Do Indian women perceive their workforce participation as conducive to their empowerment?
Sugandha Nagpal, Associate Professor, Jindal School of International Affairs, O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana, India.
It is accepted wisdom that enhancing women’s agency or sense of control over their lives is a cornerstone of gender equality. Yet the everyday discussions about gender and more recently, women’s workforce participation in the Indian context, rely on a narrow vision of women’s agency, which sees only some outcomes as representative of gender equality. This not only imposes a predefined benchmark of gender equality, which may have little bearing on how women themselves perceive gender equality, but it reduces the complexity of how people navigate social norms and interpersonal relationships to neatly defined outcomes. I call this discourse political gender equality.
It fails to ask fundamental questions such as: how do different women define empowerment? Do Indian women perceive their workforce participation as conducive to their empowerment? Political gender equality is pervasive not just across international organisations and NGOs working on gender issues but also in our everyday parlance and media discourses. The danger of this discourse lies in perpetuating myths of gender equality that displace women’s voices and replace them with an amorphous ideology, which is widely consumed and rarely questioned. This discourse operates against its stated objective to facilitate gender equality by privileging a worldview rather than the needs and preferences of women.
Published in: News18
To read the full article, please click here.