Empower the girl child. Empower the nation

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To ensure empowerment in the true sense, we have to build the scope and outreach for girls to make choices through better skills, capabilities, and self-esteem; help them develop equitable relations within the family, the community and other stakeholders in the society.

Girls or women mean half the humanity. Needless to say, no society can be considered truly developed if its women are not active participants and contributors. They are the key catalysts for socio-economic change. However, it is sad to see that despite advancements in other sectors, women still face numerous challenges in not being able to access rightful entitlements or gainful employment.

A United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report found that more women have enrolled in higher education, from 7.5 percent in 2002-03 to 20 percent in 2012-13. According to an ILO paper on employment trends for women in India, about 85 per cent of rural and 59 per cent of urban women workers are illiterate or literate only up to primary level. It further states that just a small percentage of women have benefited from higher education.

A majority of women in India who are regularly employed are with the informal sector, undertaking domestic, household work, with no fixed, fair wages or facilities, limited social security benefits, no rights or entitlements and most importantly, no safety. This is perhaps the reason why many girls today are not being receptive to the idea of “working” or “being employed”.

According to a World Bank Report, India is ranked 121st out of 131 countries in Female Labour Force Participation (FLFP). It also has the lowest workforce participation rate of women among the BRICS nations at 29 percent. But if we look at agriculture, construction, manufacturing or other home-based occupations such as cottage industries making papads, baskets, pickles, bidi rolling, handloom and crafts, they provide employment to a large percentage of women and girls.

Their occupational share compared to men has increased due to the latter migrating to cities and taking up other forms of employment but these are low-paying and do not ensure growth. The economic boom of liberalisation in India has significantly bypassed many women as only some have made it to white collar jobs, while many drops out of school at early ages are unable to learn skills to earn dignified, economically viable livelihoods.

Providing quality education with skill development in a safe environment is still an unreached goal. Limitations on women’s mobility, lack of property ownership and enforcement of laws related to girls and women, unrecognised and unpaid work, unequal wages, multiple forms of violence against women, lack of many safe and secure options to work, all of these are key socio-cultural constraints preventing women from working.

To ensure empowerment in the true sense, we have to build the scope and outreach for girls to make choices through better skills, capabilities, and self-esteem; help them develop equitable relations within the family, the community and other stakeholders in the society.

There have to be enabling conditions with progressive policies and ensure these are implemented effectively. It is essential to adopt a lifecycle approach for girls, as the needs vary in each phase of their lives – right nutrition at birth and very young ages, quality early childhood education and care, capacity to address discrimination and help them recognise their rights.

Source: Yourstory

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