By Yuvraj Singh
In an increasingly connected and informed world, it is common to identify and harness mutually beneficial relationships among various social issues. However, identifying similar synergies in the unconnected and remote corners of the world is not nearly as common. Similarly, it is easier to push through changes in the urban centers of the world. The biggest challenge is to permeate social reforms into the rural districts and villages. At the 2015 Social Good Summit, global poverty, and more especially, rural poverty were some of the most glaring issues. A state of constant competition for resources among the community members was identified as the prime reason for lack of prosperity. While efforts are required to ensure adequate resources for rural dwellers, establishing sustainable population levels are also necessary. These issues are a result of the rural population, especially the women within, lacking the rights and liberty to work for their own living or to decide on reproduction; as such, the root cause of the matter trickles down to the issue of women’s empowerment.
Even with concerted efforts of developed economies and multiple inter-governmental organizations, the process to provide aid and resource to the impoverish sections of the global community is old and inefficient. Many key speakers at the summit mentioned the growing need of a restructured aid process and alternative measures to meet uniform or consistent resource allocation. Constant pressure on natural resources and their rising consumption levels are resulting in calls to check the population levels around the world. Even though the share of resources used by families in undeveloped regions is significantly less than that of families in industrialized areas, larger sized poor families prohibit their own growth and efforts to come out of poverty. Any national policy or governmental intervention in family planning can be seen as restrictive and overbearing in an increasing libertarian world. Therefore, the bottom-up approach is most suitable in such societies, which could be achieved by equipping the unutilized and disadvantaged half of the population with skills, resources, and knowledge to plan their families.
Educating and empowering women directly impacts the progress of the rural family. Women with equal rights as men actively participate in various community-building activities such as managing local business, allocating household income efficiently, and propagating importance of education. With an enhanced decision-making ability and financial liberty, women are more likely to gain access to jobs and land and involve themselves in the practice of social development, forwarding the cause even more.
So what does it take to empower women? The first step is extensive and elaborative education focusing on a wide variety of issues ranging from teaching domestic economics to family planning. The next most important step of financial liberty could be achieved by introducing an entrepreneurial culture and the idea of building agricultural enterprises with the help of small financial loans and by setting up inter-rural cooperative societies. The following step should be to enhance awareness among both men and women about their reproductive health and benefits within a smaller, more sustainable, family. This should be accompanied with easy availability of contraception and encouragement to use the local health resources.
Leila Darabi of Planned Parenthood, Neha Matthew of Sierra Club, and many other women’s empowerment champions at the Social Good Summit correctly stressed that women are key to a healthy and sustainable community. Establishing this norm across regions would be the foundation of change and ease of implementation for further social reforms.