Women related Issues, Challenges, and Welfare schemes

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Relevance:
Mains: GS-I Women and related issues and welfare schemes

Introduction
  • India has a 48.20% female population compared to a 51.80% male population. They make up half of India’s population.
  • Over the years we have seen women grow in public life- working in offices, representing in international sports, in bureaucracy, politics, international organizations, and much more.
  • This change is positive and is happening at a pace faster than ever before.

    The role of Indian women has evolved over different periods of time in the following ways:

    Rig Vedic period:

    • Rig Vedic Women in India enjoyed high status in society and their condition was good.
    • Even the women were provided with the opportunity to attain high intellectual and spiritual standards.
    • There was no Sati system or early marriage.
    • They enjoyed the freedom and even they enjoyed freedom in selecting their male partner. 
    • Widows were permitted to remarry.
    • Women were given complete freedom in family matters.
    • They were given an education on an equal footing to men.

    Later Vedic period:

    • But from enjoying free and esteemed positions in the Rig-Vedic society, women started being discriminated against since the Later-Vedic period in education and other rights and facilities.
    • Child marriage, widow burning, the purdah, and polygamy further worsened the women’s position

    Women in the Buddhist period:

    • The status of women improved a  little during the  Buddhist period though there was no tremendous change.
    • Some of the rigidities and restrictions imposed by the caste system were relaxed. 
    • Buddha preached equality and he tried to improve the cultural,  educational, and religious statuses of women.
    • During the benevolent rule of the famous Buddhist kings such as Chandragupta Maurya, Ashoka, Sri Harsha, and others, women regained a part of their lost freedom and status due to the relatively broadminded Buddhist philosophy.
    • Women were not only confined to domestic work but also they could resort to an educational career if they so desired.
    • In the religious field, women came to occupy a distinctly superior place.
    • Women were permitted to become “Sanyasis”. Many women took a leading role in Buddhist monastic-life,  women had their sangha called the Bhikshuni Sangha,  which was guided by the same rules and regulations as these of the monks.
    • Their political and economic status however remained unchanged.

    Status of women in Medieval India:

    • The  Medieval period proved to be highly disappointing for the Indian women, for their status further deteriorated during this period.
    • When foreign conquerors invaded  India they brought with them their own culture. For the women were the sole property of her father, brother, or husband and she does not have any will of her own.
    • This type of thinking also crept into the minds of Indian people and they also began to treat their own women like this. 
    • They were not allowed to move freely and this leads to the further deterioration of their status.
    • These problems related to women resulted in a changed mindset of people. Now they began to consider a girl as misery and a burden, which has to be shielded from the eyes of intruders and needs extra care.
    • All this gave rise to some new evils such as Child Marriage, Sati, Jauhar, and restriction on girl education
    • Better status of women in Southern India comparatively Northern India
    • The status of women in Southern India was better than in North India. While in Northern India there were not many women administrators, in Southern India we can find some names that made women of that time proud.
    • Priyaketaladevi, queen of Chalukya Vikramaditya ruled three villages. Another woman named Jakkiabbe used to rule seventy villages. In South India, women had representation in each and every field.

    Position of the woman during east India Company: 

    • During the period of the East India Company, many social reformers such as Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, and Jyotiba Phule had struggled for the improvement of the status of women in Indian society.
    • Peary Charan Sarkar had firstly started a girl’s school in India in 1847 at Calcutta.
    • During this period Raja Ram Mohan Roy with some support from the British had succeeded to abolish the Sati system from India.
    • Women played a significant role in the freedom movement as well.

    Independent India:

    • Women in India now participate in all activities such as education, politics, media, art and culture, service sectors, science, and technology, etc.
    • The Constitution of India guarantees to all Indian women equality (Article 14), no discrimination by the State (Article15(1)), equality of opportunity (Article 16), equal pay for equal work (Article 39(d)).
    • In addition, it allows special provisions to be made by the State in favour of women and children (Article 15(3)), renounces practices derogatory to the dignity of women (Article 51(A) (e)), and also allows for provisions to be made by the State for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief, (Article 42).

    Modern Indian Women

    • The status of women in modern India is a sort of paradox.
    • If on one hand, she is at the peak of the ladder of success, on the other hand, she is mutely suffering the violence afflicted on her by her own family members.
    • As compared with the past women in modern times have achieved a lot but in reality, they have to still travel a long way. The women have left the secured domain of their home and have become part of the corporate culture.
    • The position and status of today’s Women in India are considerably changed in modern Indian Society.
    • Indian Laws are being made without discrimination against women, as a result, Indian women are enjoying a high position in our society.
    • But in India still, the sex ratio of India shows that Indian society is still prejudiced against females, sexual violence, safety issues still concern them.

 

Constitutional safeguard for Women in India

  • Article 14: 
    • It guarantees equality before the law and equal protection of law within the territory of India.
  • Article 15: 
    • It prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth. According to article 15(3), the State can make special provisions for the benefit of women and children.
  • Article 16: 
    • Equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment. No citizen can be denied employment on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth residence, or any of them.
  • Article 39: 
    • Article 39(a) provides for an adequate means of livelihood for all citizens. 
    • Article 39 (b) has provisions for equal pay for equal work for both men and women. 
    • Article 39 (c) has provisions for securing the health and strength of workers, men and women, and not to abuse the tender age of children.
  • Article 42: 
    • It guarantees the just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief.
    • Article 42 is in accordance with Article 23 and 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • Article 325 and 326: 
    • They guarantee political equality, equal right to participate in political activity, and the right to vote, respectively.
  • Article 243 (D): 
    • It provides for the political reservation to women in every panchayat election.
    • It has extended this reservation to elected office as well.

 

The various issues faced by women and their solutions

Violence against Women

  • According to a WHO report, one in every three women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime most frequently by an intimate partner.
  • As per the NCRB data in India cruelty by a husband or his relatives accounted for the highest number of cases recorded in the crime against women category in 2017.
  • The safety and security of women have been accorded top priority by the govt in India and several steps have been taken over the years to tackle this issue.
  • Statistic:
    • 1 in 3 women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, most frequently by an intimate partner.
    • Only 52% of women married or in a union freely make their own decisions about sexual relations, contraceptive use, and health care.
    • Worldwide, almost 750 million women and girls alive today were married before their 18th birthday; while 200 million women and girls have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM).
    • 1 in 2 women killed worldwide were killed by their partners or family in 2012; while only 1 out of 20 men were killed under similar circumstances.
    • 71% of all human trafficking victims worldwide are women and girls, and 3 out of 4 of these women and girls are sexually exploited.

Legal Provisions:

  • POCSO:
    • Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) law was enacted to protect minors.
    • This is one of the first laws which is gender-neutral.
  • IPC:
    • The Indian Penal Code(IPC) has many stringent provisions in itself.
    • After the Nirbhaya case, amendments were made in the code in 2013 on the recommendations of the Justice Verma committee.
    • The amendments have made the code further stringent.
  • POSH Act:
    • The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act (POSH Act) was enacted in 2013
    • It is comprehensive legislation that provides a safe, secure and enabling environment, free from sexual harassment to every woman at the workplace.

Suggestions:

  • Gender sensitization:
    • About gender equality and women’s rights should be instilled in boys and girls from a very early age in order to bring about a change in the mindset of the future generation.
    • In families, there should also be a relationship of authority and respect between parents and their children.
    • Women should be respected at home. When women are respected at home, then children also learn about the importance of respecting women. Parents cannot treat their sons and daughters differently.
  • Stop stigmatization:
    • The stigma attached to victims of violence should be removed by concretizing the community through outreach programs.
    • Encouraging and adopting family-focused practices that promote equal access for both girls and boys to high-quality education, and ensure opportunities to successfully complete schooling, and to making educational choices
  • Legal literacy:
    • Camps should be conducted on a regular and systematic basis at the local community level.
    • People should be made aware of Zero FIR.
  • Proper Counseling
    • Special court with a woman judge and magistrate in each district to handle domestic violence cases
    • The government should ensure proper enforcement of existing laws.
    • Police should be trained and sensitized to be respectful and courteous to women in distress.
  • Others:
    • Media should be used to sensitize the officials and the public about violence so as to develop a positive attitude towards women in general, and women victims, in particular
    • Strengthen the research capacity to assess interventions to address partner violence.

 

Education

  • As per the census of India 2011, an increase in the pace of female literacy in the rural areas has been noticed (from 46.13% in 2001 to 58.75% in 2011) but, still, rural women are facing a lot of inequalities in terms of educational opportunities as compared to those of men.
  • While the literacy rate of men is 82.14%, the female literacy rate is 65.46%, i.e, a gap of 16.95 between male & female literacy rate.
  • According to a survey report by NCERT, it has been reported that women formed only 23% of the primary teachers in rural areas compared to 60% in urban areas. Thus it clearly shows that there is an acute shortage of competent and eligible women teachers, especially in rural India.
  • Although the enrolment ratio among girl students is rising but still, the high rate of dropout among them continues to be a major problem.

Issues related to women education in India:

  • In traditional Indian society, sons are considered assets while girls are considered liabilities so spending on their education is not considered a priority.
  • As per the traditional Indian society, the role of woman in society is only to look after the house and children which does not require any schooling.
  • There is concern that if the woman is educated, then she will start earning and will become independent which might hurt the ego of a male.
  • The structure of Indian society is patriarchal in which everything revolves around males and women is reduced to a negligible role.
  • In poor families, the girl child has to look after her siblings as well as do household chores so she could not have the luxury of money and time to spend on education.
  • Further poor sanitation in schools especially for women deters them from enrolling in school education.
  • Infrastructure issues like lack of roads, the distance of the school from the village, etc act as a constraint for women's education.

Why educating women is important?

  • Health benefits:
    • Female literacy is one of the most powerful levers to improve a society’s health and economic well-being.
    • Ensuring that the girl child is educated sets off a virtuous chain reaction; improved literacy leading to delayed age of marriage, fewer and healthier children, and the corresponding reduction in poverty.
  • Poverty:
    • Women's education help in removing families out of poverty through employment to women.
    • Women's labour force participation in India is low at 26% in 2018.
    • Thus women's education is important to increase women's labour participation.
    • Also, women have fewer bad habits like drinking and they often have a nature of saving.
  • Social development:
    • Woman's education will help to solve many issues faced by society.
    • Kothari commission of 1968 recommended education as a tool for social development.
    • By pacing woman education India can achieve the goal of social development.
  • Gender equality:
    • The woman is part of the unprivileged section of society. Education will help to close the gender gap in society.
    • Co-education institutes will help children to give respect to females.
  • Economic productivity:
    • It will bring economic gains not only to women but will also raise the GDP of a nation.
  • Reduction in infant mortality:
    • A well-educated woman will have more chances of making better decisions for her family’s health.
    • Studies have shown that increased literacy among women will bring down the infant mortality rate.
  • Inclusive growth of society:
    • As a developing nation, India strives for growth in each sector for all sections of society and education is a way to achieve this goal.
  • Women empowerment:
    • Education is a powerful tool for woman's emancipation and empowerment.
    • For a long woman has been deprived of her rights. By educating herself she can achieve a place in society.
  • Strengthening of democracy:
    • Education will create awareness among women which will cause increased participation in politics which ultimately leads to the strengthening of democracy. They could secure their rights through mobilization.

Suggestions

  • Increasing awareness in society about the importance of female education.
  • In order to suit the convenience of the girl student, non-formal education facilities should be provided.
  • Increasing the number of competent and eligible female teachers especially in the rural areas.
  • The establishment and proper functioning of schools in the villages must be insured.
  • Ensuring the safety of girl students & female teachers.
  • Mass media should play an active role in creating a conducive environment in the favour of girls' education.
  • Special arrangements & provisions must be made for the disabled girl child.
  • The quality of female education should also be taken care of.

 

Health

  • Women in India face heavy gender biases and are subsequently more likely to experience disadvantages in their lives, especially when it comes to healthcare.
  • Malnutrition, lack of basic sanitization, and treatment for diseases all contribute to the dearth of healthcare resources available to women in India.
  • Here are the important women’s health issues that need to be addressed.
    • Immunization
      • Vaccinations are one of the most effective ways to prevent the harmful short- and long-term effects of serious but preventable diseases.
      • Their importance cannot be stressed enough.
      • According to UNICEF, India has 7.4 million children who are not immunized – this is the largest number in the world.
      • Unfortunately, gender also plays a role in whether children are immunized or not, with girls reportedly receiving fewer vaccines than boys.
    • Malnutrition
      • India is thought to be among the countries with the highest rates of malnourished females in the developing world.
      • This is especially serious in scenarios where economic inequality is rampant, leaving poorer citizens unable to get enough food or food with adequate nutrition.
      • Being malnourished makes individuals more susceptible to contagious diseases which, in some cases such as pneumonia and tuberculosis, can have fatal consequences.
      • Poor nutrition also affects maternal health and the health of babies.
    • Maternal Healthcare
      • Poor socioeconomic conditions in India limit a great many women's access to adequate healthcare, resulting in their children’s poor health as well as the mother’s abilities to lead full, productive lives at home, in society, or even in the economy.
      • In many areas, maternal mortality is still high due to poverty, backward practices and views, and the lack of access to proper medical care.
    • Menstrual Hygiene
      • With billions of people, it’s surprising and disappointing that only a small percentage of women in India have access to clean hygiene when it comes to menstrual care.
      • Culturally, a large percent of the population still associates the menstrual cycle with uncleanliness, and women are often prohibited from going to religious places or even preparing food when on their period.
      • It is usually a taboo topic, which makes it even more difficult for young girls and women to break out of the vicious cycle of misconceptions.
      • Even today, millions of women in India do not have access or cannot afford to buy sanitary pads because of their cost, relying on unhygienic methods such as cloth, leaves, or husks. This can result in infections, rashes, and discomfort.
    • Gender bias in access to healthcare
      • Gender is one of the main social determinants of health—which include social, economic, and political factors—that play a major role in the health outcomes of women in India and access to healthcare in India.
      • The role that gender plays in health care access can be determined by examining resource allocation within the household and the public sphere
      • Societal forces of patriarchy, hierarchy, and multigenerational families contribute to Indian gender roles.
      • Men use greater privileges and superior rights to create an unequal society that leaves women with little to no power.
      • It has been found that Indian women frequently underreport illnesses. The underreporting of illness may be contributed to these cultural norms and gender expectations within the household.
      • Gender also dramatically influences the use of antenatal care and the utilization of immunizations.

Suggestions

  • Improvement in the health indicators of women can significantly contribute to the overall health of the family and the newborns.
  • Since the significant amount of earnings of the underprivileged are spent on medical treatment, improved women’s health and their newborns can drastically reduce household expenditure.
  • Access to family planning and maternal health services, as well as education for girls, typically results in improved economic opportunity for women and lower fertility.

 

Low female Labor Force Participation Rate (LFPR) 

  • India’s female labour force participation is among the lowest in the world.
  • The Economic Survey 2017-18 revealed that women comprise only 24% of the Indian workforce.
  • The global share of women in the workforce is 40%, which means India is well below average.
  • India can increase its GDP by up to 60% by 2025 by enabling more women to participate in its workforce, a 2015 study by the McKinsey Global Institute.

Reasons for Declining Participation of Women in Employment:

  • Lack of Opportunity and Skill:
    • More than half of the women who would like a job, particularly those in rural areas, say they do not have the skills required for the work they want to do.
    • For example, leatherwork or textile manufacturing. Further, the opportunities that exist need to be more unbiased.
  • Motherhood penalty:
    • Many women who join the workforce are unable to re-join after having a child.
    • The landmark legislation Maternity Benefit Act, 2017, which entitles a woman to 26 weeks of paid maternity leave, is becoming a big hurdle as start-ups and SMEs have become reluctant to hire them.
  • Wage gap:
    • On average, women are paid 34% less than men, a recent report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) has found. 2018-19.
    • A survey by Monster.com reported that nearly 60% of working women in India face discrimination at work and over one-third of women believe that they are not easily considered for top management roles. 
  • Lack of appropriate opportunity:
    • According to NSSO, urban males accounted for 16% of India’s population but held 77% of all jobs in computer-related activities in 2011-12.
    • This shows, how gender has become a discriminatory factor for certain white collared jobs.
  • Social Norms: 
    • When increases in family incomes are there, due to cultural factors, women leave the work to take care of the family and avoid the stigma of working outside.

Suggestions:

  • Non-farm job creation for women:
    • There is a need to generate nonfarm based jobs in rural areas in the industrial and services sectors
  • Childcare Facility:
    • Local bodies, with aid from state governments, and NGOs should open more crèches in towns and cities so that women with children can step out and work.
    • The crèches will open employment opportunities for women.
  • Education and Empowerment:
    • Higher social spending, including in education, can lead to higher female labor force participation by boosting female stocks of human capital.
  • Skill Development:
    • Initiatives such as Skill India, Make in India, and new gender-based quotas from corporate boards to the police force can spur a positive change. But we need to invest in skill training and job support.
    • The private sector could also take an active part in training women entrepreneurs.
    • For example, Unilever’s Shakti program trained rural women in India as micro-entrepreneurs to sell personal-care products as a way of making its brands available in rural India.
  • Equal pay:
    • The principle of equal remuneration for work of equal value that is protected by Indian law must be put into actual practice.
    • Improved wage-transparency and gender-neutral job evaluation are required to achieve this end.
  • Safety access to work:
    • It is important to improve existing transport and communication networks and provide safe accommodation for women who travel to or have migrated for work.

'Invisible' Women farmers in India

  • The Food and Agriculture Organization(FAO) says that if women farmers had the same access to resources as men, they would increase output by 20-30% which would mean a dramatic reduction in hunger.
  • This could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by up to 4%.
  • Women make up about 33% of cultivators and about 47% of agricultural labourers in rural India.
  • Overall, the percentage of rural women who depend on agriculture for their livelihood is as high as 84%.
  • Women have just a dismal 12.8% of land holdings despite being crucial to the whole production chain.

Problems faced by women farmers:

  • Unrecognized:
    • The work by women farmers, in crop cultivation, livestock management, or at home, often goes unnoticed.
  • Lack of support:
    • Attempts by the government to impart them training in poultry, apiculture and rural handicrafts are trivial given their large numbers.
  • Lack of representation:
    • Women farmers have hardly any representation in society and are nowhere discernible in farmers’ organizations or in occasional protests.
  • No Land ownership:
    • The biggest challenge is the powerlessness of women in terms of claiming ownership of the land they have been cultivating.
    • In Census 2015, almost 86% of women farmers are devoid of this property right in land perhaps on account of the patriarchal set up in our society.
    • Only 14% have landholdings
  • Lack of credit facility:
    • Systemic barriers to finance, inputs, extension services, and land rights have limited their potential and recognition as the mainstay of the agrarian ecosystem.
    • The lack of ownership of land does not allow women farmers to approach banks for institutional loans as banks usually consider land as collateral.
  • Less access to resources:
    • Women have less access to resources and modern inputs (seeds, fertilizers, pesticides) to make farming more productive.
    • Getting loans, participating in mandi panchayats, assessing and deciding the crop patterns, liaising with the district officials, bank managers, and political representatives, and bargaining for MSPs (minimum support prices), loans and subsidies still remain as male activities.
  • Migration:
    • Over the last decade, as farming became less and less profitable and small and marginal farmers began migrating to cities, rural jobs for full-time women daily-wage labourers.
    • They are left with no choice when men move to urban areas for work.
  • Farmer suicides:
    • In 2014, according to the National Crime Records Bureau, of 8,007 farmer suicides, 441 were women.
    • Also, 577 women labourers committed suicide that year.
  • Lack of Mechanization:
    • Designed farm tools available are mainly used by male farmers, and rural women are left to use traditional tools and procedures resulting in low efficiency, drudgery, occupational health risks, and low income.

Suggestions:

  • Credit Facility:
    • Provision of credit without collateral under the micro-finance initiative of the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development should be encouraged.
    • For example NABARD's  SHG bank linkage program
  • Collective Farming:
    • The possibility of collective farming can be encouraged to make women self-reliant.
    • Training and skills imparted to women as has been done by some self-help groups and cooperative-based daily activities (Saras in Rajasthan and Amul in Gujarat).
    • These can be explored further through farmer producer organizations.
  • Women-centric approach:
    • Farm machinery banks and custom hiring centres promoted by many State governments can be roped in to provide subsidized rental services to women farmers.
    • Krishi Vigyan Kendras in every district can be assigned an additional task to educating and training women farmers about innovative technology along with extension services.
    • Agricultural extension efforts should help women improve food production while allowing them to shift more of their labour to export production.
  • Education and Awareness:
    • Changes in legal, financial, and educational systems must be undertaken in order to enhance women’s social and economic contributions to rural development in the long term.
    • Women need direct access to information on improved agricultural practices and links to markets.
    • In today’s digital world, it is also important to think critically about the information and communication tools that can help women farmers who may not enjoy much physical mobility to reach out to markets.

The political inequality of women in India

  • The Economic Survey 2018 called for more representation of women in the decision-making process in the country, saying their political participation has been low despite them accounting for 49% of the population.
  • The Economic Survey 2018 said there are developing countries like Rwanda which has more than 60% of women representatives in Parliament in 2017.
  • As of 17th LS, only 14% were women.

Reasons for low participation:

  • Social:
    • The factors such as household responsibilities, prevailing patriarchal attitudes regarding roles of women in society, and lack of support from family were among the main reasons that prevented them from entering politics.
    • Ahead of any election campaign in the country, sexist and derogatory remarks start doing the rounds against women contestants, in some cases forcing them to withdraw their nomination.
  • Economical:
    • Lack of confidence and finance were the other major deterring factors that prevented women from entering politics.

Significance of women leader:

  • There is documented evidence both at the international level and at the gram panchayat (village) level to suggest that a greater representation of women in elected office balances the process and prioritizations that elected bodies focus on.
  • In terms of policy styles, the inclusion of women adds behind-the-scenes discussion rather than direct confrontation on the floor of the House.
  • In terms of agenda (as measured in Rwanda), a wider range of family issues get tackled.
  • Esther Duflo and Raghabendra Chattopadhyay (NBER Working Paper 8615) showed that in a randomized trial in West Bengal, women pradhans (heads of village panchayats) focus on infrastructure that is relevant to the needs of rural women, suggesting that at least at the local level outcomes can be different.

Suggestions:

  • India should have an Election Commission-led effort to push for reservation for women in political parties.
  • Reservation for women in political parties is a more viable option.
  • Reservation quotas for women in Parliament as envisaged in the Women’s Reservation Bill.
  • Awareness, education, and role modeling encourage women towards politics and wipe out Gender stereotypes that perceive women as weak representatives.
  • Inclusive economic institutions and growth, both necessary for and dependent on social empowerment, require inclusive political institutions.
  • Women’s leadership and communication skills need to be enhanced by increasing female literacy especially in rural areas.
  • They should be empowered in order to break socio-cultural barriers and improve their status in society.

Women Reproductive Right

  • The Indian state’s approach to reproductive rights historically has focused on population control rather than enhancing individual autonomy and removing structural barriers to reproductive health services, which is reflected in the barriers to the provision of services.
  • As a consequence of the early adoption of family planning and population control measures in the 1950s, India was one of the first countries to legislate on abortion and legalize conditional abortion.
  • While contraception was also made available, the focus was on meeting targets for sterilization rather than temporary spacing methods.
  • This has shifted focus away from the universal provision of abortion and contraception to meeting top-down targets for population control.

Reproductive rights of women include:

  1. Right to legal and safe abortion;
  2. Right to birth control;
  3. Freedom from coerced sterilization and contraception;
  4. Right to access good-quality reproductive healthcare; and
  5. Right to education and access in order to make free and informed reproductive choices.

Concerns:

  • Lack of freedom of Choice:
    • Millions face structural, institutional, and cultural barriers to using accredited abortion services—things like stigma, not knowing the law, expense, fears about confidentiality, and lack of access to healthcare institutions.
    • Such barriers disproportionately affect poorer women, who often live in remote, rural areas.
  • Lack of awareness
    • Early marriage, pressure for early childbearing, lack of decision-making power within the family, physical violence, and coercion in sexual and family relations lead to lower education and in turn poor incomes for females.
  • Patriarchal mindsets
    • Until a requisite number of sons are born without proper spacing between children makes her physically weak and threatens her life.
    • The fear that educated women cannot be controlled by the husband and his family further curbs her education rights.

Suggestions:

  • Healthcare and Awareness:
    • A focus on the health needs of women, their nutritional status, the risk of early marriage, and childbearing is a sensitive issue of concern and requires urgent attention if the condition of women has to be improved.
    • At the same time, there is a need to provide health care information to the grass-roots level through awareness programs on a large scale.
  • Legal Framework:
    • There is an urge to have legislation as Reproductive Rights (Protection) Act in order to protect and promote reproductive rights of women and to look after all the issues of reproductive health of women whether it is as regard to providing medical facilities or creating awareness or having health policies and programs concerning women.

Schemes for Women

  • Financial empowerment
    • Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana was launched in 2015, under which small affordable deposits are made in the bank accounts of girls, with the benefit of the higher rate of interest.
    • Support to Training and Employment Program (STEP) is aimed at adding new skills to women. 
    • Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana has within two years brought in 16.34 crore women under the banking system.
  • Encouraging Entrepreneurship
    • Under the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana, the government has provided credit to small entrepreneurs without collateral.
    • 75% of these loans have been given to women, with 9.81 crore women entrepreneurs already benefitting from them under the scheme.
    • Over 47 lakh SHGs have been promoted under the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM).
    • SIDBI has been implementing two schemes for women entrepreneurs namely, Mahila Udyam Nidhi and Mahila Vikas Nidhi.
  • Skill development
    • It is another key aspect for raising the potential of our female workforce. Half of the certificates awarded under Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana have been given to women candidates.
    • To reach the yet unreached women across the country, the ministry has recently launched the Mahila Shakti Kendra scheme.
    • Under this 3 lakh student volunteers are fanning out across the country to directly reach women at the village level with government schemes and services for their empowerment.
    • Other efforts at promoting entrepreneurship and innovation are:
      • Stand-up India.
      • Trade-related Entrepreneurship Assistance and Development (TREAD).
      • Science for Equity Empowerment and Development (SEED).
      • NITI Ayog launched the Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP).
  • Empowering Motherhood
    • The paid maternity leave for working women to 26 weeks empowers them as they need not fear the loss of salary or job due to childbirth.
    • In order to extend protection to the unorganized sector as well, pregnant and lactating mothers are provided cash incentives under the PM Matru Vandana Yojana.
  • Women health
    • To empower women and protect their health, the Ujjawala scheme has been introduced, which provides free LPG cylinders to women from BPL families to replace unclean cooking fuels.
  • Women safety
    • 33% reservation for women in the police force is also being implemented.
    • The Nirbhaya Fund is also being used to roll-out comprehensive plans to make 8 major cities in the country safer for women and also improve our forensic analysis abilities in cases of sexual assault.
    • National Mission for Empowerment of Women (NMEW) scheme 2016-17 is a combined strategy for inter-sectoral convergence of programs for women, with the use of multiple communication tools in advocacy campaigns.
    • Women’s helpline came into existence to reach out to women in distress.
    • The issue of women’s empowerment caught the entire nation’s imagination with the launch of the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ program at Panipat in Haryana in 2015, one of the worst affected districts in the state, with the abysmally low Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB)
  • Other schemes are
    • One-Stop Centre Scheme
    • UJJAWALA: A Comprehensive Scheme for Prevention of trafficking and Rescue, Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Victims of Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation
    • Working Women Hostel
    • Swadhar Greh (A Scheme for Women in Difficult Circumstances)
    • Nari Shakti Puraskar
    • Mahila E-Haat o Mahila Shakti Kendras (MSK)

Achievement of the schemes

  • The literacy rate of women has risen from a mere 9% in 1951 to 65% in 2011.
  • In the workplace today, every fourth worker in India is a woman.
  • With their increasing participation in a variety of fields, women’s bargaining power in both private and public life is Elected women representatives now make up about 46% of our panchayat members.
  • With this, the landscape of our country is changing from the ground up.
  • Institutional births have risen to an all-time high of 79% in 2014-15. The maternal mortality rate has dropped by half in the decade between 2001-03 and 2011-13.
  • The number of women with a bank account has also increased.
Challenges
  • Women still face serious dangers to their life and liberty in our country.
  • Women still contribute a disproportionate amount of unpaid work in their homes and on farms.
  • They are often not given an equal say in household or work decisions.
  • The conventional ‘one size fits all’ empowerment programs fail to address the problems of the most marginalized women.
  • Stereotyping of women continues:-
    • New stories of violence or sexual harassment against women do appear on newspapers, but often with a bias in reporting.
    • Women as serious decision-makers or as hardcore professionals are mostly being overlooked.
  • Their success stories only find the place, when they have been able to break the glass ceiling and or have reached the pinnacle of success.
Way forward
  • Strengthening the economic citizenship of women involves meeting her personal aspirations, while she contributes to the household’s income and is a caregiver.
  • The pursuit of inclusive growth involves the role of the state as a regulator while providing public goods and services alongside liberal socio-cultural norms within the household/ community.
  • Fiscal policies like lower taxes did not improve female employment as the gains from it perhaps did not offset the costs involved.
  • With a stagnant and low share of formal sector employment, the announcement in the Budget 2018, that contribution by new women recruits to EPFO be reduced from 12% to 8% to increase the wage may neither incentivize participation nor retention rates.
  • MGNREGA increased FWPR, reduced gender gaps in wages in other markets with positive implications on poverty, child and own nutritional status, and empowerment.
  • Collection of your time use data would inform how women spend their time in social production but also will give insights about how men in many families share household work.
  • Caregiving and breadwinning are equally important for the improved well-being of the individuals in a nation.



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