Women have a greater say in healthcare and household purchases: Survey
There has been a significant improvement in the number of women having a say in household decisions pertaining to healthcare and household purchases and the operating of bank accounts, according to the findings of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5), released on Wednesday.
Experts said that while there were positive developments on the banking and decision-making front, the gains did not translate into land-holding patterns, with the number of women owning land and houses declining.
The survey shows that a greater number of women in the age group 15-49 years had a say in making decisions pertaining to healthcare for themselves, major household purchases, and visits to family and relatives. The number of women having a say in these decisions increased from 73.8% in 2015-16 to 92% in 2020-21.
The data for the survey was collected in two phases -- between January 4, 2020 and March 2, 2020 (prior to the Covid-19 lockdown), and between November 21, 2020 and January 20, 2021. A total of 9,486 households, 11,159 women, and 1,700 men were surveyed in the Capital. All the comparative figures are from NFHS-4, for which data was collected in 2015-16.
The findings also showed that there was a jump in the number of women owning bank accounts from 64.5% to 72.5%. The number of women who own a mobile phone also increased from 66.6% to 73.8%. Another positive marker showed that the number of women who worked in the past year and were paid in cash increased from 21.1% to 24.9%.
Shalini Sinha, India country representative of Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), said that the number of women who own a bank account did not necessarily translate into asset creation for women in a patriarchal society. “Access to financial income may improve the bargaining power that women have in the house. However, such shifts usually take place after a long-drawn process,” said Sinha.
She added that just one indicator of access to a bank account alone did not mean economic empowerment, and there were a number of other factors at play, which, combined together, indicated economic empowerment. “One should encourage initiatives that seek to link women to banking services because it is a fact that the whole household can prosper if women are earning and saving regularly. However, opening a bank account alone doesn’t mean economic empowerment,” said Sinha.
As per the survey, the number of women owning land or a house decreased 34.9% to 22.7%. Jaya Velankar, director, Jagori, a Delhi-based women’s organisation, said that women in India had been denied land traditionally due to the belief that the land will be divided when women marry into another family. “Land ownership in Indian societies is usually vested with fathers and sons. Women are denied property rights since there is a belief that more people will lay claim to the land when a woman is married into another family,” said Velankar.