Women's Empowerment in India
We live in a world of gender inequality. Every country experiences it, and India is no exception. India is a country dominated by men, where women have significantly less opportunities; as a result of this disparity, Global Vision International created a campaign called the Women’s Empowerment Project to work with disadvantaged women to close the gender inequality gap.

By supporting these women gain access to employment, education and health care, GVI hopes to eliminate women’s oppression in a country so focused on men.

Women in India

In India, women are born into a society that is designed to have less opportunity for women. Although this population faces many challenges, there have been numerous changes to their situation over the past few decades. While the country has grown in aspects, there are certain areas where women are still lacking support. One of these is education.

Education in India

Around 82 percent of adult men in India are educated, and only 65 percent of women are known to be literate. This creates even more gender inequality — if a woman is married, and hasn’t had the opportunity to access any sort of education, she must rely on her husband. This doesn’t leave very much room for independence. Thankfully, there are a few organizations fighting for women’s empowerment in India.

Progress for Women

Along with Global Vision International’s Women’s Empowerment Project, The United Nations Development Program has created eight Millennium Development Goals, the third of which is directly related to women’s empowerment in India. The goal is to eliminate gender inequality in education on both the primary and secondary levels.

The government of India has made many changes over the past several decades. Since 1956, many laws have been passed that provide women with increased opportunities and independence. India recognizes that when women are empowered, the whole of society benefits. Some recent government acts include the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act of 2005, and the Hindu Succession Amendment, ensuring that women get an equal share in ancestral property.

Women’s empowerment in India has come a long way, with the support of many organizations, and the passing of laws that protect women. Women’s empowerment starts with eradicating poverty at the core, protecting women from violence and domestic abuse, and providing adequate education and job opportunities.

Organizational Support

Working alongside of the aforementioned organizations is a department of the Ministry of Human Resource Development, called The Ministry for Women and Child Development. This department was established specifically to formulate plans and provide health and safety for the women of India.

With so many organizations fighting for gender equality and women’s empowerment in India, the country has grown leaps and bounds from its former ways. Women are no longer oppressed and forced to live in the shadow of the men around them as often. Women are now able to work where they want, access higher education and thrive in their independence.

For a country that has given men opportunities for so long, India is now making long overdue strides towards eliminating gender inequality. A cohesive society starts with providing the same opportunities to everyone regardless of gender, and India is showing that change is possible.

– Allisa Rumreich
Photo: Flickr

Menstruation in Mumbai
Seventy-five percent of women in India buy sanitary napkins in a brown paper bag or wrapped up in paper because they feel immense shame related to menstruation. This is especially common in more urban areas like Delhi and Mumbai. There is a clear stigma surrounding menstruation in Mumbai, which greatly increases health risks because women are not taking care of their bodies as they should be.

Whether over fear of social discrimination or other reasons, many women change their attitudes and behaviors during menstruation. For example, nearly 50 percent of respondents to a survey by Quartz Media reported that they do not share a bed with their significant other during their periods. Other actions include isolating themselves in their bedroom, avoiding touching food due to a fear of contamination and using old rags rather than sanitary napkins so that shopkeepers do not judge them.

Recent movements have begun in order to destroy this stigma surrounding menstruation in Mumbai and throughout India. Myna Mahila Foundation is an organization that is attempting to make menstruation a less shameful topic.

In 2015, a college student studying at Duke University discovered how she would contribute to this movement. While volunteering in the slums of India, Suhani Jalota looked at the women around her and came to a realization. Jalota recognized that, in a place where menstruation was considered impure, the solution was to talk about empowerment.

With support from her father, Jalota launched the Myna Mahila Foundation in order to employ poor women in Mumbai. She wanted to train the organization’s employees to be entrepreneurs who could create their own products for income. These products just happened to be sanitary products for menstruation and maternity.

Jalota wanted to teach women how to be comfortable talking about their bodies and the natural bodily function of menstruation. She began by employing four women, training them to feel comfortable describing how pads work and then selling them door-to-door.

A few years later, the Myna Mahila Foundation now employs close to 20 women, has sold over 20,000 pads and has over 1,000 loyal customers. The dedicated team, aside from making and selling menstrual and maternity products, also holds workshops and camps to educate women and foster leadership development throughout the community in Mumbai. Its focus on generating empowerment for women has certainly paid off.

One testimonial cited on the foundation’s website says “Before I joined Myna Mahila Foundation, I would be scared to even leave my house to go to the market. But the women I have met here have changed my life – they help me realize my self-confidence and stand by me when I need help. I never want to go back home at the end of the day, as I learn I can only hope that we have many more Myna Mahila in the time to come!”

Jalota’s inspirational goal came true because of her determination to make a change and the support she has received from her family and community. By working together, they are challenging the stigma surrounding menstruation in Mumbai and giving women the confidence they need to chase down their own dreams just like Jalota has.

– Caysi Simpson

Photo: Google