"I've always believed that when you educate a girl, you empower a nation." - Queen Rania of Jordan

Women are the fulcrum of any modern society. Roles of women in Indian society - considered to be inherently patriarchy - too have transcended and seen a sea of change since independence.

Higher levels of education and literacy, particularly of female literacy, lead to a greater awareness and also contribute in improvement of economic and social conditions. It acts as a catalyst for social upliftment, enhancing the returns on investment made in almost every aspect of developmental efforts, be it population control, health, hygiene, environmental degradation control, employment of weaker sections of the society.

This article presents the comparison of developments in the educational status of women with respect to men in India.

While only around 9% female were literate in the year 1951, the literacy rate for female touched 65% in the year 2011. Female literacy is catching up with the male literacy steadily since 1981, and this has been faster in the decade 2001–2011, a possible reason may be technological reach to larger section of society, and it is supported by fact that the difference between literacy rates of male and female in total population is almost 10% higher compared to the difference in urban population. The largest gap in 2011 was of 27.1% in Rajasthan while it was 19.7 % for Bihar.

Fig. 1

Women have to also leave the dream of pursuing higher education lot of times due to marriage. Number of women enrolling in higher education has increased in the last decade; however, more efforts are needed as this trend of improvement has almost been a plateau in last three years.

Fig. 2

The level of participation of women in decision-making is one of the principal indicator to measure their empowerment, and also it is important to understand that the role of improved educational status in empowering women.

Over the years since election for the second Lok Sabha in 1957, number of women contesting the election has increased by 1384% in the 16th Lok Sabha election held in 2014 (from 45 to 668); during the same period, the number of men contesting the election only increased by 414%.

In the election for 16th Lok Sabha, the turnout of women voters is more or less equal as turnout of male voters; it was 58% and 56% for women and men, respectively, in Bihar. Representation of women in State Assemblies is still less. In the elections held during 2013 to 2017 for various State Legislative Assemblies, overall representation of women is only 9%; however, it is 14% for Bihar.

In Judicial system also, the women participation as judges is very marginal. In 2017, only 4% women judge (1 out of 24) is there in Supreme Court. In all the High Courts of the country, only 12% judges are females (74 females against 613 males). In Patna High Court, only 2 female judges against 31 male judges are there.

Percentages of female in Indian Administrative and Indian Police Service were 17% and 9% respectively in 2016, while the same was 30% in Indian Economic Service in 2014.

(Note: This article is based on the data provided in the report entitled ‘Women and Men in India-2017’ released by The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Govt. of India. It may be referred at http://mospi.nic.in/publication/women-and-men-india-2017 )

Postdoctoral Fellow
Paul Scherrer Institute, Switzerland

Dr. Siddharth Suman is a freelance writer especially on societal issues, science, and education in both Hindi and English for various online media houses. In addition, he loves to write poetry and short story for the expression of personal emotions and thoughts. His poetry book titled 'Evaporating Soul — between love and life' may be read at Kindle.