India has climbed eight places in the annual Gender Gap Report, 2023, and now is in the position of 127 out of 146 countries in terms of gender parity, which was 135 last year.the recently released 17th edition of this report by the world economic forum (WEF) evaluates gender parity On the basis of four key markers of the index – The Global Gender Gap (GGG) index measures and tracks the economic participation, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment of a nation. It assigns scores ranging from 0 to 1, where 1 indicates complete gender parity and 0 represents significant disparities. As the longest-standing index, it has been monitoring the progress made in bridging these gaps since 2006.
Iceland leads the list as the most gender-equal country for the 14th consecutive year, with a gender gap score of 91.2%.It is the only country which could close over 90% of its gender gap. Three other Nordic countries are Norway (87.9%), Finland (86.3%), and Sweden (81.5%).
This year by crossing 64.3 percent of its overall gender gap, India opens its window of opportunities in the global sphere. As the nation has made significant progress even after the dramatic hit of COVID 19 in its full body and nerves, the situation of neighboring countries should be discussed accordingly. Pakistan ranked- 142, Bangladesh -59, China -107, Nepal -116, Sri Lanka -115 and Bhutan-103.
An analysis of the Initiatives that India has taken all through its journey to reduce gender gap in social, economic and political life could give an explicit picture of development master plans.India has implemented various initiatives to promote economic participation, health, and survival for women. The “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao” program focuses on safeguarding the rights, survival, and education of the girl child. The “Mahila Shakti Kendra” scheme aims to empower rural women by providing skill development opportunities and avenues for employment. To address women’s safety concerns, the “Mahila Police Volunteers” program establishes a link between the police and the community, assisting women in distress. The Rashtriya Mahila Kosh ” serves as a microfinance organization, offering concessional micro-credit to economically disadvantaged women for income-generating activities.
To enhance economic empowerment, the “Sukanya Samriddhi Yojna” enables girls to gain financial independence through the opening of bank accounts in their names. Initiatives such as “Stand-Up India,” “Mahila e-Haat,” and the “Entrepreneurship and Skill Development Programme” specifically promote female entrepreneurship and provide platforms for women entrepreneurs, self-help groups (SHGs), and NGOs to thrive. Additionally, the establishment of “Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas” in Educationally Backward Blocks (EBBs) ensures access to education for girls in marginalized areas.
In the realm of political participation, the government has reserved 33 percent of seats in Panchayati Raj Institutions for women, aiming to provide them with greater representation. To empower elected women representatives, capacity-building programs are conducted to equip them with the skills and knowledge required for effective participation in governance processes.Through these multifaceted initiatives, India endeavors to uplift women by creating opportunities, addressing safety concerns, promoting entrepreneurship, and enabling political representation, thus fostering their economic participation, health, and overall well-being.
However, the country is lagging behind in economic participation and opportunity, with only 36.7 percent parity.Meanwhile there have been improvements in wage and income parity, the representation of women in senior positions and technical roles has slightly declined compared to the previous years assessment. India’s political landscape has witnessed significant advancements in terms of gender equality and women’s political empowerment. With a parity rate of 25.3 percent, India has taken commendable strides in this area. A noteworthy achievement is the increased representation of women in parliament, where they now account for 15.1 percent of the total, marking the highest percentage since the inception of this measurement in 2006. This positive trend indicates a move towards enhanced gender inclusivity in political decision-making.thanks to the efforts on the ground of the 73rd and 74th amendments.
India’s efforts to improve health and survival outcomes have also yielded promising results. The country has witnessed a notable enhancement in its Health and Survival index, primarily evidenced by the sex ratio at birth, which has risen to 92.7 percent—an increase of 1.9 percentage points from the previous year. This development has played a significant role in bolstering parity in health and survival, which currently stands at 95 percent. This progress is particularly significant as it signifies an improvement after a decade of slow advancement in this domain.
The World Economic forum acknowledged that Smriti Irani , Women and Child Development Minister of India has reiterated the importance of women’s participation in local government bodies. But, as the report exposes , women represent only 15.1% of parliamentarians, “highest for India since the inception from 2006 edition.” This positive advancement should serve as a catalyst for Parliament to escalate its efforts and undertake concrete measures regarding the long-standing Women’s Reservation Bill. The bill, initially introduced in 1996, advocates for the reservation of 33 percent of seats in the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies exclusively for women. Given the significant progress made in women’s political empowerment, it is imperative for Parliament to prioritize and take action on this crucial legislation. By doing so, India can further enhance gender representation in the political sphere and foster a more inclusive democracy.To understand where things stand on women’s participation in politics, we have to dive through the situation of Nagaland, which became a State in 1963, but elected its first two women MLAs only in 2023.
India’s performance in ensuring equal economic participation and opportunities for both men and women is disheartening, as it ranks among the lowest with less than 40 percent parity. While there have been some improvements in wage and income parity, there is a concerning decline in the representation of women in senior positions and technical roles. Another area of concern is India’s performance in health and survival, although there has been some progress in the sex ratio at birth, which has positively impacted parity after a prolonged period of slow advancement.
It is crucial to address the issue of providing girls with equal access to education at all levels, including schools and colleges. Additionally, it is important to ensure that women have opportunities for paid work, as they often bear the burden of unpaid domestic work, which leaves them with limited time and energy for paid employment. Offering girls education that guarantees job prospects will not only improve various development indicators, including nutrition, but also break the harmful cycle of early marriage leading to poor maternal and child health.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the vulnerability of life, particularly affecting women who experienced a drop in labor force participation, resulting in reduced household incomes. Women often face constraints due to patriarchal and cultural norms, and safety concerns further impede their progress, even when they secure employment. While the pandemic may have slowed down efforts to achieve gender equality by 2030, it is imperative to persistently work towards bridging this gap in a dedicated manner.
Quoting Managing Director of the World Economic Forum,Saadia Zahidi as she highlights the importance of women’s economic participation and opportunity, by saying “An economic rebound requires the full power of creativity and diverse ideas and skills. We cannot afford to lose momentum on women’s economic participation and opportunity.”