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    How Can the Tribal Woman be Empowered?

    EnvironmentClimate changeHow Can the Tribal Woman be Empowered?
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    How Can the Tribal Woman be Empowered?

    Despite challenges, the tribal women exhibit resilience and agency in contributing to their households’ economies. Targeted interventions, including education, skill development, and collective action, are critical for enhancing their socio-economic status.

    By Asha Thangaraj

    Women in a tribal society play a vital role in their social, cultural, economic and religious ways of life and are considered as an economic asset in their society. But they are still lagging far behind and are grappling with a multitude of challenges in various walks of life. The region of Katashol Panchayat, located in Dumuria, Jharkhand, provides a microcosmic view about the complexities present in their lives.

    Empowerment, for these women, surpasses mere economics. It involves their ability to make choices despite society and its inherent norms. Their journey towards empowerment is tied to how they earn a living, shaping both their socio-economic status and agency. However, certain obstacles persist, holding back their progress. The involvement of local institutions and NGOs and Women Self-Help Groups, contributes to their empowerment.

    Empowerment is a complex notion that is intricately linked with the prevailing socio-economic circumstances and cultural intricacies. It involves the journey of attaining the ability to make decisions, express oneself, and exercise authority over one’s life decisions, even in the face of societal conventions and underlying obstacles.

    Empowerment can take on a specific meaning. It refers to the process through which tribal women in Khatasol Panchayat gain control over their lives, make informed decisions, and actively participate in economic, social, and political activities. It involves not only individual capacity-building but also the transformation of societal structures that perpetuate gender disparities.

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    Education plays a crucial part in empowering tribal women. They believe that education provides them with the necessary knowledge and abilities to enhance different aspects of their lives. Scholars also point out health issues like maternal malnutrition, high fertility rates, and infant mortality that still impact tribal women’s health. Solving these problems is key to helping tribal women achieve empowerment effectively.

    Existing research illuminates the importance of also ‘owning resources’ for empowering tribal women. They assert that having control over assets like land, livestock, and productive resources is crucial for improving decision-making abilities. However, these scholars also point out that many tribal women have restricted ownership of such assets, which hinders their empowerment.

    Resilience

    Despite challenges, the tribal women exhibit resilience and agency in contributing to their households’ economies. Targeted interventions, including education, skill development, and collective action, are critical for enhancing their socio-economic status. Education, resource ownership, and societal change are key to their progress, aided by local institutions and NGOs. The study also highlights the role of family and community in building better futures.

    Secondly, strategies to enhance resource access and opportunities for socio-economic development among tribal women need identification and implementation. Bridging the resource accessibility gap can pave the way for more equitable economic prospects. Additionally, there’s a critical need to address the deeply ingrained gender disparities perpetuated by cultural norms and early marriages prevalent in the region. Initiatives aimed at challenging and reshaping these norms are pivotal to enabling women to exercise agency and autonomy over life decisions.

    Offering leadership training and mentorship for women can help them to take on decision-making roles. Raising awareness about gender equality through campaigns and advocating for policies can help promote women’s rights and address issues of inequalities. Also, in terms of infrastructure and culture, it is important to enhance the village facilities and sanitation, since it largely falls behind in that aspect.

    Asha Thangaraj is a student of the Integrated MA Programme, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Madras, Chennai. This piece has been extracted from the internship report submitted by the author as part of the Abhijit Sen Rural Internship programme of National Foundation for India (NFI).

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