Avijit Mondal from Kolkata is pursuing his Master’s Degree in Mathematics. He is a bibliophile with a passion for food and is a movie buff. Safecity is his first venture into Blogging. One of his favourite quotes – “One could never count the moons that shimmer on her roof or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.”
Women’s Economic Empowerment: A need of the hour
The last few years have seen India become the fastest growing major economy in the entire world and subsequently has experienced rapid growth and overall development in many spheres, however, gender equity is not one of them. The Indian development model is yet to fully recognise the important role played by women in triggering the social and economic growth of our country. Across the world, it has been seen that empowering women is the sole most effective way to propel the socio-economic growth of the country. On the contrary, societies, where women are oppressed and are denied their due credit, are amongst the most backward ones. India seems to fall somewhere in between. Although Indian females make up about 7.5% of world’s total population,India is 113 out of 135 on the world economic forum’s gender gap index while the ranking of Indian women in economic empowerment is 0.3 whereas 1.0 means equality.
Women in India have always worked in order to improve the financial stability of their respective households but sadly though their work is undervalued. An illiterate woman in an unskilled job earns about ₹85 a day which is staggeringly less than half her male counterpart and foolishly enough popular irrational beliefs prevent them from setting up their own business without the supervision of a male custodian. There are several hardships that a women entrepreneur is bound to face if she wants to have any kind of success in India’s male-dominated chauvinistic society. The family responsibilities of women hinder them from concentrating solely on business activities. A married women entrepreneur has to manage the household, take care of her children, husband and in-laws all which leave her an awfully small amount of time to focus on her work. In India, illiteracy is the root cause of socio-economic problems. Whilst most of the women are still illiterate, even the educated ones are less educated as compared to their male counterpart. This leads to the unawareness in technology, marketing, new methods of production, government support and policies. Without the latest knowledge of these things, success is very difficult. Female entrepreneurs always suffer from inadequate financial resources and working capital. They struggle to acquire the much-needed start-up money from banks and financial institutions. More often than not they lack the managerial skills as they do not gain adequate knowledge in handling aspects of planning, organising and coordinating their small business efficiently. Indian females, especially in rural areas are less frequented with the technological aspects of handling a business that serves as a major setback in running a successful business.
Gender equality and economic development go hand in hand and unless and otherwise, we make our women economically independent we will be unable to curb the huge gender gap. This issue, however, is not just the responsibility of the government. The private sector plays a crucial role in catalysing change, and corporations have the opportunity to be on the cutting edge. Access to finance, access to technology, sourcing from women-owned businesses, and changes to corporate culture all have the potential to increase women’s participation and transform business as we know it. Access to technology is also becoming increasingly essential for women’s economic participation. For example, a simple cell phone can revolutionise the way women do business. For a rural woman farmer trying to sell produce, it can mean finding out where the closest market is on a given day.
There remain strong cultural obstacles in India, often created by the patriarchy, to the idea of women’s economic emancipation. But a number of government initiatives like NSDC(National skills Development Corporation) which provide skills development funding either as loan or equity, have in recent years been introduced to help women achieve this goal, such as vocational training programmes to teach skills like sewing, computer literacy and spoken English. These efforts have been supplemented by the work of hundreds of NGOs, such as the Mann Deshi Foundation, SEWA, Nirman organisation, Serve Samman and the Sambhali Trust, working at the rural and urban level, encouraging women’s co-operatives in agriculture, livestock rearing and handicrafts. The government now needs to encourage women, especially the rural poor to set up simple savings accounts. The inauguration of BMB(Bharatiya Mahila Bank) in 2013 was a major step towards giving women financial support to set up their small and medium enterprises. The bank aims to place emphasis on funding for skills development to enhance economic activity by developing entrepreneurial skills. It has 103 branches at present and is planning to take the number to almost 700 in the next couple of years. The bank designs its products in a manner that will give slight concession on loan rates for women and it also promotes asset ownership for women, however, a lot is still left desired. We need to turn our focus to sectors where women could be more successful than men and make them a stronghold for future. Tourism is one such business prospect which can be revolutionised with active participation by women and one such revolutionary is Piya Bose Desai, a lawyer turned travel enthusiast and the founder of the group Girls on the Go Club, an all-women travel group dedicated to making travelling more accessible for women. More such role models must come forward to encourage young girls so that they feel confident enough to take financial independence in their own hands.
Women represent half the world’s population, and gender inequality exists in every nation on the planet. To discriminate and prevent half of humanity from reaching its full potential is economic folly. Denying women and girls equality and fairness not only hurts them but also hinders the rest of society. Until societies, governments and non-governmental organisations around the world come together and make a concentrated effort to empower and grant equality to women, the world will be stuck in the past, and human well-being will never truly realise its full, vigorous potential.