Komal Gesala is currently studying in T.Y.BCom from Mithibai College. She loves writing short stories and blogging in her spare time.
Are Women in India Economically Empowered?
India became the fastest growing economy in 2018 and surpassed even China. India is overtaking every milestone thrown in its way. But in spite of being the fastest growing economy, the one thing India does not seem to achieve is gender equality. Social, economic and political empowerment of women are factors that contribute towards to gender equality. In this article we will talk broadly about economic empowerment of women in India.
Economic empowerment can be achieved when we focus on overall development of women. Right education and training, employment opportunities, health and security are the parameters to be considered for overall development of women. As per the 2011 census, the literacy rate of women in India was 65.46% and in states like Bihar it is as low as 51.50%. Improper sanitation facilities, lack of female teachers, early marriage and socially backward thought process are the reasons for low enrolment and early dropout of girl students. Though urban areas have a better rate of enrolment of girl students, efforts must be made to improve the rate in rural areas. Primary and secondary education is the first step towards attaining economic empowerment of women. Education provides basic knowledge and understanding of the economy to children, education helps them in decision-making in the latter years of their life.
After primary and secondary education, girls should be given an option to pursue higher education in fields of their interest. Counselling sessions must be provided in schools itself regarding career options and girls should be encouraged to break stereotypes and explore whatever field they want to go into. Scholarships can be awarded by the government in order to encourage girls to pursue higher education. Diploma courses, seminars and workshops can be provided in rural areas to young girls and adult women on varied subjects to improve their knowledge. Provision of internet in remote and rural areas can also help girls enrol in online open learning courses to upgrade their skills.
After conquering the first milestone, the second step is providing the right employment opportunities. In spite of having laws like Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 that guarantees equal pay for equal work done by men and women there is a difference between pay of men and women in rural as well as in some urban areas. Landlords often pay considerably less to female workers working on the same land for the same duration as compared to male workers. Various surveys suggest that Indian women earn 20% less compared to men. This kind of discrimination discourages women from taking up jobs. Female employees of various multi-national companies complain that they do not receive promotions on account of their gender. The urban population at least needs to abolish these norms in order to set an example for the rural population. Transfers, promotions and remuneration must be decided by the skills, knowledge and experience of the personnel and not by the gender.
Another major problem working women face is improper working conditions. Working on weekends and late evenings is a routine in MNCs; however the company should ensure the safety of its women employees in the office until she reaches home safely. Company vehicles should drop female employees to their home in case they are working late. The grievance committees should be actively responsive and must comprise of some female members so that female employees can be comfortable and vocal about their problems. Companies should have a no tolerance policy for sexual harassment at workplace and strongly condemn discrimination on the basis of gender, caste, race, etc. Appropriate maternity benefits should be provided by the company and they should create a hospitable work environment for new mothers so that they don’t have to give up their career for their new born child.
The latest amendments in the Companies Act have made it mandatory to have at least 1 woman director in every listed company. However, in comparison to western countries this number is not enough. Norway has 40% reservation for women in the Board of Directors and many other countries have followed this norm and made 30%-40% mandatory reservation for women. Women directors act as an idol for other women who think that they cannot be a part of top level management. Women directors also help in equal representation of stakeholders in the board and can help manage the needs and difficulties of female employees efficiently.
The Government should come up with various schemes and policies and provide financial and technical assistance to emerging women entrepreneurs in urban as well as rural areas. Rural India can generate immense export revenue by selling authentic agricultural products, spices, pickles, artifacts, clothing, etc. They just require financial assistance, some technical know-how for efficient production and encouragement from the government. Women entrepreneurs can change the face of rural India if provided with the right support.
Lastly, in order of for a girl or a woman to go out and develop we need to create a safe environment for her. It is important to take suitable measures to substantially decrease the crimes against women. Only when a woman feels safe, will she be able to deliver her best performance and participate fully in the economic growth of the country.