Dr. Mehak Jonjua
Among the pertinent issues in the 21st century, the most pressing is the economic role of women in an evolving society. India is focused on social and human development for women, as the nation treads the path of rapid economic growth. Can two wheels of the cart work with one gender alone? Not quite.
While gender inequality has decreased in Northern nations like Norway, Iceland, Finland and Sweden, pervasive financial and social inequality continues to mar the Middle East, South Asia and African countries.
In India, the path towards women’s independence has had its ups and downs. In order to abolish gender discrimination, the country has successfully pushed for international agreements and put national laws into place. For various women development programmes, the government has opened a door for international organizations to collaborate with state governments, local NGOs, and private businesses. Notwithstanding these initiatives, India’s standing in surveys on gender equality around the world has not changed much over time.
India’svisioniswellsummedupinPrimeMinisterNarendraModi’sremarksathisG20Balisummit:”Therecanbenoglobaldevelopmentwithoutwomen’sparticipation.”India has about 13.5 to 15.7 million MSMEs and agri-businesses, with more women-owned businesses unlike many other countries.
According to a McKinsey report, India’s GDP can go up by 18 per cent. Women’s entrepreneurship can help shift the course of our social and economic growth by generating jobs, furthering innovation, and encouraging capital spending in health and education.
Under the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojna-National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM) more than 8.5 crore families have been linked with 78.33 lakh SHGs. To enable these groups to reach the next level, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has recommended forming of larger manufacturing companies or communities, each with thousands of members.
In the budget for 2023,the’MahilaSamman Savings Certificate’ for women investors was given a go-ahead. Under the scheme, women can go for a one-time small saving, which will be accessible for a period of two years – from April 2023 to March 2025.
The budget allocated to the Women and Child Development Ministry stood at Rs 25,172.28 crore in 2022-23, a slight increase of 3 per cent from Rs 24,435 crore that was given in 2021-22. Presenting the budget for 2022-23, the esteemed Finance Minister said identifying the status of ‘Nari Shakti’ will herald India’s bright future.
For women-led advancement during the ‘Amrit Kaal’, the government has afforded wings to Ministry of Women & Child Development. Other important schemes to empower women and provide integrated benefits to children -Mission Vatsalya, Saksham Anganwadi, Mission Shakti, and Poshan 2.0 – were also launched by the government.
Budget allocations to municipalities, including the Central Adoption Resources Department, the National Commission for the Protection of Children’s Rights and the National Commission for Women, also increased from the previous budget of Rs.162 billion to Rs.168 billion this year.
India’s record on women’s emancipation is less than perfect. To ameliorate the situation on the ground, the central and state governments have launched new schemes, policies, and programmes to encourage women. The Narendra Modi government has launched flagship schemes to promote gender equality, including Beti Bachao Beti Padhao , Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana and Mahila-E-Haat.
The Bachao Beti Padhao Yojana scheme was introduced in January 2015 to focus on the issue of a gender-skewed ratio and protect the girl child. The target area is Northern India, including Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Punjab and Uttarakhand, where the gender ratio is broader.
The Mahila-E-Haat project, an online marketing campaign, was launched in 2016. It uses technology to support female entrepreneurs, self-help groups and the NGOs. Each scheme has its own distinctive purpose, ranging from the welfare of the girl child and community commitment to supporting ambitious female entrepreneurs.
A significant concern is preventing violence and abuse against women while eliminating the stigma associated with reporting crimes to make society safer. According to Delhi Police data, the national capital alone had a 17 per cent increase in crime against women in the first half of 2022.
In the entire country, there was a 26.35 per cent increase in crime against women over the six-year period from 2016 to 2021. Many programmes have been launched in several states to keep track of and facilitate prompt resolution of crimes against women.
Effective emergency response systems have also been created so that the police can save women in danger. Best practices have been recognized at the national and state levels, as part of the #CallItOut because the #ItsNotOK campaign emphasizes advancements, enables information transfer, and works towards the cause of harassment against women.
An example of a programme that can be replicated in other states is the announcement made by KT Rama Rao, Minister for Information and Technology, at the #CallItOut- Telangana Townhall, about the establishment of a special women’s cell to report online abuse and file complaints. These procedures can help legislators and other stakeholders implement effective strategies to reduce crimes against women as new difficulties arise.
Improving political participation can empower more women to act as role models for young girls and deliver a platform for increasing recognition about issues concerning the fairer sex in India. In this way, gender equality improves the quality of life for women and enables them to decide their future, beyond conventional outlooks.
The government has also made it possible for foreign organizations to collaborate with regional and local NGOs, as well as commercial businesses. For instance, the World Bank is closely collaborating with both the federal government and the state government of Andhra Pradesh to raise the calibre of public health services provided in the region, especially maternity and child healthcare.
The National Institute for Transforming India (NITI Aayog) and the United Nations (UN) India Business Forum have collaborated to establish the UN-India NITI Aayog Investor Consortium for Women Entrepreneurs, which aims to support female entrepreneurship and build an investment ecosystem.
India could learn from the Japanese model in order to boost the economic empowerment of women. Tokyo’s female labour force participation has clearly increased, rising from roughly 66.5 percent in 2000 to 76.3 percent in 2016, mostly because of Women-related economic, demographic, and regulatory developments. Its policies have evolved significantly over time, changing things like the labour laws already in place, adding new anti-discrimination clauses, and improving child-care regulations.
Women can be encouraged to enter the workforce and stay employed after marriage and the initial years of childrearing by implementing as well as strengthening new, as also existing laws. India has one of the most generous maternity leave programmes, yet only a small percentage of working women can take advantage. But only a few women gain from them. Although closely examining these models could be beneficial, they must be contextualized and adjusted for the Indian situation.
Hence, giving Indian women equal chances will enable them to participate in the economy. Women are able to succeed economically and overcome poverty because of increased literacy as well as equal pay for equal work.
To bridge the rural-urban divide and guarantee that rural women have equal access to healthcare, employment, education, and decision-making, as their urban counterparts, more coordinated efforts are required. Since many of the obstacles to women’s empowerment are attributed to patriarchal and patrilineal traditions, which are ingrained in many South Asian civilizations, changing attitudes will be the most difficult challenge. We are ready to change, and change is sure around the corner. Who can stymie an idea whose time has come?