Role of Education in Women Empowerment and Development: Issues and Impact

Education is considered as a basic requirement and a fundamental right for the citizens of any nation. It is a powerful tool for reducing inequality as it can give people the ability to become independent. Women, who come across discrimination in many spheres, have a particular need for this. Education is regarded as an important milestone of women empowerment because it enables them to face the challenges, to confront their traditional role and change their life. Education of women is the most powerful tool of change their position in the society. Still large womenfolk of our country are illiterate, backward, weak, and exploited. Education also reduces inequalities and functions as a means of improving their status within the family. Empowerment and capacity building provides women an avenue to acquire practical information and learning for their improved livelihoods. India can become a developed nation only if women contribute to the best of her capacity and ability which is possible when she is educated and empowered. The paper is organized into five sections with subsections. In the next subsection we give the background of the study. Section 2 gives the purpose and plan of the study. Section 3 provides conceptual and practical dimensions of women empowerment. After discussing the measures for women empowerment in Section 4 we conclude the paper in Section 5.

Background of the Study-
India’s newfound growth pattern owes much to a social infrastructure namely education. This service and its impact are visible in tertiary sector and the rest of the economy. Education is an end in itself as well as a means for realizing other desirable ends. Empowerment is a multi-dimensional process, which enables the individuals to realize their full identity and powers in all the spheres of life. Empowerment of women brings equal status to women, opportunity and freedom to develop her which also means equipping women to be economically independent and personally self-reliant. Providing them quality education is the fundamental way to empower women which makes them scientific, logical, open-minded, and self-respecting and ensures greater autonomy in making decisions or free themselves from the shackles imposed on them by custom, belief and practices in the society. Without such virtues being developed among women, empowerment has no meaning.

Conceptual and Operational Framework
Education is milestone of women empowerment as only the educated women can play a very dominant role in the economic development of our country as well as in becoming informed citizens, parents, and family members. The growth of women’s education in rural areas is very slow implying that still large women folk of our country are illiterate, the weak, backward and exploited. Therefore, “educating the women” is the most powerful tool that can bring change of position of women in society bringing reduction in inequalities and functions as a means of improving their status within the family. Education implies not only gaining knowledge but also transforming that knowledge into application through vocational training and skill development. Gender Gap index 2013 (GGI) measures the gap between men and women in four fundamental categories – economic participation & opportunity, educational attainment, health & survival and political empowerment. India ranks among the lowest 101 in 136 Countries, below Countries like China, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. This mirrors the status of women in India and gender discrimination in all aspects of life-education, economic activity and empowerment. Education is the basis for the full promotion and improvement of the status of women. Amartya Sen makes a compelling case for the notion that societies need to see women less as passive recipients of help, and more as dynamic promoters of social transformation, suggesting that the education, employment and ownership rights of women have a powerful influence on their ability to control their environment and contribute to economic development (Sen, 1999).

Women Empowerment-
Women empowerment is a process of enabling women to have access and make productive contributions to their economic independence, political participation and social development. Empowerment enables the individuals to realize their identity and powers in all spheres of life. It consists of greater access to knowledge and resources, greater autonomy in making decisions or free from the shackles imposed on them by custom, belief and practices in the society. As per the latest Census of India, women constitute 48.49%of the country’s population and about 90% of the informal sector. Women are mostly venerated and found valuable. Yet they are often invisible in the development scenario. It is said that between the rhetoric of women’s empowerment and the reality of decreasing fund allocation for schemes related to women’s health, education etc., lies the story of women’s development in India. Denial of access and opportunities to rightful place, possession and position to women begins from home and extends beyond to schools and other institutions of learning and work. Differences in avenues to growth and development thus, become issues. The issues become areas of concern, not just for women, but for the entire society.

Need for Women Empowerment-
Empowerment enables women to acquire knowledge, skills and techniques which will help them in their personal and social growth as well as foster in them sensitivity towards problems in the society. Special efforts are required to be taken for education, health and employment of women. Economic empowerment is essential for improvement of female sex ratio but economic empowerment is possible only when women are educated. Lack of education is the root cause for women’s exploitation and negligence. Only literacy and education can help women to understand the Indian’s constitutional and legislative provisions that are made to strengthen them. Education is “potential affirming and performance confirming”. Empowerment of a girl starts even enterprise makes empowerment operational. That is full filling journey for a mother too: from a painful situation to a gainful situation. When women are educated, they will be able to contribute in nation building. A few women are currently holding powerful positions in India and in the world, but there is still room for improvement if more women are educated. Perhaps with increase in women holding the mantle in a male-dominated political arena, the socio-political state of affairs of the whole world will definitely improve. Gender equity is what women desire. Empowerment becomes the means of achieving it with dignity. Indian woman is considered as Shakthi, which means power. What is power without justice?

Empowerment calls for critical intervention by governments too. Interventions need neatly designed approaches with assigned roles for women and executed systematically. Women development and women empowerment are correlated conceptually and methodologically. Thus, promoting education among women is of great important in empowering them to accomplish their goals in par with men in different spheres of life, nurturing and sustaining a culture on unity, equity and dignity. Cultural and knowledge value-addition makes the case for social emancipation, political nurturing and economic empowerment that much stronger. Education makes women economically sound which is source of other all types of women empowerment i.e., Social, Psychological, Technological, Political.

Obstacles to women empowerment-
A) Violence: Violence is the prime factor which opposes women’s empowerment.
Physical, emotional, mental torture and agony are deep rooted in the society from
ancient times which are responsible for decline in female sex ratio.
B) Gender inequality: Women empowerment is not only limited to economic
independence of women; gender equality is the other side.
C) Family restrictions: Illiterate guardians who are not willing to send their female
children’s to educational institutions.
D) Early marriages: Early marriages results in dropouts from school. Lack of awareness
on female education is also one of its causes.

Women’s own perception of themselves and on their empowerment must be changed.
They should also strive to change their image as weak, dependent, passive and try to become
independent, active, strong and determined human beings.

Initiatives and Institutions-
According to the Human Development Report (1993) literacy is a person’s first step in learning and knowledge building. So literacy indictors are essential for any measurement of human development. In India National Policy on Education (NPE) was set up in 1986 for the development of education and eradication of illiteracy. The higher rate of illiteracy of women is undoubtedly attributing for women to depend on men and to play a subordinate role. Within the framework of democratic polity, our legislation, development policies, plan and programmes have aimed for advancement of women in difference spheres. From the Fifth five year plan (1974-78) onwards has been a marked shift in the approach to women’s issues from welfare to development. The Mahila Samakhya Programme (Education for Women’s Empowerment) started in 1987 focuses especially on the socially excluded and the landless women. This programme is an example of creative collaboration between the voluntary sector and the State In recent years, empowerment of women is considered as the central issue in determining the status of women. The National Commission for Women was set up byan Act of Parliament in 1990 to safeguard the right and legal entitlements of women. The National Policy on Education (1986, revised in 1992) is perhaps the most luminous document on women’s education. It emerged as a major breakthrough in addressing gender issues in government policy, which projected that education can be used as an agent of basic change in the status of women. The District Primary Education Programme (DPEP) started in 1994 has a holistic approach to reducing gender and social disparities and universalizing access, retention and achievement. Enrolment of girls has shown significant upward trend in DPEP districts as compared to non-DPEP districts. The 86th Constitutional Amendment made free and compulsory education a fundamental right for all children in the 6-14 age group which increased the enrolment of girls in schools that is 64.1% in 1980-81 to 85.2% in 1999-2000. The Government of India has declared 2001 as Women’s Empowerment year. The
national policy of empowerment of women has set certain clear-cut goals and objectives. The policy aims at upliftment, development and empowerment in socio-economic and politico–
cultural aspects, by creating in them awareness on various issues human rights, fundamental
freedom, providing access to health care, quality education at all levels, career building ,vocational guidance, employment, equal remuneration, occupational opportunities, health,
safety, social security and public life etc. in relation to their empowerment. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA – Education for All), which was launched in 2001-02, is the national umbrella programme that is spearheading the universalization of elementary education through a community-owned approach, with a specific focus on the provision of quality education. One of the challenges accepted during the 12th Plan was establishing more Women’s Universities. Inequality in education is a Global Issue. The highest levels of inequality in education were in South Asia (42 %), the Arab States (41 %) and Sub- Saharan Africa (37 %).There has been limited progress in reducing disparities in education, except in Europe and Central Asia (Human Development Report 2014).

The evils of poverty, unemployment and inequality cannot be eradicated by man alone. Equal and active participation of women is obligatory. Unless women are educated they will not be able to understand about their rights and their importance. Empowerment of women aims at striving towards acquiring higher literacy level and education, better health care for women and their children, equal ownership of productive resources, increased participation in economic and commercial sectors, awareness of their rights, improved standard of living and to achieve self-reliance, self-confidence and self-respect among women. Recently the NDA Government has launched Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao scheme which aims at making girls independent both socially as well as financially and which will help in generating awareness and improving the efficiency of delivery of welfare services meant for women. Such schemes should be implemented nationwide to bring the desired changes. What should never be forgotten is that women like men need to be proactive in the process lifelong learning. That is true empowerment. From “women for development” the time has come to shift focus to “women in development”, with the cooperation of men through group engagement and management. That will indeed be a ‘quality’ change for equality. While being attracted by modernization and globalization we must be confident to say no to marginalization.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

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We are also running a series Inspirational Women from January 2021 to March 31,2021, featuring around 1000 stories about Indian Women, who changed the world. #choosetochallenge

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