Women in Rural India: Prospects and Challenges

By Deepali Bagla, Pravin Gandhi College of Law, Mumbai.

India is a country of villages as the majority of its population lives in villages and far-flung remote areas. The interesting aspect is that every region of the country though connected with the cities now; however, still possesses its own peculiar traditional ethos. Also most of the rural communities are still devoid of modern facilities like education, electricity, proper drinking water, health care, ample transportation, etc. But the lack of education in many of the rural belts of India is proving fatal and acting as the breeding ground for social vices, evils and paving the way to anti-social/national activities.

Women emerged as a distinct interest group in the 19th century primarily because the bourgeoisie democratic revolutions of 17th and 18th century that excluded women from their concept of equality. This distinction was based on gender. Since then women as a commune had waged struggle for recognition of their rights as a human being. Women’s execute multilateral role in the society i.e. as a mother, wife, daughter and service provider to the society. In spite of the fact that the women’s contribution to the country’s development is equal to that of man, still they experience a number of limitations that restrain them from comprehending their potential for expansion. It was against this background that the government’s all over the world felt the need to prioritize the interests of women and their participation at every stage of the development process. UN stated that ‘Gender Equality and Women Empowerment’ as one of the Millennium Development Goals to be attained by the year 2015. The term Women’s empowerment implies the ability of the women take all the important decisions independently related to her throughout her life span that will ensure her success in all aspects of life. A woman is a person who accepts challenging role to meet her personal needs and become economically independent. In fact often women in India are deprived of their fundamental right to dignity also leave alone the question of gender equality. The present paper explores the questions central to women’s development in India that is fundamentally patriarchal in nature. The article attempts to grapple with the few challenges faced by the women in India like the Sanitation issues, educational beliefs, community customs, etc. The objective of the paper is to evolve strategies to empower women who are as human beings as men are.

Challenges faced by Women in Rural India:

Against this backdrop, a research has been conducted to know the various problems faced by a woman in rural India i.e. mainly the villages. The main objectives of the study are to know the various social, psychological, economic and health problems of the women. The study also suggests remedies for tackling their problems. The empirical study is made in Bissau, a village in the Jhunjhunu district, Rajasthan. A random sample survey of women on the basis of age group, marital status, religious status, caste status, type of family, educational status, professional status etc.,  is done. A sample consisting of 60 respondents was randomly selected from the village Bissau. Data thus, collected is classified, analysed, interpreted and conclusions are drawn. Following are the major conclusions emerging from the present study:

The respondents have their own social conditions belonging to rural localities as well different religions and caste categories. They possess different views about education and faith in social customs. Moreover, the social worries and social problems are of different types.

The study shows that 86.66% out of the total 60 rural women surveyed are Hindus while the remaining 6.13% are Sikhs and 3.21% Muslim and remaining are from other religion. The study further shows that 63.66% women belong to general category while the others are backward classes. Most of the women are uneducated. 83.33% of women are illiterates. 10% are primary educated and 6.66% are high school pass. No woman is found having higher education level. When asked if the women could get the chance of education which they desired, in rural areas only 3% women replied in affirmative while 97% of women replied in negative.

In rural areas 50% of the women expressed their helplessness due to unawareness and many felt strange to answer the question because of the unfamiliarity as to how education can help to improve their livelihood. 35% of the women could not get the desired education for lack of economic resources and also lack of school and higher educational institution in their area. 10.00% women felt that family reasons were behind it. Many of the women gave other reasons and said that the schools being far away from their native village, and due to which their children were deprived of education. When asked whether education is necessary or not 75% of the women feel the necessity of female education after providing them an insight as to how education can help them to overcome their problems. Only 3.00% of the rural women replied in negative while the remaining did not answer properly with a fear of being heard by their in laws or husband.

As regards the beliefs of women in social customs and traditions, 95% of rural firmly believe in dowry system, whereas 5% women do not believe in dowry system.

The study reveals that caste system still prevails in the society. 60.00% of the rural women favour the caste system. Ordinarily they do not find distinction between upper and lower caste but they prefer the marriages of their children solemnised in their own castes.

The study also reveals various aspects of the families of women like marriage, birth of children, type of family, size of family, number of children, liking towards sons, daughters or both. The data shows that 33% of the rural women became mothers between the age of 10-20. 63% of the females got motherhood between the age of 20-30. Only 4% of the women got it between 30-40 years of age. Nobody enjoyed motherhood for the first time after 40 years of age. Only 13% of the families are nucleus while 77% families are joint families. 10% of the elderly women live alone.

The study shows the number of sons and daughters of the surveyed women. 50.00% of the women have two and less than two sons. 40.00% of the women have between three to four sons. When the number of daughters is analysed, 67 % of the women have 2 or less than two daughters. 13% of the women have three to four daughters that too for a want of a male child.

The elderly women have to face so many tensions like unemployment of children, marriage of their children, family quarrels, loneliness of self, ignored by others, bad relations with relatives, lack of time for family.

Lack of sanitation facility and lack of educational awareness a serious issue that makes the life of a woman miserable. Most of the women do not own property and even when they own it they do not manage it. They are completely dependent on the male members of the family for fulfilment of all their basic needs.


Any developmental process is the expansion of assets and capabilities of rural women to participate in, negotiate with, influence, control, and hold the institution accountable that affect their lives. Skill development among rural women is the need of the hour so as to make them confident, self-reliant and to develop in them the ability to be a part of decision making at home and outside. Indeed it may not be wrong to say that still rural women are the most disadvantaged and neglected section of the society for they are economically backward. Therefore there is a need on the part of the government and civil society to enable improvement in the quality of life of such vulnerable sections of the Indian population.

More importantly the developmental process in India should give priority to welfare schemes and programmes meant for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes‟ including women. These are the people who are economically backward; therefore, there is a need for sincere efforts on the part of the government to help improve the quality their life. The Social Assessment for the training and skill development clearly reflected that rural landless (mostly SCs and STs) form an integral part of poverty-ridden and marginalized groups. By empowering rural woman through education can thus enable them to live with dignity and self-reliance cutting across the barriers of customary biases and prejudices, social barrier of caste, class, gender, occupation and institutional barriers that prevent them from taking actions to improve their state both at the individual and collective level. Therefore, free education and necessary and employable skill development programmes must be launched for rural students and women so as to make them self-reliant and economically independent. Furthermore, right to vote is meaningless unless rural women are made aware, educated and imparted skills to understand the order of the day and this can bring change in their lives, in the family and lastly transform the holistic tribal landscape of India, through education, legal awareness, and socio economic independence. Thus, there is no doubt that the rural women can acquire any developmental milestones (skills) only through education and thus can change their own destiny.


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