The findings of the recently-published National Family Health Survey provide some interesting insights into “empowerment” of women in the country. Besides showing how far the country has come in terms of certain health indicators—under-5 mortality, for instance, is down to 50 in 2015-16 from 74 in 2005-06—it indicates a gamut of positive changes for women in the last decade.
The survey points that female literacy for age 6 years and above has increased to 68.8% from 58.3%. More important, while only 15.1% women had a savings account, now 53% have one. In fact, 84% of women participated in family decisions as against 76.5% in 2015. Incidences of violence against women were also lower at 28.8%. Although contraception usage declined, the decline in birth and fertility rates shows people were hesitant to answer questions on this.
The yawning gap between the genders, though, persists on many other counts—for instance, only 68.5% women were literate as compared to 85.6% men. Therefore, to ensure that gains sustain and are furthered, the government must move faster in terms of education health and employment. Change also needs to come in terms of mindset—the Telangana government, as per a report in the Times of India, wants only unmarried women to pursue education in residential degree colleges for women as married women are “a distraction”.
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If this doesn’t suffice, the state’s explanation of how exactly they are so should speak volumes about the need for change in mindset at the policy level itself. Apparently, husbands visiting them at college, is distracting for their unmarried college-mates. India is growing, but people and the state need to shed patriarchal notions.