Women Empowerment and CSR

Women Empowerment and CSR

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Vikas Kumar

 

Women empowerment is relatively associated with the meaning of “Power”. The “Power” enables the women to define themselves. The Indian society still looks towards the society to grant them power or empower them in various ways. Women empowerment is to empower women in various ways to sustain herself in different fields like finance, social, culture, law, Industry and politics.

            Over the past decade, gender equality and women's empowerment have been explicitly recognized as key not only to the health of nations, but also to social and economic development.

            Today women are making their presence felt in every field. Making general statements on the correlation of the impacts of social development and the situation of woman is very difficult because the political, economic and cultural framework differ greatly from one country to another. However, discrimination against woman manifests in itself in most traditional as well as modern societies.

            As CSR deals with corporate's responsibility towards society, talking about women workforce become equally important. Corporate world now recognises women in every possible area in which it functions. Society's development without development of women is unimaginable.

Legal aspects and historical cases related to women issues in India:

Women in India now participate in all activities such as education, sports, politics, media, art and culture, service sectors, science and technology, etc. Indira Gandhi, who served as Prime Minister of India for an aggregate period of fifteen years was the world's longest serving woman Prime Minister

            The Constitution of India guarantees to all equality (Article 14), no discrimination by the State (Article 15(1)), equality of opportunity (Article 16), equal pay for equal work (Article 39(d)). In addition, it allows special provisions to be made by the State in favour of women and children (Article 15(3)), renounces practices derogatory to the dignity of women (Article 51(A) (e)), and also allows for provisions to be made by the State for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief. (Article 42).

            The feminist activism in India picked up momentum during late 70s. One of the first national level issues that brought the women's groups together was the Mathura rape case. Female activists united over issues such as female infanticide, gender bias, women health, and female literacy.

            Since alcoholism is often associated with violence against women in India, many women groups launched anti-liquor campaigns in Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and other states.

            The Government of India declared 2001 as the Year of Women's Empowerment (Swashakti) and to mark the occasion, National Policy for the Empowerment of Women was announced.

            Though we talk enough about development and growing opportunities provided to woman but in reality, it shows different picture.

            The male-female work force participation gap is much more wide in urban areas in comparison with rural areas.

            Over the years, the male-female work force participation ratio is increased systematically for rural areas up to 1998 and then decreased in 2002, whereas for urban areas, the male-female gap remains more or less stable around 3.4 up to 1993-94 and is increased to 4.46 in 1998 and is decreased to 3.81 in 2002. However, it does not include women who are involved in their daily household work

Female workforce

National v/s International level:

India has the lowest percentage of women employees (23%), followed by Japan (24%), Turkey (26%) and Austria (29%), according to the Corporate Gender Gap report brought out by the World Economic Forum.

            The United States of America (52%), Spain (48%), Canada [(46%) and Finland (44%) display the highest percentage of total women employees, said the WEF survey.

            At the industry level, the findings of the survey confirm that the services sector employs the greatest percentage of women employees. Within this sector, the financial services and insurance (60%), professional services (56%) and media and entertainment (42%) industries employ the greatest percentage of women. The sectors that display the lowest percentage of women in the 20 economies are automotive (18%), mining (18%) and agriculture (21%).

Future of CSR it can make India:

1)         India has one fifth of the world's total population and this vast human resource can assist the country in achieving the goal of being the fastest growing economy of the world.

2)         India has got a head start in the field of IT and has the largest manpower and has the largest manpower trained in the field of IT in the world. The varied agro-climatic zones in India are unmatched by any other country in the world and the country can grow almost everything under the sun.

4)         India began to experience the average growth rate of over 6% only after the onset of the process of reforms.

Remarkable CSR campaigns of companies for women empowerment:

HUL's SHAKTI: SHAKTI means 'Strength'. Project SHAKTI is HUL's initiative to upliftment of standard of living in rural India by creating income-generating capabilities for under-privileged rural women by providing a small-scale enterprise opportunity, and to improving rural lives through health and Hygiene awareness. Project SHAKTI is taken up in rural areas only whereby women are the Distributors for HUL products and are called “Shakti Ammas”. This identity is ushering prosperity in their lives and most importantly self-respect.

Project DRISHTI: Where Whisper helped to restore eyesight to 250 blind girls through corneal transplant operations in which P&G contributed Re 1 for every pack of whisper sold Project open minds to support and educate children across the Australia, ASEAN and the India (AAI) region. For every large size pack of Vicks Vaporub, Whisper, Ariel Power Compact, Head & Shoulders and Pantene purchased by consumers during November 1999 to January 2000.

Avon: Avon Cosmetics' commitment to women runs deeper than the boundaries of business. Women are the heart of Avon's success and Avon continues to support and understand their needs through Avon's Breast Cancer Crusade. The goal of the Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Crusade is to improve access to quality breast health care for under-served, uninsured and low income populations, and to support biomedical research focused on prevention and improved methods of Diagnosis and treatment to Cure and prevent breast cancer.

            There is a need of such valuable Corporate Social Responsibility campaigns from prominent companies which can surely change fate and face of women in Indian society in the significant areas of education, health, sports, cultural, political, employment and neglected as well as untouched areas of women empowerment which will boost them to live independent and dignified life which they deserve as they are vital and inseparable part of society. Development of corporate and society is unattainable without an active support of women, government, media and NGOs.

            The role of corporate, government, NGOs and media is to bring about the advancement, development and empowerment of women. They should play crucial role so as to encourage active participation of women in all walks of life in order to achieve individual, organisational and societal goals.

            (i)         Creating an environment through positive economic and social policies for full development of women in order to enable them to realize their full potential

            (ii)        The de-jure and de-facto enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedom by women on equal basis with men in all spheres – political, economic, social, cultural and civil

            (iii)       Equal access to participation and decision making of women in social, political and economic life of the nation

            (iv)       Equal access to women to health care, quality education at all levels, career and vocational guidance, employment, equal remuneration, occupational health and safety, social security and public office etc.

            (v)        Strengthening legal systems aimed at elimination of all forms of discrimination against women

            (vi)       Changing societal attitudes and community practices by active participation and involvement of both men and women.

            (vii)      Mainstreaming a gender perspective in the development process

            (viii)     Elimination of discrimination and all forms of violence against women and the girl child

            (ix)       Building and strengthening partnerships with civil society, particularly women's organizations. Media should expose performances, contribu-tions and achievements of women in an idealistic way.

Corporate, personal and social issues related to women:

The following are the barriers to women that are different than for men. Despite the fact that the numbers of women in the workforce have increased rapidly, still they experience number of problems:

            1)         Working women with children have difficulties finding adequate child care in their area. Time off and absenteeism is big issues for working mothers.

            2)         Gaining co-worker acceptance of women in non-traditional roles is a serious problem. Many of our executives are uncertain how to manage women.

            3)         We have more women managers, but few women officers, and none on the board of directors. The glass ceiling is a reality

            4)         Women executives still face the problem of less delegation of authority that is why they play passive role in decision making process which effect in demoralisation of women

            5)         Women at work place face worst problem of sexual harassment after being sincere and talented they pay price to remain in job.

            6)         to strike proper balance between personal and professional life they have to work harder which sometimes result into giving up their bright careers for family cause.

            7)         Even though women are highly qualified and competent but they still have to depend on the family decision to take up any career before marriage as well as after marriage.

            8)         India being on the path of development still struggles with the social issues relating to women such as female infanticide, illiteracy, dowry, child marriages, inequality of gender, child labour, In equal property rights, prostitution, trafficking and other serious problems.

Suggestions:

            1)         Corporate social responsibility is more than a topic to discuss about it is changing fate and face of society but it should be adopted by all the business houses voluntarily

            2)         Country like India should specially advocate for corporate social responsibility as it can be possible remedies for many issues like illiteracy, poverty, child labour, unemployment and rural development.

            3)         Women related issues need important attention from government, society and especially from corporate sector.

            4)         Corporate can provide finance to overcome some unsolved issues if properly utilised

            5)         India is developing in all possible areas but there are certain areas where development is almost stagnant gender discrimination is one of them

            6)         Corporate can definitely empower women right from encouraging them to get education till getting respectable livelihood to become productive citizens.

            7)         Women related issues at work like sexual harassment though comes under legal framework but it can be stopped by corporate if internal control within organisation gives due importance to women related rules.

            8)         World celebrates women's day on 8th March but it should not be a day's celebration as women form the foundation of stronger social development. Women empowerment should be core issue for the entire world, after all behind every successful man there is sacrifice of woman.

            9)         Corporate should undertake more number of campaigns like DRISHTI and SHAKTI for women empowerment.

Conclusion:

Women since ages have silently witnessed the significant changes in society whether its country's freedom, agricultural development, modernisation, liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation but one thing which has not changed satisfactorily is gender inequality in Indian society. From Vedic period till now, society looks for sacrifices from women not men. They have to strike balance between social, personal and professional lives.

            Corporate social responsibility towards women empowerment can become ray of hope in many ways right from changing attitude towards women in the society to making women independent financially, physically and socially. The motive behind joining CSR with women empowerment is to provide solutions to women related issues. Every project needs finance from society which can be amply supplied by big business houses but society should also become instrumental in developing women's status. Providing competitive jobs equal to men is not only providing bread and butter to women but also uplifting them, society can only develop when growth is equally enjoyed by every section of society though we have shining examples of a number of women achievers in India.

About the author

CSR VISION
CSR VISION is India’s ( probably world’s ) first monthly magazine in print devoted to CSR and Sustainable Development for bringing together all stakeholders of SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT at a global and local levels and act as a platform for promoting strategic CSR and sustainable development practices through dissemination of information and knowledge.