The Nirbhaya Fund: How will it help women become fearless?
P. Chidambaram , the finance minister announced the Nirbhaya fund when presenting the Union Budget for 2013-2014. According to him, the fund allocates Rs. 1,000 crores to the safety of women throughout the country. The fund is supposed to help empower women all over the country, and it is supposed to help fund projects and ideas by the Ministry for Women and Child Development.
However, what is troubling is that Chidambaram was very vague about exactly how the Nirbhaya Fund would be used, and how it would address the various issues which concern women in India. The funding is not the primary issue in the country. It is the perception of what a woman should be like, and how she should be treated at various points and in various conditions. It is the lack of respect as well as the patriarchal value systems which threaten women in this country today.
The Nirbhaya Fund will be inclusive of a bank for women, but what the bank is supposed to do, exactly, is unclear. Women already have access to banks and they do fund women as well as men for various purposes. It would be novel if the Nirbhaya Fund bank had access to areas which are not normally accessible. It would have been novel, if the bank would have actively encouraged more women to pick up small forms of businesses and other kinds of work, but what the bank is actually going to do is still a little hazy.
Also, there are many issues to be addressed which concern women. Poor healthcare facilities, especially in rural areas, the lack of medical support during child labour for so many women who die during childbirth, as well as the lack of awareness of sexual health is something which needs to be addressed soon, and one only hopes that the Nirbhaya Fund will be used for these issues.
As far as issues of safety and security of women go, even if they deploy double the security out on the streets, and even if they make more help-lines for women, what ultimately matters in the perception and the basic principle behind the increased number of rape-cases as well as other molestation and sexual harassment cases: women are being looked upon as being sexual objects, at the mercy of the libido of the man, and women are being morally judged at every corner of their lives.
These issues need to be addressed, because otherwise, the Nirbhaya Fund will not be of any use to a woman who wishes to step out of her house. It will not be of any use to a woman who might get raped, and who might later get judged for wearing shorter clothes.
The Nirbhaya Fund, which was named after the Delhi rape victim, needs to be clear about what its goals and agendas are. It is not enough for the government to set aside 1,000 crores if it does not get used productively for the well-being and the betterment of women in our country.
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In order to be completely Nirbhaya, women need much more from the government than just a fund. Women need the government to rise to awareness, women need them to help raise the country to awareness as well.