India’s welcome focus on women-led development

Apr 16, 2023 11:52 AM IST

After the conclusion of India’s G20 presidency, women-led development must find a permanent place as a priority

India’s presidency of the G20 has brought about a welcome focus on women-led development. This was the central theme at the recent meeting of Think20, comprising Research and Information System for Developing Countries, Asian Development Bank Institute, United Nations and Sewa Bharat. Empowering women is significant in realising the Sustainable Development Goals. For this, women across G20 countries must be assured of sustainable livelihoods.

Women across G20 countries must be assured of sustainable livelihoods. (HT Photo) PREMIUM
Women across G20 countries must be assured of sustainable livelihoods. (HT Photo)

The care sector is rapidly growing and creating work opportunities for women. Renana Jhabvala, chairperson of Sewa Bharat, said, “Women-led development as envisaged by G20 goes beyond empowerment also. Women should lead a rapacious economy into a more nurturing one.” Women cannot just be beneficiaries; they must be involved in the decision-making identifying development priorities, designing interventions, and implementing development programmes.

We need to build on past G20 efforts — in 2012, at the G20 Mexico summit, member-countries committed to taking steps to enable the participation of women in economic and social processes. After this came the 2013 summit when member-countries focused on access to financial services for women. Large-scale, regular, gender-disaggregated data is necessary for interventions. In addition, skill development programmes need to be designed to consider practical constraints women face in the job market, including issues of transport, safety and responsibilities towards care work.

India has a vast network of Anganwadi (daycare centres for better nutrition and early childhood learning), which have reduced malnutrition through the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS). However, these centres do not meet the needs of the working mother. Therefore, the scope of this programme must be expanded by upgrading them to creches. This will require skilled staff and an extension of the operating hours of these centres to ensure that they enable mothers to leave their children at these centres in the day.

In India, agriculture is a significant employer for women. But women are not primary producers, so they cannot access quality inputs, knowledge and markets. Agricultural policies across the Global South must recognise women as farmers even if the land is not in their names. Women-owned microenterprises need access to the means required for growth. In India, they form 20% of total enterprises, with over 90% of women-owned enterprises having an annual turnover of under $12,000.

Digital technologies have become a necessary part of the world of work, with increasing job opportunities for women, which are hybrid or online. In India, 26% of women own smartphones compared to 49% of men; 30% of women use the internet on their mobile phones compared to 51% of men, resulting in a 41% gender gap. Closing the gender gap in access to digital devices will be a crucial first step.

“Women must have access to capital. The pandemic has shown us that women are already accessing digital devices and are able to use them effectively when given the chance. Sometimes, we observe that a collective or micro enterprise uses a digital device to sell their products or conduct other transactions. The government has acknowledged and is responsive to all the tasks put forward by T20 and this is the way forward,” says Monica Raina, consultant, advocacy policy and government partnerships for Sewa Bharat.

After the conclusion of India’s G20 presidency, women-led development must find a permanent place as a priority and will be further developed during the successive G20 presidencies.

The views expressed are personal

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    Lalita Panicker leads the opinion section at Hindustan Times. Over a 33-year career, she has specialised in gender issues, reproductive health, child rights, politics and social engineering.

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