Although the Constitution of India grants men and women equal rights, gender disparities remain. Gender discrimination is mostly in favor of men, which affects women from both urban and rural India.
Inequality In Urban India
Gender inequality is a complex issue in urban India, with far-reaching implications. Despite progress in various areas, many women continue to face discrimination and unequal treatment based on their gender. One of the key factors contributing to gender inequality is the persistence of patriarchal attitudes and norms that limit women’s roles and opportunities. Education is a crucial factor in addressing gender inequality. While there has been improvement in girls’ access to education in urban areas, disparities still exist, particularly in higher education and STEM fields. Promoting girls’ education and equal opportunities for skill development empowers them to pursue their aspirations and break traditional gender roles.
In the urban workforce, women often face a gender pay gap, where they are paid less than men for the same work. Moreover, they need to be more represented in leadership positions and decision-making roles. This lack of representation hinders the progress of gender equality and perpetuates a male-dominated work culture. Implementing policies that promote equal pay, gender diversity, and work-life balance will help bridge these gaps.
Though inequality in gender persists in every corner of the world, rural and urban women in India often face distinct challenges and have different social and economic contexts that shape their experiences of feminism.
A fair approach to feminism in India will perceive the challenges through an intersectional lens, recognizing that women’s experiences are shaped not only by their gender but also by factors such as class, caste, religion, and ethnicity. By acknowledging rural and urban women’s diverse experiences and challenges, we work toward a more inclusive and equitable feminist movement in India.
Inequality In Rural India
Gender inequality remains a significant challenge in rural India, impacting the lives of millions of women and girls. Despite progress in some areas, deep-rooted social norms and cultural practices restrict women’s rights and opportunities, perpetuating a cycle of inequality.
One of the main areas where gender inequality is evident is education. In many rural areas, girls still face barriers to accessing education. Early marriage, household responsibilities, and lack of schools nearby are some of the factors that hinder girls’ education. When resources are scarce, families often prioritize boys’ education over girls’, leading to a gender gap in literacy and educational attainment. Promoting girls’ education and providing safe and accessible schooling breaks this cycle and empowers girls with the knowledge and skills to pursue their dreams.
Economic empowerment is another critical aspect of addressing gender inequality. In rural India, women are often engaged in unpaid domestic work and agricultural labor, yet they have limited ownership or control over land and resources. This economic dependence on others leaves them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. By promoting women’s access to resources, financial services, and training in income-generating activities, they can become economically independent and contribute to their families well-being and overall development.
In rural labor markets, women often face lower wages and fewer job opportunities than men. Discrimination and traditional gender roles limit their access to formal employment and decision-making positions. Bridging the gender pay gap and creating opportunities for women in nontraditional sectors enhances their economic empowerment and challenges gender norms.
Gender-based violence is a pressing issue, affecting the physical and mental well-being of women and girls. Domestic violence, child marriage, and dowry-related abuse are prevalent. Limited reporting and social stigma surrounding these issues make it challenging for victims to seek help. Strengthening legal protection, raising awareness about women’s rights, and providing support services helps to combat gender-based violence and create safer communities for women.
In rural local participation, women’s representation needs to be higher. Despite constitutional provisions for women’s political participation, women are often underrepresented in local participation bodies. Increasing women’s leadership roles and encouraging their active participation in decision-making leads to more inclusive and gender-sensitive policies that address the needs and concerns of women and girls.
Addressing gender inequality in rural India requires a multi-dimensional approach. The top rural development NGO in India, S M Sehgal Foundation, has been working to create environments where women and girls are valued and respected by promoting education and economic empowerment in rural India. By empowering women, S M Sehgal Foundation unlocks the potential of women as agents of change who contribute to the overall development and progress of rural communities. Building a society where gender equality is embraced benefits everyone and paves the way for a more just and equitable future.
S M Sehgal Foundation
The Local Participation and Sustainability Program by the best rural development NGO in India helps women in the village become involved in local institutions and community matters. The program encourages women to come together, speak up about their community’s needs and challenges, and work together to solve problems that affect their families and the village. This program encourages women to play an active role in making important decisions for their community and have a say in its development.
In places such as Haryana and Maharashtra, the number of women is lower than men. Families often celebrate the birth of a boy more than a girl.
To address this issue, S M Sehgal Foundation started a special program in Aurangabad called “My Daughter My Tree.” They give coconut trees to parents with girls under two years old. The tree is dedicated to the girl child, symbolizing her birth and helping to increase the greenery in the area.
This initiative aims to change people’s thinking toward valuing girls as much as boys, promote gender equality, and protect the environment. The program is being carried out in ten villages in Aurangabad. S M Sehgal Foundation also runs Women’s Leadership Schools in these areas to empower women and build community leaders.
The locals have started understanding the importance of valuing and supporting girl children, laying a foundation to ensure a better future.
The E-Poshan Kendra Project
In June 2021, S M Sehgal Foundation initiated a project in Nuh, Haryana, under a CSR-supported initiative that aims to improve life in the village through activities such as managing water, education, healthcare, and agriculture.
A community building in the village was in terrible condition and being used as a garbage dump, making the area dirty and leading to mosquito breeding, which in turn caused health problems like dengue and malaria. The project team turned this building into an E-Poshan Kendra (E-nutrition Center) as of October 2021. They installed solar panels for a sustainable source of energy.
Leadership At The Community Level
In rural areas, to empower women and boost their confidence, S M Sehgal Foundation works with women farmers. Special programs teach them about water management, life skills, girls’ safety in schools, health awareness, and how women can be involved in village decisions.
It’s important for women to find role models among the women in their villages. When others see their success, they are motivated to take action too. Women are encouraged to start businesses, join self-help groups, and be economically independent.
Elected women leaders in the villages, such as sarpanches and panchayat members, must be involved. Many women leaders need to be more fully engaged and be trained and supported to do their responsibilities well and contribute to the village’s development.
Women in rural areas need more access to technology, which is where rural community radio stations like Alfaz-e Mewat come in. They provide helpful information to women who can hear it in their homes or communities. Using mobile phones and technology boosts women’s confidence and leadership abilities, brings positive changes, and makes women feel proud and confident.