GMK NEWS DESK

Gender Gap:A Bridge Still Far

Gender Gap:A Bridge Still Far
Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page

By: Moin Qazi


The Gates Foundation captures in
it mission goal the true spiritual concept
of human creation. But today we know
that not all lives have equal opportunity.
Gender remains a critically important
and largely ignored lens to view
development issues across the world.
Gender inequality is not only a pressing
moral and social issue but also a critical
economic challenge. India has a larger
relative economic value at stake in
advancing gender equality. However,
despite some significant gains, some
gaps remain. Although India has
narrowed the divide between men
and women in primary education and
health sector, it doesn’t measure well
in major metrics for measuring gender
parity.
Gender equality refers to the rights,
responsibilities, and opportunities of
women and men, girls and boys. It
does not imply that women and men
are the same, but that the interests,
needs, and priorities of both women
and men should be taken into
consideration while recognizing
diversity across different populations.
Gender discrimination continues
to be an enormous problem within
the Indian society as well. Traditional
patriarchal norms have relegated
women to a secondary status within
the household and workplace. This
drastically affects women’s health,
financial status, education, and political
involvement. Women are commonly
married young, quickly become
mothers, and are then burdened by
stringent domestic and financial
responsibilities.
India was placed at 108 position
in the Global Gender gap Index 2018
amongst 149 countries, behind China
and Bangladesh and 10 notches below
its own position in 2006. The unpaid
care work of women amounted to 291
minutes daily in rural areas and 312
minutes in urban areas as compared
to men who spent 29 minutes and 32
minutes in urban and rural areas
respectively. Data available closer home
substantiates this fact.
What does the empowerment of
women entail? At a basic level, it means
gaining control over sources of power
like material assets, self-assertion and
ability to take part in making decisions
that affect their lives. For this, women
must have equal opportunities,
capabilities, and access to resources.
This would obviously mean a
redistribution of the existing power
relations and, finally, a challenge to
the patriarchal ideology and male
dominance as the concept of women
empowerment is linked with gender
equality.
According to the McKinsey Global
Institute, fully empowering women
would add some $12 trillion to global
GDP by 2025. But despite decades of
laudable policies and efforts, the world
has failed to close the gender gap.
Economic empowerment means,
init s basic idea, the ability to monetize
one’s skills and talents. But for most
women – particularly women in
developing countries – access to the
formal labor market is restricted by
a host of social, cultural and political
barriers. Agriculture is among the most
ubiquitous forms of female
entrepreneurship. But, although women
produce most of the world’s food, they
own less than one-fifth of the world’s
farmland.
Women are still perceived as an
important “capital-bearing” object,
both in how they are seen as a “
subordinate”, confined to domestic
and caring roles behind closed doors,
and how they are portrayed d as a
“sexual” form through popular culture.
A recent study by OECD found that
women in India work nine hours a day
on average, compared to seven hours
a day for men. Most of this time is
spent on unpaid activities, such as
household work and care giving for
the elderly or for children, leaving
little time for paid labour or social and
leisure activities. This scarcity of
discretionary time is referred to as
‘time poverty’ For example, nursing
and care work is largely a female
occupation and is often undervalued
or seen as a
“natural” female trait.
Women face worse prospects in
almost every aspect of their daily lives
– education, employment opportunities,
health or financial inclusion. As the
report notes, “We live in a world in
which women living in poverty face
gross inequalities and injustice from
birth to death. From poor education
to poor nutrition to vulnerable and
low pay employment, the sequence
of discrimination that a woman may
suffer during her entire life is
unacceptable but all too common.”
Women experience barriers in
almost every aspect of work, including:
Whether they have paid work at
all;
The type of work they obtain or
are excluded from;
The availability of support services
such as childcare;
Their pay, benefits, and conditions
of work;
The insecurity of their jobs or
enterprises and
Their access to vocational training
Women bear the greater brunt of
poverty. In India, where a patriarchal
system is deeply entrenched, only 13
percent of farmland is owned by women.
The figure is even lower when it comes
to Dalit women who are single. About
12 percent of India’s female population
is classified as single, including women
who are widowed, divorced, separated,
and older unmarried women, according
to the 2011 census. About 41 percent
of households headed by women in
India do not own land and make a
living through casual manual labour.
. Removing obstacles to land ownership
could improve women’s economic and
social prospects faster than almost
any other policy prescription.
All women, regardless of their
marital status, need access to education,
good jobs, and support for domestic
duties. Both widows and married
women deserve freedom from culturally
entrenched marital practices that
degrade and commodify them, as well
as legal protection from their husbands’
debts. Although transforming long-
held laws, beliefs and practices may
be difficult, it is the only way to keep
price tags off women and ensure that
they have dignity as well as true
economic agency. It has been said that
women who are closest to the world’s
most pressing issues are best placed
to solve them. In many countries,
women are adjusting to large-scale
economic changes through community-
based grassroots organizing efforts.
But can women be expected to use
local solutions to clean up and
compensate for larger economic
problems without also being allowed
to influence larger decisions?
What needs to be changed?
Improvement in access to quality
education for girls can boost their
future income, save mothers’ and
children’s lives, reduce rates of child
malnutrition, and reduce overall
poverty levels. For all interventions,
the fundamental logic is plain: If we
are going to end extreme poverty, we
need to start with girls and women.
Discrimination against women and
girls is a pervasive and long-running
phenomenon that has bedevilled Indian
society at every level. Socially prescribed
gender roles that have become deeply
entrenched continue to hold women
back. Cultural institutions in India,
particularly those of patrilineality
(inheritance through male descendants)
and patrilocality (married couples
living with or near the husband’s
parents), play a central role in
perpetuating gender inequality and
ideas about gender-appropriate
behaviour. A culturally embedded
parental preference for sons – emanating
from their importance as care providers
for parents in old age – leads to poorer
consequences for daughters.
Women work tirelessly to end
poverty and hunger in their families.
But it can take much more than hard
work. They need new tools to create
their own paths forward. They need
opportunities that can overcome
economic, cultural and gender barriers.
It needs multi-sectoral cooperation
to create breakthrough ideas and
solutions to break down economic,
social and technical barriers.
We have for long made paternalistic
decision to “protect ” these women,
thereby eliminating their ability to
solve issues that they face. Why couldn’t
they decide for themselves how to
manage their own situation? Why
couldn’t we equip them to decide how
they can take their own decisions?
The key levers for change, from the
ground up, are clearly female education
and women’s access to income.
Fortunately, the world is now
awakening to a powerful truth: Women
and girls aren’t the problem; they’re
the solution. Melinda Gates, who is
now spearheading a major campaign
for a proper time balance for the women,
particularly the poor, commends three
R’s: “Recognize that unpaid work is
still work. Reduce the amount of time
and energy it takes. And redistribute
it more evenly between women and
men”. Women are far more likely than
men to spend money they have under
their discretion on the education of
their children, the health care for their
family and improving their housing.
They tend to invest their financial
resources in their homes, the nutrition
and health of their families, the
education of their children, and their
communities.
Women and girls play a lesser
recognised role as drivers of growth
and progress and powerful agents of
change. Gender remains a critically
important and largely ignored lens to
view
Women bear the greater brunt of
poverty. In India, where a patriarchal
system is deeply What needs to be
changed? Improvement in access to
quality education for girls can boost
their future income, save mothers’
and children’s lives, reduce rates of
child malnutrition, and reduce overall
poverty levels.
Providing women with more
number of better opportunities to
fulfill their social, economic, and
political roles is now deemed so
essential for reducing poverty and
improving governance that women’s
empowerment has become a
development objective in its own right.
The key levers for change, from the
ground up, are clearly female education
and women’s access to income. Women
approach the future with creativity
optimism and determination. They
take economic ups and downs in stride.
They show calm in the face of adversity.
Above all, they work hard.
We live in a world in which women
living in poverty face gross inequalities
and injustice from birth to death. The
global statistics on poverty are numbing.
The real brunt has always fallen on
women and sometimes it is very cruel.
Women are commonly married young,
quickly become mothers, and are then
burdened by stringent domestic and
financial responsibilities.
Women and families the world over
work tirelessly to end the poverty and
hunger in their lives. But it can take
much more than hard work. They need
new tools to create their own paths
forward. They need opportunities that
can overcome economic, cultural and
gender barriers. It needs multissectoral
cooperation to create breakthrough
ideas and breakthrough solutions that
break through and break down
economic, social and technical barriers.
We live in a world in which women
living in poverty face gross inequalities
and injustice from birth to death.
Empowerment has led to a number
of positive changes in women’s own
perceptions of themselves, and their
role in household decision making
women’s self-image and self-confidence
was enhanced when they received
training on women’s rights and social
and political issues. This is a truly
uplifting signal of the role women will
play in building our future sustainable
economy.
The female labour force participation
rates (FLFR) in 2011-12 as per NSSO
(68 round for 2011-12) was as low as
15.5% as compared to 56.3% for men.
Further as per NSSO data, the disparity
in average wages per day between
men and women ranged between 37.5%
in rural areas and 28.32% in urban
areas. The Centre for Monitoring Indian
Economy (CMIE) in its Consumer
Pyramids Household Survey (CPHS)
observed that he FLFR in 2018 was
down to 11%. The few women who
did go out to find work found it even
more difficult to find employment as
seen from the unemployment rate of
14.9% against 4.9% for men in 2018.
The Economic Survey 2017-18
reiterates that s that there is
‘feminisation’ of agriculture sector
with women taking part in multiple
ways as cultivators, entrepreneurs
and labourers. Feminization may be
more of a fall back measure necessitated
by the migration of rural to men to
urban areas or death of the husband
rather than one out of by choice.
Traditionally, women have played
important role in ensuring food security,
diversification through animal tending
and backyard poultry and preserving
local biodiversity. Family farms could
not have survived without women
playing a committed role, though they
may not be counted as the head of the
operational holding.
The Agricultural Census 2015-16
revealed that the share of female
operational holdings increased to
13.87% holdings compared to 12.79%
in 2001-02.It also brought out that
the average farm size for female holdings
is 0.93 ha compared to 1.08 ha for
overall. Further, about 52% of female
holdings are of less than 0.5 ha category;
operating 12.28% area.
The Executive Summary of High
Level Committee on the Status on
Women, 2015 emphasizes that “there
should be a significant increase in
the gender equality investments in
India, across Ministries and
Departments. A comprehensive need
mapping, district upwards, should
be the basis for planning for future.
A life cycle approach, social equity
approach and an approach that covers
all dimensions of empowerment
should be used so that no group of
women are left out”.
For all interventions, the
fundamental logic is plain: if we are
going to end extreme poverty, we need
to start with girls and women. They
are the ones who have the grit to lift
families out of the pit. People who
have pioneered successful social
programmes recognized this potential
and sought to evoke it.

 

 


Moin Qazi is the author of the
bestselling book, Village Diary of
a Heretic Banker .He has worked
in the development finance sector
for almost four decades .He can be
reached at [email protected]
com

Most Viewed

  • N/A

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *