WCD Ministry Committed towards Socio-Economic Empowerment of Women

Women Gather Together and Celebrate After Part...
Image by International Rivers via Flickr

EQUALITY INDIA NEWS / A SHAKTI VAHINI RESEARCH INITIATIVE

International Women’s Dayis a celebration of economic, political, social and cultural achievements of women. Women in our country face numerous challenges in all the sectors of the economy be it agriculture, industry or services. Women comprise 48.3% of the population but have only 26.1% share in the employed. Though their share has been increasing, our challenge is to bring more women into the mainstream employment by facilitating access to certain occupations and appropriate skill development.

The Agriculture sector alone employs 75% of all women workers and 85% of rural women workers. Many women manage farms without male support. Women contribute significantly to industry and services also: however, more than 93% are in the unorganised sectors working as informal workers. Working conditions in the informal sector are not conducive and earnings tend to be lower leading to lower asset formation. Women have less access to skill training and regular employment. Women not only form a predominant section of the poor but also experience its adverse effects more intensely than men.

Addressing the gathering on the occasion, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) of Women and Child Development Smt. Krishna Tirath said, “My Ministry is committed to helping women meet and overcome these challenges. We need to take this concern forward and as a stepping stone we have decided to focus attention on Socio-Economic Empowerment of Women. The empowering experiences of women beneficiaries from Self Help Groups has given us hope that policies are helping women to be economically independent overcoming the challenges faced by women in our country. Women need to be empowered economically and socially, for them to make informed choices, to bring about change in the mind set of society and to enable them to bring up their children including girl child in a healthy and happy atmosphere.”

The Government has undertaken a number of initiatives for socio-economic empowerment of women:

• Under the MGNREGA, 30% of the jobs created are reserved for women. Data from the field shows that in actual practice about 47%of the employment has gone in favour of women.

• Under the SWARNJAYANTI GRAM SWAROZGAR YOJANA (SGSY) scheme special safeguards have been put in place to ensure that atleast 40% of the beneficiaries are women. On the ground however, more than 80% of the SHGs and more than 60% of the individual beneficiaries under the scheme are women. This has made possible the financial inclusion of a significant number of women.

• The Rashtriya Mahila Kosh extends collateral free loans for income generating activities as well as asset creation to women and as on February 2011, around 7 lakh women have received loans amounting to more than 300 crore rupees.

• The Support to Training Employment for Women Programme of WCD ministry is aimed at upgrading the skills of women in various traditional and non traditional vocations. More than six lakh women have benefitted from the scheme which was initiated in the 9th plan.

• Under the Indira Awas Yojana it is mandatory that the houses should be registered either in the name of the woman alone or in the name of both husband and wife.

• Last year, WCD Ministry launched the SABLA scheme in 200 districts which aims to empower the adolescent girls by improving their nutritional and health status, and through upgradation of life skills and vocational skills.

• Just recently the Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY) -Conditional Maternity Benefit (CMB), a new scheme for pregnant and lactating women has been initiated on pilot basis in 52 selected districts across the country. The scheme would contribute to a more enabling environment by providing cash incentives for improved health and nutrition to pregnant and lactating mothers.

• The Government has brought amendments to the Hindu Succession Act to grant equal rights to daughters in inheritance of ancestral property.

• With 33% reservation for women in Panchayats and urban local bodies which has increased the role of women in the political sphere, we have about 12 lakh elected women leaders at the grassroots who can act as change agents in encouraging the society to change its mindsets and attitudes.

• To provide women a safe working environment, a Bill has been introduced for Protection of Women from Sexual Harassment at work places in the Lok Sabha.

• Women would also benefit from the Government’s initiative under the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme for BPL beneficiaries where the eligibility age for pension from 65 years of age to 60 years and has also increased the pension of those above eighty years of age to Rs 500 per month from Rs 200.

• Just yesterday, President of India has launched the ‘Sanchar Shakti’ a pilot scheme for mobile value added services and ICT related livelihood skills for women SHGs.

All these efforts are bearing fruit and women are marching ahead confidently. These will go a long way in enabling women to take control of their own lives and to be in a position to take decisions about the birth of their children, retaining their girl children, improving the nutritional and educational status of their girl children and ensuring that girl children do not get married before the legal age. But, there is no room for complacence. There are aspects which need further attention, proactive measures and affirmative action towards raising awareness. enhancement of productive assets such as land in women’s hands, expansion of economic and social security, education and health care, and increased women’s participation in democratic decision-making at all levels can build a more equitable growth path. For women in general and poor women in particular infrastructure is also critical, especially for cooking energy, drinking water, toilets, village roads, housing on the one hand and as a means of enhancing their livelihood options and the productivity of their assets (such as irrigation) on the other. Toilets for women are a particularly crucial need.

The National Mission for Empowerment of Women, for ensuring coordinated delivery of women-centric and women-related programmes of the Government. It ensures convergence of various schemes and programmes for the development and welfare of the women. The State Governments are initiating similar convergence missions.

The Government, acknowledging the hard work put in by the Anganwadi workers and helpers, has announced doubling of their honorarium from 1st April, 2011. The process of universalization of ICDS will soon have 28 lakh women workers at 14 lakh Anganwadi Centres spread across the country who play a crucial role in social mobilization. Malnutrition and domestic violence against women, physical, emotional, psychological and economic is an area of concern for all of us.

Anganwadi workers are uniquely placed to raise awareness about the consequences of domestic violence on both women and children. I look forward to your acting as Ahimsa Messengers in society and making a difference in the incidence of Domestic Violence.

The budget allocation for social sector in 2011-12 has been increased by 17 per cent over the current year. The budget has provided for Creation of a Women’s Self Help Groups’ Development Fund which will have a corpus of Rs 500 crore.

On International Women’s Day, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) of Women and Child Development Smt. Krishna Tirath congratulated the UN for launching UN Women by bringing together four different UN entities which were working for the cause of women. India is a part of the Executive Board of UN Women. The political commitment to women’s issues in the country will increase further with India’s seat in the Executive Board of this international body.

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