Can a country that fails to fully utilise almost 49% of its most precious resource — human capital — hope to prosper economically? Unfortunately, even as we prepare to celebrate yet another Women’s Equality Day today, there’s no escaping the harsh reality that Indian women, i.e., 49% of the population, remain as most under utilised resource.
The reason for this unsatisfactory state of affairs is not far to seek. More than 72 years after Independence, Indian women remain among the most disadvantaged sections of society. Though the Constitution out rightly bars discrimination on the grounds of sex, such discrimination is the rule rather than the exception. Whether in terms of access to education, healthcare, right to property, equal wages or any other yardstick, women trail their male counterparts. Burdened with a multitude of handicaps, they are not able to realise their full potential. This has repercussions that go beyond the women themselves.
If India is to move from its present low-income-emerging-economy status to a high-income-developed-economy, women must take their rightful place in society and the economy. The onus for this lies with the government and civil society. Despite the host of women-friendly laws enacted over the years, the ground reality has not changed for the Aam Aurat.
In India, the next step towards gender justice varies, depending on one’s location. In some parts, it is ending female foeticide and getting girls into schools. In some circles, it is progressing to paternity leave. In some religions, it is ending bias rooted in personal law, in others, it is bringing tradition and practice in line with reformed laws.
Amidst all these, some women keep trying, keep fighting and give others hope with their achievements. Women like Vinesh Phogat (Asian Games Gold Wrestling), PV Sindhu (Olympic Silver Badminton), Indra Nooyi (CEO, Pepsico), Sakshi Malik (Media in Wrestling), Arunima Sinha (First Indian Amputee Female to climb Mt Everest), Kalpana Chawala (First Indian Women in space) Rupa Devi (International Referee for FIFA), Pooja Thakur (Wing Commander), Tessy Thomas (Missile Woman of India) and Chhavi Rajput (First woman sarpanch in India with an MBA degree). The glass ceiling in banking sector has also been broken by these powerful women bankers – Arundhati Bhattacharya (First ever woman chairman of the SBI), Shikha Sharma (CEO, MD, Axis Bank), Chanda Kochhar (CEO, MD, ICICI) and Kalpana Morparia (CEO of JP Morgan India).
Even though this is not an exhaustive list of all that women have achieved, yet it gives us the courage to fight the odds, push those sarcastic comments to a side and strive to achieve things that we so believe in.
Achieve gender equality and empower all girls and women
Provide universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights