Decision Making as a Contributor for Women Empowerment: A Study in the Indian Context

Decision Making as a Contributor for Women Empowerment: A Study in the Indian Context

Richa Misra, Shalini Srivastava, Renuka Mahajan, Rajiv Thakur
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/JCAD.2021010104
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As per United Nations Development Program's Human Development Report 2016, India ranks 131 out of 188 countries on the gender inequality index, which positions it in the medium category. Women need intervention at various levels and the role of decision making at different spheres is a critical part of it. A major facet of empowerment is equal contribution of women in decision making, irrespective of any constraint of relatives or societal norms. This study measures the status of women's decision-making power in different areas like household, economic freedom, children, society, and awareness of their rights. It includes a survey of 278 women from the lower economic stratum in urban India. It further involves construction of empowerment indices on different decision-making indicators and hypothesis testing using statistical tests like independent sample t-test, ANOVA test. The findings in the Indian context are compared with other parts of the world. The survey results reported are of high social and policy importance for Indian women.
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Background of The Study

The term ‘empowerment’ implies giving authority or power to the people so that they can represent their opinions and interests in community and society (Yogendrarajah, 2013). Women empowerment infers giving an open hand to women in the decision-making process in various spheres of life, enabling them to manage risks and improve their well-being and status (Kurtiş et al., 2016), (Richardson, 2018). It includes educating women about their rights, as an equally valued citizen in society and making them aware of the injustice faced by them. As per UNFPA report, “the state of World Population 1992” enumerates that for the development of a nation, the women should feel equally responsible as men. Thus, uniform participation by both genders is closely related to the progress of a country. 

Empowerment in society implies people influencing external actions which affect their welfare (Batliwala,1994). According to Karl (1995) empowerment is the control of self and also enjoying the right of participation in decision-making. It’s also about people coming out of the state of denial in life and being able to make choices in life (Kabeer,2001). Thus, decision making has been considered as the most important contributor for empowerment (Kabir & Jahan, 2013). This holds true more in a society, where the male has been predominantly a decision-maker. Due to societal norms, women have been constantly deprived of the right to make decisions in their life (Kabeer ,1997). Empowerment is the catalyst in the change processes that are going to benefit women at self, household, societal and higher levels. The most established measure of women empowerment is decision making (Richardson, 2018). Autonomy in decision making is the major predictor of empowerment (Kaur, 2018).

Literature Review

According to Young (1993), empowerment enables the woman to have control over her individual life. One of the noteworthy parts of women empowerment that differentiates it from other theory is that they themselves need to be a major reformer in the transformation process (Sen 1993; Mehra 1997). As per Young (1993), empowered women are liberated to discover their self-agenda, they open up to form social communities and express their right to decide priorities or agenda. As per Chen and Mahmud (1995), women empowerment in any society is a progressive change, which slowly uplifts the status of women, where society is primarily male-dominated. An empowered woman grows towards independence and is capable of claiming rights over resources (Keller and Mbwewe ,1991). It is assured that empowerment could not be conferred by others, but it is a strong conviction from the inner self, to be aware of discriminations in power, proclaiming the fairness to have rights and bring positive fundamental change to reduce gender bias (Batliwala, 1993; Kabeer, 1994; Rowlands, 1995; Sen, 1999).

In developing countries, gender-based discrimination index is higher as compared to the developed countries (Ahmed et al., 2001). The report released by the World Bank (2001a), recognizes gender equivalence as a growth objective in itself. It also serves to support the development and decrease impoverishment. The child sex ratio has been constantly improving, however, it is still a matter of concern as it is being at a low of 909 in 2013 (since the last census).

This low empowerment has led to an adverse effect on overall health and wellbeing of women (Moonzwe, 2014), (Upadhyay, 2014), (Pennington, 2018) and on the development of children (Durrant and Sathar, 2002), (Ransom, 2003), (Roushdy, 2004), (Malapit, 2015), (Thorpe, 2016), (Heckert, 2019); finally affecting the overall economic, political and social development of the country. In a study by Grillos (2018), the inclusion of women is believed to improve environmental decision outcomes. Women empowerment is a prerequisite to removing gender-based bias and development of women.

A qualitative study by Banerjee et al (2020) in the Indian context, uses six indicators (education, educational freedom, economic contribution, economic freedom, household management and decision making, perceived status within the household and health) that directly influence the status of women empowerment. Another study on Indian women by Allendorf (2012), suggests that positive aspects of family relationship quality do influence women’s lives. The strength of family bonds, especially the marital bond, plays an important role in determining women’s ability to make decisions in the family.

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