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Conditions And Status Of Rural Women In India Sociology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 4409 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Gender based development has been a major concern in the recent years. As far as the state of Himachal Pradesh is concerned, this state has gone through a long journey. Himachal Pradesh is ranked third in women empowerment index. Therefore, we can say the state has improved a lot in terms of women’s condition, status and development. The state is yet to improve in some of the key areas. For example, almost half of the women’s population has no say in the economic decision making. Also there are issues related to healthcare. The percentage of anemic women in this state is 40.9% (Central Statistical Organization, Govt. of India), it is lower than the overall percentage of India.

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The State Government believes that women’s empowerment is essential for the overall development of the society. Himachal Pradesh happens to be the first state providing 50 percent reservation to the womenfolk to ensure their participation in the development process. Gram Panchayats with highest birth of girl child are being provided fiscal incentives in the form of additional development grant of Rs 5 lakh.

The State has been adjudged the best in women empowerment in a survey conducted by the prestigious weekly and National electronic channel and given the ‘Diamond State’ award.  A number of schemes directed at women welfare and empowerment are being implemented in the State. Girls from poor families are being given Rs 11,001 marriage grant under ‘Mukhyamantri Kanyadan Yojna. For the marriage of 1056 such girls, an amount of Rs 1.16 crore was spent in 2008-09.

Financial assistance of Rs 2000 per child to destitute women for support of two children till they attain the age of 14 years under the “Mother Teresa Matri Sambal Yojna” is being provided. In 2008-09 an amount of Rs 1.07 crore was spent for support of 13060 such children. To support the birth of a girl child in BPL families, under the ‘Balika Samridhi Yojna’ an amount of Rs 500 is deposited in a bank or post office until she attains 18 years of age. Scholarships up to matriculation are also being provided to girls and in 2008-09, an amount of Rs 75 lakh amount was spent under this scheme.

Widow Re-Marriage Scheme has helped in getting 86 young widows to script a new beginning of their lives. Under this scheme, a financial grant of Rs 25,000 each during previous financial year was given. Families adopting permanent family planning after birth of one girl child were being awarded Rs 25,000 and with two girl child Rs 20,000 under “Indira Gandhi Balika Suraksha Yojna”. The Kishori Shakti Yojna is aimed at improving nutritional and health status of adolescent girls. In the year 2008-09 as many as 95,944 girls were provided supplementary nutrition. To check female foeticide, the Government has tightened the noose around sex determination centers in the State. Surprise checks on clinics conducting sex determination tests are being done and awareness campaigns at district and village levels are carried out to change the societal outlook towards girl child. Besides, the State Government had also launched the ‘Beti Anmol Hai’ campaign to create awareness amongst the populace about the skewed sex ratio in the State.

The Government has taken a strong stance on the evil of domestic violence. The State Government is exercising zero tolerance towards domestic violence and women atrocities by implementing the Domestic Violence Act, 2005 in the right spirit. The First Women Police Battalion was set up at Naina Devi in district Bilaspur. To save women from domestic violence and atrocities, three women constables have been posted in each of the police stations in the State. In addition to this, the rights of single women have also been ensured.

The State Government believes in empowering women to create a just society. The State has thus enhanced the social security pension of the widows and old aged women to Rs 330 per month benefiting over one lakh women in the State. On coming to power, the Government sanctioned public holiday on Karva Chauth, Bhaiya Dooj and Raksha Bandhan for women besides free travelling facilities for womenfolk to travel in HRTC buses within the State on Bhaiya Dooj and Raksha Bandhan.

By providing pensions to destitute, widows and aged women besides initiating various schemes for their welfare, the government has extended the social security spectra beyond the conventional provisions of women emancipation. With a focus on economic empowerment for helping women achieve financial independence, government schemes have been instrumental in the formation of 24,329 women self help groups. These groups involved in various income generating activities have generated an annual turnover of Rs 77 crores. To protect the rights of working women and check exploitation at workplaces, the government has constituted Female Grievances Committees. A gender budgeting cell has also been established in the social justice and empowerment department.

(Source: http://himachalpr.gov.in)

Data Based Analysis:

The idea behind this is to analyze the improvement of women’s status in the Himachal Pradesh. The data gathered for this was based on the following factors:

2.1 Sex Ratio:

There are 968 females per 1000 males in Himachal Pradesh. It is higher than the overall average for the country (933 females per 1000 males). But there is a slight decline in sex ratio. For 1991 census, it was captured as 976. The major concern is the heavily declined sex ratio among 0-6 age group (from 951 to 897). The NFHS-II points to a strong son preference among women in the state. 88% of women wanted at least one son and 62 % of those who have no daughter wanted no more children. The graphical representation of sex ratio for the last four censuses is given below:

Source: Census of India

2.2 Female Literacy Rate:

According to 2001 census the overall literacy rate of the state is 77.13 %. The female literacy rate is 68.03% though it’s lower than the male literacy rate (86%). The remarkable thing is the growth rate of female literacy. In 1971 it was 20.23 % only. The rate of increase can be found as 3.36% which is better than the overall rate for India (2.91%). The graphical representation of female literacy rate is mentioned below:

Figure 1

Source: Publication Division, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Govt. of India

2.3 Healthcare:

Health and health related issues have been a major concern everywhere in India. The conditions are more or less same. There are facilities provided by the Government but there are some areas where improvement is solicited. NFHS-II shows that only 30 % of women in the state have received three recommended ante-natal health care services- the three pre natal check-ups, two doses of tetanus injection and IFA tablets during their pregnancies. This is more than 50% lower than that of Kerala. Also, deliveries conducted in health institutions are 29% and only 21% of them received post natal check-ups. However their involvement in decision making process to take care of their own health is 80.8% which is higher than the socially advanced Kerala (72.6%) and economically developed Punjab (78.5%).

Figure 2

Source: National Family Health Survey-II, India (1998-99)

The report published by WHO shows that there are only 48 % of births assisted by the trained birth attendants. The Adolescent Pregnancy Rate is one of the major factors in case of Himachal Pradesh. The sharpest decline in the Adolescent Pregnancy Rate was observed in this state (W.H.O. report, 2005-06). This factor indicates the no of pregnancy among adolescent girls (girls 10-19 years old). The higher rate of adolescence pregnancy in earlier days (1992-93 & 1998-99) can have the following reasons:

Cultural norms

Socioeconomic deprivation,

Lack of education, no access to sexual health information

Unavailability of contraceptive services and supplies.

The graphical comparison of the Adolescence Pregnancy rate during different periods of time is given below:

Figure 3

Source: World Health Organization Report

2.4 Women Political Participation

The percentage of women elected to state legislative assemblies in Himachal Pradesh has grown from just 5.9% in 1970-75 to 8.8% in 1998-98. With the reservation of seats, a good number of women have been elected to Panchayati Raj Institutions in Himachal Pradesh. 40% of them are chairpersons of zila parishads, 31.94% chairpersons of panchayat samities and 33.20% chairperson of gram panchayat. However it has been observed that in Himachal Pradesh, women are still ostracized by political parties and isolated from mainstream politics. Barring a few examples like Mrs Vidya Strokes of Congress not many influential women politicians are there in Himachal Pradesh.

Figure 4

Source: World Health Organization Report

Table 1

Women’s representation in PRI’s in Himachal Pradesh
































Source: Publication Division, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Govt. of India

2.5 Women Security

Himachal Pradesh falls in the category of higher ranking states in crime against women. Kangra, Mandi and Shimla districts have recorded high rates of crime against women. The prevalence of drug abuse among males, female-headed households, migrant population etc. is some of the reasons for this state of affairs. Next to Kerala, Himachal Pradesh has the highest number of female headed households. Out-migration of male members for jobs and widowhood are mostly responsible for the existence of female headed households. The government has to pay special attention towards the social security and welfare of these households in general and widows with no children in particular. Another problem is that of female child labour. The number of girl child labour in Himachal Pradesh is more than eight times higher than in Kerala and Punjab. Engagement of girl children in petty-income earning activities deprives them of school education. This also affects the health of young and adolescent girls.

Table 2

Status of Crime Against Women in 7 Major States Of India

Major States

Persons /Million

Status of Crime

























Source: Publication Division, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Govt. of India


The facts and figures provided above and our understanding about the status of women in the state of Himachal Pradesh through the various readings we did, familiarized us with two major problems in the state. These are High Rate of Violence against Women and Poor Health of Women.

We will be dealing with them one by one.

3.1 High Rate of Violence against Women:

As already mentioned the state ranks at 4th position in violence against women. This is a disturbing fact owing to the good position women enjoy in this state when compared to other states of the country in various aspects like sex ratio, education etc. on initial investigations we assume that spousal violence should contribute greatly towards this. However when we see the official figures it becomes clear that only 6% of it is by spouses. In fact Himachal Pradesh comes last when spousal violence is taken into account. The 4th position overall thus makes it important to look into the matter further.

Coomarswami(1992) points out that women are vulnerable to various types of violence all pertaining to the gender.

Because of being a female, women are vulnerable to rape, female circumcision, female infanticide, and other gender related crimes.

Because of her relationship to a man, she is prone to domestic violence, dowry murder etc

Being a member of a society, during times of riots, women may be raped or humiliated because she belongs to a particular community, group etc.

In case of Himachal Pradesh, the violence is due to the following major reasons.

Alcoholism: Violence against women has a high relation with alcoholism, as it increases the risk for women. Studies of domestic violence frequently document high rates of alcohol and other drug (AOD) involvement, and AOD use is known to impair judgment, reduce inhibition, and increase aggression. Alcoholism and child abuse, including incest, seem connected also.

Absence of the Male Counterpart: A majority of the male population have migrated out to urban areas leaving behind their families at home. This leaves their wives and children dependent on others, often prone to violence. Violence by family members in such cases is common. Also a majority of the male population in the state is in the armed forces. Therefore a large number of widows are present in the state; the risk to violence is thus aggravated.

The domestic violence act 2005 has provided some relief, however as reported in the state women hardly get FIRs lodged. Also as the law provides no provision of violence done by a woman to another cases or domestic violence between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law is neglected.

Administration tough due to the Terrain: as the state is majorly a hilly one the terrain is tough to be administrated. This makes the police inefficient in acting quickly to any violence reported. Also the woman has to travel over a tough terrain to report any crime against her. When there is no fear of being executed the crimes will rise.

Illiteracy: Illiteracy is high in rural areas leading to violence at household as well as society level.

3.2 Poor Health of Women :

There has been significant development in fields of education, political participation etc. however, the health status of the women here remains a major issue. The MMR of the state is 456 per 1, 00,000 against national figure of 453 and that of Kerala 87. More than one fourth of the women suffer from chronic energy deficiency. The percentage of obese women in the state is also high. The terrain of the state suggest that the fat accumulation in the women should be low however, this is not the case. More than one third females suffer from reproductive health problems.

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Low food consumption by women lead to late menarche and early menopause. Also the major cause of high miscarriages and stillbirths. Himachal Pradesh has a high percentage (40.5%) of anemic women, almost double that of Kerala. The awareness abvout health is very limited. There is not much connection with the outer world. Less than 2/3rd ( 61%) women of the state have heard of HIV AIDS.

The various factors can be held responsible for the poor quality of health experienced by the women of the state. They are:

Illiteracy: This is the root cause of the poor health of the rural women of the state. There is no awareness about the various schemes available which they can use. Basic knowledge for leading a nutritious life is also missing in many cases.

Topography: The state being a hilly region makes accessibility to the available infrastructure difficult. To visit a government clinic they have to travel for about 2-3 hours, often leading to negligence on their part.

Poor infrastructure: The poor healthcare infrastructure of the state is a major hurdle in improving health of the women. There are frequent transfers of grassroots level health workers which further aggravates the problem.

Negligence from family: It being a majorly patriarchal society the health and other needs of the women are often neglected by the family. Lack of proper helping hands in the household work, and more importance given to the male counterparts leaves little resources which can be used for the development of the women.

Impact of Rural Entrepreneurship on Women in Kerala

A women with an entrepreneur tag is hard to find in a village setting where there are so many barriers and hurdles to just step out of home for an out of routine task. This paper focuses on the strides that women in rural Kerala regions have made in being self-employed through small start-ups and what were the gender based difficulties that they faced while pursuing or at the start of their ventures.

When it comes to being an entrepreneur, the major ingredients are need for achievement, economic independence and autonomy. Apart from that the willingness to take risks and persistence are the driving forces that can make or break an entrepreneurial venture.

The experience of women in Kerala is being discussed in this paper as Kerala is thought to be a state different in many perspectives when compared with the rest of Indian states. The women have, through the help of the state, opened up many entrepreneurial ventures. The ventures include readymade garment manufacture, food processing, handicrafts, electronics etc. A woman has to face a lot of hurdles in opening up of these ventures in the beginning, the family and societal pressures have direct implications on the business venture. These are present in the choice of her enterprise, location, marketing facilities, growth and diversification of the enterprise. Many of the women have to compromise as they cannot go out for the marketing of their products and thus they are restricted to their households which greatly affect the productivity and pose a hindrance in achieving the full potential. These societal pressures start from confining them to their homes as the family members are not ready to let their daughter in-law go out of home everyday even when they have easily allowed them to make a head start. The husbands in particular have had a major role to play in the opening up as they provided the much needed initial support unlike the other states.

Below given is the data for the sick units as a total of the functioning units by women entrepreneurs in the various districts of the state.

Table 4


No. of Units



























































Source: World Health Organization Report

The total sick units forms a staggering 92% of the total units and this has been particularly due to the fact that in most of the units the women are acting as mere fronts for the men as women helps them in obtaining concessional credits and subsidies.

Gender sensitization among the male members of the society has an important role to play. Though they have allowed women to diversify their livelihoods but there is some kind of inhibition at the same time. Women are also still dependent on their male counterparts for any decision related either to the day to day functioning of their enterprise or with the initial push required to open up their ventures. The facts from the entrepreneurship development programme in the state show some grim facts that even when the requisite credit is provided the women are still reluctant to give it a shot.

Above facts would definitely seem contrasting given the fact that Kerala as a state provides a sharp contrast with many other parts of the country in having little or no gender bias in many facets of a woman’s life. Women’s literacy is the highest in the country, sex-ratio is the best in the country, the fertility rate is as good as developed countries but still the above gender related hitches are still present in wide numbers. A good start has been made though but a lot needs to be done to ensure that the women come up in large numbers to start, sustain and augment their family incomes for the generations to come.

The findings of the center for development studies in Kerala reveal that a lot of women seemed to give priority to their families rather than to their enterprises. Women focused majorly on micro-enterprises and restricted their areas of operation to a very limited range due to the constraints imposed by the family not to venture out too much and expand their businesses as it demands a lot of time and effort. The women have to coordinate both their ventures as well as take proper care of their household needs such as children care, elders and husbands. This becomes too demanding at times and this is the major cause that many units are still sick and those of the other healthy units are not growing too fast either.

There were many domestic constraints which were prevailing and which can be easily cited as the major reasons for the not so successful micro-units. Common are minor children, bedridden parents, unsupportive husbands etc. These were the major familial constraints and apart from that there were a number of social constraints too such as adherence to traditional role expectations of society, and hence dependence on male support. These societal pressures were common across a gamut of women who were either directly or indirectly involved with any of the ventures within and outside their homes.

4.1 Prerequisites for Entrepreneurial Development

There are various personal and environmental prerequisites for Entrepreneurial Development which can bring a much needed change in the way ventures are started and maintained for long term sustainable development and empowerment of women. These measures become all the more important considering the fact that it is the rural poor women who are the most vulnerable in the society and who are the worst affected by the gender bias prevailing in the society. Since there is a very low level of education standard, there are not much aware of their rights and thus continue to be the oppressed gender in the society.

There are various factors which form the perquisites for promoting entrepreneurial spirit among rural women:

Creating Awareness: The women in rural areas must first be awakening up to the possibility of micro-enterprises which is a formidable task demanding considerable time and effort in the long run. It becomes the duty of the government and the not for profit sector units to create awareness among the most productive age group of rural women i.e. the newlyweds and middle aged women.

Motivating Entrepreneurs: The various economic and social benefits of owing and maintaining the micro-enterprise units should be cited to the women and they must be provided with ample time and support in order to fully establish their enterprises.

Expertise training: More and more vocational women training centers is the need of the hour and women are slowly and steadily awakening up to the possibility of having one in their close vicinity.

Continuous Follow-up: Taking cue from the example of Kerala where despite the good gender indicators the enterprises are still not able to survive in long term. A continuous follow-up strategy should be included as an essential part of the agenda for any organization.

Micro-Credit: The above factors establish a sound base for starting an entrepreneurial venture by a woman, but the major push factor is the easy availability of micro-credit at an affordable interest rate.

4.2 Reasons for self-employment

The women owners of the successfully operating multi product ventures had various reasons for having something of their own. Common were utilizing spare time, Self-learning and economic independence. Others had reasons such as Utilizing their technical know-how, contribution towards augmenting their family incomes and a low percentage citing a very positive new generation reason as that they needed to be their own boss.

4.3 Contrasts

A contrast which can be striking to many people is that woman having high educational qualifications were not the ones who would readily take up a career in being self-employed. Majorly, the women who were self-employed were from extremely backward backgrounds but the most successful in their ventures were the women from higher castes. Mostly the unsuccessful women entrepreneurs were found from the scheduled castes.

4.3 Final Word

Rural women are performing and venturing out into large and varied micro-enterprises which are both home based and out of homes depending upon the local conditions and gender mindset prevailing in a particular region. They have basic indigenous knowledge, skill, potential and resources which can prove helpful to establish and manage enterprises. What they need is awareness, motivation, technical skill and support from family, government and other organizations from both For-Profit and Not For-profit sector. With the right assistance they can strengthen their capacities besides adding to the family income and national productivity.


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