Women & gender equity are the central issues of all our developmental programs. The Constitution of India also grants equality to women and empowers the State to adopt measures of positive discrimination in favour of women. But the NFHS -3 brings out a very bleak image of decision making power of the women in Madhya Pradesh & demonstrates that gender inequality still a persistent fact in the state.
The so called ‘grah swamini’ (home maker) are not even empowered to take decisions about herself & her daily household activities. She cannot even take decision on her own basic necessities regarding her education, marriage, health care and her likes & dislikes. Health care of women has been important component of National Policy for Empowerment of women framed in 2001. But merely 21.6 percent married women age 15-49 hold low level of feminine decision making power regarding her own health care in Madhya Pradesh; and out of them only 19.5 percent in rural areas having power to decide for her health care. Their important role is not recognized and therefore, still not accepted in decision-making. The share of women in family decision-making structure is still very low. Only 4.7 percentage of women accepted that they are key decision makers in the family for purchasing durable household items for their home. Even among the urban women who are generally considered to be bold & intelligent only 6.9 percentages of women mainly take decisions for major household purchase.
In our patriarchal society, it is male who have all major decision making powers, before marriage it can be father, brother & any other elder male members of the family & after marriage the husband possess all the power to decide for health care & other needs of his wife. Around 40 percent of married women accepted that mainly husband take decisions for their wife health needs. In urban areas also 51.7 percent of women takes decisions jointly with husband for own health care measures.
It is not only the women who asserts husband as decision maker of the family but on the other hand husband’s of these wives also accepted the truth of women are not liable to give major decision making power. While 43% of husband admits that they play major role regarding the major household purchase. In a rural setting, just 50.7% men acknowledge the joint consultation with their wives before purchasing any major household items.
Women are the integral part of family and vital force in the socio-economic progress. But women generally possess low decision making power and are mainly dependent on masculine and/or familial decision making even for the purchase of daily households needs like purchase of vegetables, grocery etc. There are various family matters on which men generally take decisions. Women are quite often not even consulted. This is because of the feeling among men that women are incapable of expressing the right decisions. NFHS-3, state report depicts that 70% per cent married women hold low level of feminine decision making regarding daily household needs.
Women play a crucial role in the welfare of the family. And without the active participation of women and incorporation of women’s perspectives at all levels of decision making, the goals of social welfare cannot be achieved. For the smooth running of a family, it is very important that equal status and equal power should be given to the basic constituents of family. Millennium Development goals (MDGs) to promote equality & empower women cannot be achieve in its essence until & unless role of women as decision makers are not being given universal recognition & acceptance.