ThisWomen's Day, rather than talking about social and
economic empowerment,the focus is on how to make
our women feel safer on the streets,at workplaces and
For years now, the word 'empowerment' has been
synonymous with 'International women's day', world
over. Gender equality, political power, economic
freedom, women's entrepreneurship â€” these are
some of the burning topics that come up for
discussion, debate and deliberation time and again,
more so, on March 8. And women's Day activities in
Hyderabad have been no different, so far at least. But
the story seems to be different in 2013.
In a remarkable change from the women's empowerment programmes that focussed on independence
and equal opportunity until last year, we suddenly find ourselves in the midst of discussions that seem
to be grappling with the basic issue of safety.
And why not? The New year dawned on us on a rather bleak note with the death of Nirbhaya, the Delhi
gangrape victim.The brutal rape of the 23-year-old paramedic shocked the nation. once again, crime
against women came into focus. And we realised, yet again, that women are safe no where â€” not in
their homes, not on the streets, not at workplaces. It's no surprise then that the focus this Women's Day
has shifted from 'empowerment' to 'safety'. From discussing ways to dealing with harassment at the
workplace and highlighting laws that are in favour of women to talking about ways to make women
feel safer on the streets â€” it's back to the basics.
You may be strong and independent economically, but that's not enough to bring you peace of mind,
says Samia Alam Khan, a member of FICCI Ladies Organisation. "There is a constant sense of fear now,
especially after the Delhi incident.When I went to the capital a couple of days ago, a sense of fear
gripped me right from the time I got out of the airport until I got back home."
But home needn't be safe either, points out Gayathri Natrajan, a marketing professional, adding that
women in their 20s and 30s, who have been brought up to be independent, have suddenly realised
that their 'independence' comes with a risk. "safety is something that cannot be taken for granted
anymore," she says, adding, "I had to deal with eve-teasers right outside my house the other day. Ever
since, I am extra careful when I have to venture out late at night." This seems to be the only concern
among young women across the city. And like Ayesha H, a professor, wonders, of what use is
empowerment without safety? "What will we do with money and education, if we are not physically
and emotionally secure in our society?" asks Ayesha.
"It is sad that the struggle to empower women has taken such
a turn," says Saraswati Kavula, a filmmaker dealing with rural
issues, who feels a tinge of regret at this shift. attributing it to a
lack of proper gender sensitisation amongst men and
families, she adds, "I work primarily in rural India, and I've
noticed that while we thought of women's liberation and
empowerment, we've never looked at family as a whole. we've
tried to empower women to be financially independent and to
be able to assert their rights, but there has been no attempt to
educate their families about the same. So we're seeing an
increase in domestic violence. In fact, even in cities we find
that highly educated women find themselves facing dowry
issues. " Women's rights activist Ambika echoes the same
thoughts. "there has been little that has been done on this
front," she says, adding, "Though there is more focus on the
issues of women's safety today, the problem is that we are
sliding backwards in terms of values
If people are serious about women’s
safety, they should start by forming
voluntary vigilance groups to assist the
police in keeping their respective
localities safe at night. Victims of marital
rape should also come forward and
register their complaints with the police.
Delivering justice to the six guilty in the
Delhi incident alone won’t ensure safety
for each and every woman.
With reference to the editorial No two
ways about it the fact that 92% men in
Delhi admit that some or all of their
friends have made passes at women in
public places at some point of time shows
that Indian men need to change their
mindset. To end violence against women,
we must treat them as equal citizens.
Essentially, I suppose we are all trying to figure out how India can be
made safer and more empathetic for all women. And these lines of
questioning are legitimate. They might eventually help us make our cities,
towns, and homes safer. But not immediately, not right now.+
Right now, make no mistake about it, we need something that forms the
foundation of a safe society: a functioning law-and-order system. No
amount of soul searching, cultural self-flagellation, sex education, local
activism, and behavioral conditioning will succeed unless our streets are
well-policed and our courts function with speed and efficiency.+
And this is exactly why I am afraid India will remain an unsafe country for
women for the foreseeable future. Now I know this is not the message that
many campaigners for women’s safety want to hear. Many of them are
optimistic that some kind of governmental or non-governmental
campaigning will make India safer. But as long these campaigns are
divorced from a substantial overhaul of law and order mechanisms, they
will not work.
1. Establish high-level corporate leadership for gender equality.
2.Treat all women and men fairly at work – respect and support
human rights and nondiscrimination.
3. Ensure the health, safety and well-being of all women and men
4. Promote education, training and professional development for
5. Implement enterprise development, supply chain and marketing
practices that empower women.
6. Promote equality through community initiatives and advocacy.
7. Measure and publicly report on progress to achieve gender
a. Affirm high-level support and direct top-level policies for
gender equality and human rights.
b. Establish company-wide goals and targets for gender
equality and include progress as a factor in managers’
c. Engage internal and external stakeholders in the
development of company policies, programmes and
implementation plans that advance equality.
d. Ensure that all policies are gender-sensitive – identifying
factors that impact women and men differently – and that
corporate culture advances equality and inclusion.
a.Pay equal remuneration, including benefits, for work of equal
value and strive to pay a living wage to all women and men.
b. Ensure that workplace policies and practices are free from
c. Implement gender-sensitive recruitment and retention
practices and proactively recruit and appoint women to
managerial and executive positions and to the corporate
board of directors.
d. Assure sufficient participation of women – 30% or greater –
in decision-making and governance at all levels and across
all business areas.
e. Offer flexible work options, leave and re-entry opportunities
to positions of equal pay and status.
f. Support access to child and dependent care by providing
services, resources and information to both women and men.
a.Taking into account differential impacts on women and men,
provide safe working conditions and protection from exposure
to hazardous materials and disclose potential risks, including to
b. Establish a zero-tolerance policy towards all forms of violence
at work, including verbal and/or physical abuse, and prevent
c. Strive to offer health insurance or other needed services –
including for survivors of domestic violence – and ensure equal
access for all employees.
d. Respect women and men workers’ rights to time off for medical
care and counseling for themselves and their dependents.
e. In consultation with employees, identify and address security
issues, including the safety of women traveling to and from
work and on company-related business.
f.Train security staff and managers to recognize signs of
violence against women and understand laws and company
policies on human trafficking, labour and sexual exploitation.
a. Invest in workplace policies and programmes that
open avenues for advancement of women at all levels
and across all business areas, and encourage women
to enter nontraditional job fields.
b. Ensure equal access to all company-supported
education and training programmes, including literacy
classes, vocational and information technology
c. Provide equal opportunities for formal and informal
networking and mentoring.
d. Offer opportunities to promote the business case for
women’s empowerment and the positive impact of
inclusion for men as well as women.
a. Expand business relationships with women-owned
enterprises, including small businesses, and women
b. Support gender-sensitive solutions to credit and
c. Ask business partners and peers to respect the
company’s commitment to advancing equality and
d. Respect the dignity of women in all marketing and
other company materials.
a. Lead by example – showcase company commitment to
gender equality and women’s empowerment.
b. Leverage influence, alone or in partnership, to advocate
for gender equality and collaborate with business
partners, suppliers and community leaders to promote
c.Work with community stakeholders, officials and others
to eliminate discrimination and exploitation and open
opportunities for women and girls.
d. Promote and recognize women’s leadership in, and
contributions to, their communities and ensure sufficient
representation of women in any community consultation.
a. Make public the company policies and
implementation plan for promoting gender
b. Establish benchmarks that quantify inclusion of
women at all levels.
c. Measure and report on progress, both internally
and externally, using data disaggregated by
d. Incorporate gender markers into ongoing