Women and Social Change – Odisha Update

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Akhil Kumar Mishra

“Women are all we know of heaven on this earth” -Albert Camus

Introduction:

The words above come from one of the greatest literary philosophers and existentialists of our time on how society should view women. Imagine a world of gender equality – a world free of stereotypes, prejudice and gender inequality where difference is respected and accepted. Achieving the generational goal of having equal freedom for women and providing them with a just life is not a new vision. But it is still an ambitious goal because in every corner of the world so far, voices are being raised for gender equality. Studies show that 70% of the 1.3 billion people living in conditions of poverty are women. In urban areas, 40% of the poorest households are headed by women. Women predominate in global food production (50-80%), but they own less than 10% of the land. 80% of people displaced by disasters and climate change worldwide are women and girls.

Recent changes:

The recent pandemic has opened many questions about the status of gender in our societies. During the pandemic, distress calls to citizen/women-centric helplines have repeatedly increased. Additionally, reports of domestic violence have been pouring in. The effects of the pandemic have been reflected in reduced employment in traditional sectors for women. This period was also marked by a general feeling of hopelessness and hopelessness among women due to the breakdown of institutional arrangements. Not only the pandemic, but climate change is also leading to an increase in gender-based violence, an increase in child marriages and a deterioration in sexual and reproductive health. Women as citizens need to make extra efforts to secure the rights guaranteed by different constitutions around the world. Structural and social differences based on age, ethnicity, race, religion, country, topography and legal system affect women more. The recent conflict between Russia and Ukraine over the question of NATO enlargement is an example of this. In the end, it is women who suffer in a war because their homes, family members and their own lives are in danger. .

Women’s Week Celebrations:

International Women’s Day falls on March 8.and. The related week is called ‘women’s week’ to allow gender justice champions to focus in depth on different aspects of gender justice. It is a week of celebrations, education and awareness around women and gender issues. There are five main objectives of this annual event.

* Build relationships and friendships

* Self-knowledge about intra-gender issues

*Debates on sexual assault and interpersonal violence

* Healthy self-image

*Leadership development

The week is an opportunity for men and women to reaffirm their commitments to gender-related causes by donating time, skills, becoming gender advocates and speaking out on behalf of women. International Women’s Day is a powerful movement recognized by the United Nations and also accepted by the governments of countries. Organizations, people and government bodies are making tremendous efforts on this day to develop dialogues, generate social resources and call on humanity to envision a better world of cooperation and coexistence.

Women & Change:

The evolution of social, normative, physical and other climates affects everyone and even more so the women who constitute half of humanity. Some of the world’s poorest women and girls and those in vulnerable situations suffer the negative effects of environmental, economic and social shocks. But surprisingly, the same women and girls are also early adopters of new farming techniques, first responders to disasters, and important decision makers at home when it comes to energy and waste.

Women are the drivers of solutions to the existential crisis. When empowered, women have demonstrated community-driven solutions and improved quality of life. Women are multitaskers, better negotiators in life, and understand the chaos of life situations. Accordingly, they develop, where appropriate, demonstrative plans to achieve sustainability of family and human growth. They are not only catalysts for change, they also have the ability to prevent bad changes.

A changing world

If we want to move towards better changes in life, we must make changes in the way we have understood women in terms of capacity and potential. The Earth does not differentiate between men and women. It is a social construction of a fractured reality that deprives women of their rightful place in society. Many problems such as poverty, war, disparity, climatic harshness and the rich-poor divide, etc. can be attributed to the unequal treatment of women in terms of ignoring their wisdom and experience. Because when men make decisions without making women partners, they rob humanity of collective knowledge and collaborative efforts. Governments around the world and in India have done a tremendous job in ensuring gender equality. In our country, examples of women’s empowerment have been reflected in the Panchayati Raj system, large-scale educational and employment opportunities, women’s watchdog bodies, an emphatic legal and parliamentary system, women, independent ministries, commissions. The availability of dialogue and redress mechanisms has proven to be vital for the empowerment of women. Therefore, it is essential to keep in mind that we must strive to achieve the following six action points to change human life and create a better world in which to live.

1- Provision of economic justice and citizenship rights to women of all age groups.

2-Stop gender-based violence, both domestic and public.

3-Absolute Freedom in Sexual and Reproductive Health

4-Organizational actions on social and climate justice

5-Access and encouragement to technology and science

6-Consider women as natural leaders

A practical aspect of gender justice recognizes women as peacemakers, frontline humanitarian workers and defenders of human dignity. When women are included in a project or event, it becomes inclusive, participatory and ownership-driven.

*Every time a woman defends herself, without knowing it, without claiming it, she defends all WOMEN.”

———Maya Angelou

(The writer is a bilingual poet and belongs to the Indian Information Service. He is the Additional Director General, Regional Outreach Bureau, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Bhubaneswar, Odisha.)

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