Harnessing The Gender Dividend: Empowering Women for Inclusive Development in India

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July 20, 2023

Harnessing The Gender Dividend: Empowering Women for Inclusive Development in India

UNFPA India | India's chance to lead: Reproductive autonomy, healthier  lives and gender dividend

Source: The Hindu


  • India’s remarkable demographic journey, marked by significant population growth and transformative changes, has had both positive and negative impacts on the lives of Indian women.
  • While advancements in public health and medical breakthroughs have contributed to improved living conditions, challenges such as son preference, early marriage, limited access to education, gender-based violence, and economic inequality persist.
  • In order to achieve inclusive and sustainable development, it is crucial to embrace the concept of the gender dividend, which emphasizes investing in women and closing gender gaps to enhance productivity and equity.

Challenges Faced by Indian Women

  • Son Preference and Gender Bias: The preference for sons in Indian society has resulted in a sex ratio imbalance, perpetuated by practices like sex-selective abortion and neglect of sick daughters. This bias against girls limits their opportunities and contributes to discrimination.
  • Early Marriage and Childbearing: Despite improvements in educational attainment, early marriage and childbearing continue to hinder women’s educational and employment prospects, perpetuating gender inequality.
  • Limited Access to Education: Although progress has been made, many girls and women in India still face limited access to quality education, restricting their skill development and employment opportunities.
  • Gender-based Violence and Harassment: Gender-based violence, including domestic violence, dowry-related violence, and sexual harassment, negatively impacts women’s well-being and restricts their freedom and participation in society.
  • Limited Economic Opportunities: Gender pay gaps, occupational segregation, and biases in hiring and promotion processes contribute to limited economic opportunities for women. The burden of unpaid domestic and caregiving work further hinders their engagement in paid employment and economic empowerment.
  • Lack of Social and Financial Support: Widowed or elderly women often lack adequate social and financial support systems, perpetuating gender inequality and leaving them vulnerable to economic hardships and limited access to healthcare and pension benefits.

Implications of Aging for Indian Women

  • Increase in Proportion: The proportion of elderly women aged 65 and above has risen significantly, and this trend is projected to continue. By 2050, it is expected that 21% of the population will be women aged 65 and above.
  • Financial Challenges: Widowed women face financial difficulties due to limited access to savings, property, and other resources. Dependence on husbands and subsequent reliance on children, primarily sons, perpetuates the cycle of son preference.
  • Limited Agency: Widowed women may experience limited decision-making power and agency, hindering their ability to make independent choices and contributing to social and economic vulnerability.

Harnessing the Gender Dividend

  • Education and Skill Development: Promoting gender equality in education and providing skill development programs can equip women with relevant skills for employment and contribute to their economic empowerment.
  • Economic Empowerment: Creating an enabling environment for women’s economic participation, including addressing gender disparities in the labor market, promoting entrepreneurship, and ensuring equal pay for equal work, can unlock the potential of women as productive contributors to society.
  • Women’s Leadership and Decision-making: Increasing women’s representation and participation in leadership positions across sectors allows for diverse perspectives and ensures women’s voices are heard in decision-making processes.
  • Legal Reforms and Gender Equality: Enacting and enforcing laws that protect women’s rights, address discriminatory practices, and strengthen existing laws can promote gender equality and ensure justice and protection for women.
  • Health and Well-being: Improving women’s access to healthcare services, including reproductive healthcare and mental health support, is crucial for their overall well-being and empowerment.
  • Social Support and Safety: Establishing social support systems and raising awareness about gender inequality and violence against women can provide safety nets for vulnerable groups and challenge harmful norms.
  • Engaging Men and Boys: Promoting gender equality requires engaging men and boys as allies in challenging harmful gender norms and encouraging their involvement in caregiving and advocating for women’s rights.
  • Data Collection and Monitoring: Collecting sex-disaggregated data and conducting gender analysis helps identify gaps, monitor progress, and inform evidence-based policymaking, ensuring accountability and guiding future interventions.

Strategies for Enhancing Childcare Access

  • Utilize National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS): Consider incorporating staffing crèches as an acceptable form of work under NREGS, expanding access to affordable childcare services.
  • Leverage the Self-Help Group Movement: Utilize the resources and network of self-help groups to establish neighborhood childcare centers, catering to both urban and rural areas.
  • Expand Anganwadis: Increase the reach and capacity of government-funded Anganwadis by including provisions for crèche services, providing integrated childcare and early education.
  • National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM): Integrate childcare services within the NRLM framework, supporting skill development and income-generation activities for rural households.
  • Financial Support for Childcare: Explore subsidy programs or financial assistance schemes to make childcare more affordable for low-income families, alleviating the financial burden.
  • Neighborhood Childcare Centers: Encourage the establishment of neighborhood-based childcare centers in urban areas to provide accessible childcare options for working parents.
  • Recognition of Childcare as Work: Promote the professionalization of the childcare sector by offering training programs, certification, and support systems to improve the quality of care provided by childcare professionals.

The Conclusion

  • To achieve India’s demographic dividend, it is essential to empower women by harnessing the gender dividend. By investing in women’s education, economic empowerment, leadership, legal reforms, healthcare, and social support, India can create an inclusive and sustainable society.
  • Additionally, enhancing childcare access and redefining societal norms will enable women to participate fully in the labor force and contribute to the country’s progress.
  • By embracing these strategies, India can unlock the potential of its women and foster an environment of equality and empowerment for all.

Mains Exam Practice Question:

  • Analyzing the challenges faced by Indian women in the context of gender dividend, discuss the strategies that can be implemented to empower women and promote inclusive development in India.

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Harnessing The Gender Dividend: Empowering Women for Inclusive Development in India | Vaid ICS Institute