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Did you know that almost 50 million women in India neither study nor work? For a country that is touted to have the youngest and largest working age population, this is a sizeable number. Organizations like the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) are trying to change the status quo.

In a country deep rooted in tradition, culture and values are of utmost importance. The culture that can enrich us can also sometimes be our downfall. Regressive values and an orthodox society have meant India treats women as a nuisance. The birth of a daughter is not an occasion to celebrate but one of misery because a father will have to arrange dowry and find a suitable husband. Female feticide and infanticide is still a grim reality in smaller towns and villages. A woman is defined by the roles she plays- daughter, sister, wife and mother. They are supposed to be incomplete without marriage or children.

India is letting a major part of its population remain illiterate and unemployed. Photo by Eveliendm

Pandit Jawaharal Nehru once said, ‘You can tell the condition of a nation by looking at the status of its women.’ In the light of that adage, India fairs poorly. The women who are educated are only taught so they can find a better husband. They are also expected to sacrifice their careers for motherhood if the need arises. A woman needs to be a successful wife, mother, daughter and daughter-in-law. She can’t just be one of those things. The Right to Education (RTE) passed in 2009 made elementary education compulsory and free for everybody. This bill was the right step towards female education in the country. But there is a lot to be done as the female literacy rate is only 65.46 percent compared to the global average of 79.7 percent. Organizations like ICRW are the catalyst of change in a country like India.

The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) is a not for profit organization based in Washington D.C. Formed in 1976, its main goal was to empower women across the world and bridge the gap between the two genders. It has regional offices in Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad. The job of ICRW is to identify potential barriers to women empowerment. In India, it is a multitude of reasons such as lack of education, clean toilets, HIV, poverty, domestic violence, child marriage and sexual harassment. ICRW creates policies, plans and schemes to shape the future of Indian women. It also identifies women role models and uses them to understand the potential of change in the country. There are issues ICRW tackles which a lot of women and families are unaware of right from assets and property rights to gender roles in the economic system.

Eminent authorities like Amartya Sen have given lectures at ICRW.

Mainly a research institution, the ICRW has spent years trying to hand girls and women the tools required to succeed in life. It can be anything from financial aid to education but the biggest tool has been changing the mindset of the old-school Indian society and its patriarchal system. Led by Dr Sarah Degnan Kambou in Washington, the Asia Chief is Ravi Verma. In 2010, Dr Kambou was appointed by Hilary Clinton to represent ICRW for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).The institution is slowly expanding its field of research to East Africa because of the strife in the continent. The ICRW has won awards and accolades for its regular and dynamic contribution to such a venerable cause. Notable professors, social scientists, teachers, creators often give lectures at the Institute and its offices to help aid their cause and add some input. An annual lecture series called the Irene Tinker Lecture sees veterans from across the world coming to talk and debate at ICRW.  ICRW also honors champions of gender equality, development and empowerment with its annual Champions of Change awards. 

Featured Photo by saturnism

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