken
From our founding fathers till the present regime, the state has done considerable work in the direction of women empowerment in India through different statues and policies. Now it is a time when we as a society must come together and work collectively in the direction of empowering women. Today, corporates are one of the biggest ‘social groups’ that has required resources that can be instrumental in bringing up core change.
Due to the social structures in India, women have been deprived of most of the basic amenities such as education and healthcare. The way towards holistic empowerment of Indian women goes through education. Education will make women question the status quo, as educated women have been challenging around the world. Education will empower women to choose what is better for their well-being and the overall society. It will boost their self-esteem, will help them in getting aware of their rights and duties, which will eventually help them in asserting their rights in society.
Education leads to financial stability through means of a job or a business, which ensures a constant source of revenue. It has been observed that financially stable women are more confident and hence have a better decision making capability –hence making them empowered. Education and financial stability are two important factors that measure that enables women to stand firm on their feet.
Following dissemination of basic education amongst the women, principles outlined by the United Nations for women empowerment can be followed up. The UN came up with nine principles on which we as a society –the government along with the corporates, NGOs and SHGs can collectively work upon. These principles are as follows:
To bring change in society –one must begin with itself. First and foremost step that the governments and corporates across India must ensure is the creation of a non-discriminatory and gender-neutral work environment. Other than the Central and state governments and institutions, India Inc. is the second-largest sector that has the potential to bring concrete change. Through their CSR activities, corporates have registered their willingness and potential for the overall development of the community.
The World Business Council for Sustainable Development has described CSR as the ‘business contribution to sustainable economic development’. In India, corporate social responsibility has been based on legal compliance and are usually committed to activities pertaining to women empowerment, sustainable development, environment conservation, health, safety and education amongst others. In more recent times, we have seen a number of corporates engaging themselves in social awareness drive on the above-mentioned issues.
When it comes to women empowerment in India, there have been several examples where CSR activities have brought serious changes in the society. For instance, Project Shakti by Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) launched with the aim of financially empowering rural women and to create livelihood opportunities has proved to be a virtue for thousands of women living in the villages. Under the project, the company trains Shakti Ammas –women entrepreneurs are familiarised with HUL’s products along with the dissemination of basic knowledge of distribution management.
Another CSR project by Subhash Chandra led Zee Entertainment in collaboration with Subhash Chandra Foundation – Program Sarthi. The project works on different verticals such as women empowerment, social justices, alternative livelihood, health and education by raising social awareness on the rights and duties amongst the people. When it comes to women empowerment, Program Sarthi has been successful in preventing female foeticide and child marriage in several areas. Interestingly the initiative by the group in the sector of social justice especially raising awareness about domestic violence has fetched fruitful results.
Sakhi Project by Hindustan Zinc Ltd. active in Udaipur, Rajasthan is ensuring that women must be the torchbearers of change for the community. With the idea of promoting women empowerment, Sakhi has aimed to set up more than 2,000 SHGs across 174 villages in the region in the coming five years. At present, it has able to create over 500 SHGs in association with more than 6,600 women. Another project by Sterlite Technologies Limited –Jeewan Jyoti Women Empowerment Programme is working in the direction of employing vocational skills such as nursing, tailoring, beauty culture and computers to the rural women. The project has helped thousands of women in the Pune region successfully.
We are living in the 21st century and still, we can witness deep-rooted gender inequalities in societies across the world. These gender inequalities have resulted in lack of access to work and occupation, education and health to women. Consequently, women are underrepresented in almost every sphere including political and economic decision making. Very often, gender inequalities even take the shape of extreme situations where women become victims of violence and discrimination.
Today, it is the right time to eliminate all the inequalities and discrimination against women. It can only be done through the process of women empowerment. Empowering the women is a way to unleash the true spirit of shared responsibility where women and men can live in the society as partners in the complete absence of prejudice, bias and discrimination. This would help in fostering the process of achieving the future we want.
In India, CSR can prove to be a catalyst in the process of holistic empowering of Indian women. At present, the Indian economy is growing with a rapid stage and the private sector is flourishing. Hence, corporates have an important role play in the area of women empowerment in India.