Inequality and marginalization are obstacles to gender equality and women’s empowerment. The ever-changing scenarios faced globally are proof of the urgent need to take decisive steps to ensure existing strategies to address this include gender equality and women’s autonomy at their center while also guaranteeing the rights of everyone without exception.
Women’s power base relative to men varies across different spheres of life such as in business, leadership, technology. This affects the decisions and the influence that men and women will have in areas such as finances, place of residence, children’s health care, and household decisions. There have been a variety of methods used to analyze women’s autonomy but a fundamental aspect of this autonomy is women’s access to and control over resources
While there is recognition of women’s autonomy as having many dimensions, the assumption that these dimensions correlate with one another is still prevalent. It should not be assumed that only economic empowerment through equal pay for equal work will bridge the gender equality gap. A woman’s autonomy may be manifested through her control of major resources, such as having her name on a house title, land ownership, as well as through control of minor resources such as having cash on hand for herself or household expenditure or the lack of it. True autonomy for women may be realized with economic empowerment as well as the ability to make decisions regarding life choices. This is an important part of women’s empowerment which will affect other aspects of her life such as access to health services, education, etc.
However, it is not enough to assume that increases in women’s labour force participation or economic activities mean an increase in control over the money in the household. For women, earning money is not the same as controlling income because household relations of distribution are created by men and women through gendered interactions within specific cultural and economic contexts. These may match, reinforce, or even reverse principles that govern money outside the household. Studies have shown that household allocative systems are influenced by gender ideologies that work to reinforce traditional gender roles which may still limit the woman’s sphere of decision making despite having the financial muscle. On the other hand, women who are already disadvantaged relative to their partners in terms of market earnings may experience household allocative systems that either fail to reverse that disadvantage or, in some cases, may compound it.
Although earning a wage for women might alter gender relations within the household, it is not easy to demonstrate that these changes translate into holistic autonomy for women as so many factors are needed to be put in place to achieve autonomy.
To address these structural challenges of gender inequality, there is a need for holistic transformation from the individual, household-level to the government’s commitment to creating policies that eliminate these obstacles to have a positive effect on women’s lives.