Silent Revolution towards Women Empowerment

Women Empowerment is one of the most discussed agenda of the every government since independence. It is suggested that a silent revolution is emerging in the arena of women empowerment. Instances such as those highlighted below give a thrust to the silent revolution hypothesis:

  • The turnout of women in the elections has been rising faster than that of men, even in the traditionally backward states. If the trends continue it is estimated that women will outnumber men in the 2019 elections.
  • In the digital front the last two years have witnessed a dramatic makeover in terms of increased access to the internet across the country and the most significant aspect of this digital revolution is that beneficiaries of this surge are women. More than 40 per cent of Indian women are now aware of the mobile internet, according to the GSMA. This is more than double the proportion of women aware of the mobile internet from just a year before.

But the critics cite the hypothesis of silent revolution has been stretched too much and the ground reality is different. Since:

  • According to CMIE, out of the 11 million jobs lost in 2018, women accounted for 8.8 million. This serves an already severe economic imbalance across gender lines.
  • Indian women receive 34 per cent less wages than men for equivalent work, spend around five hours a day on unpaid care work compared to a mere half an hour for men and are primarily engaged in low-paying, informal sector work.
  • According to the WEF’s gender gap index, India stands 147th out of 149 countries on health and survival of women and 142nd out of 149 in terms of economic participation of women.
  • According to World Bank India stands 163rd out of 181 countries in female labour force participation.
  • According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, India stands 49th out of 193 by percentage of women representatives in parliament, notably behind Bangladesh, Pakistan, and, yes, even Saudi Arabia, most dangerous country to be a woman.

The condition of the Indian Women is much better than at the time of Independence but it is much lesser than what our founding fathers envisioned to be. Even though the trends are encouraging it falls short to be termed as revolution.

How the new government can take ahead the agenda of Women Empowerment?

The new government can take ahead the agenda of Women Empowerment through:

  • Looking past the reductive and politically expedient ways to frame women’s needs by thinking beyond toilets, talaq and cooking gas.
  • There is a need to ensure women have equal access to opportunities to gain a measure of economic independence, without which it is hard to imagine independence on other fronts.
  • Breaking down the barriers related to poor education and healthcare access as well.
  • Even though there are several women-oriented government initiatives with good intentions, such as Beti Bachao Beti Padhao; however, their track record has been short on results.
  • For Example, Nirbhaya Fund was set up in 2013 to support projects aimed at the safety of women. But till the end of 2018, only 42 per cent of that money has been used and a modest Rs 450 crore was allocated for the Herculean task of making eight of India’s largest cities safer for women.
  • Making the efforts to close the gender gaps. According to report of McKinsey, Closing the gender gap offers a big political return on investment. India could add over 18 per cent to its GDP by 2025, by giving equal opportunities to women.

There is a need of a change in mindset. The political leadership needs to develop a less patronizing attitude and a genuine commitment to effect mindset change which is a prerequisite for women empowerment.