Role of Women and Women’s Organizations
Traditionally, an Indian woman had four fold status-role sequences. These were her role as a daughter, wife, housewife (homemaker), and mother.
Today Indian women work in demanding settings with long work hours, tight deadlines and professional pressures in competitive environments. The natural tendency for anyone dealing with a busy day would be to turn home to relax. But for women, parenting duties and household work make it difficult to find this space at home. The woman in modern times is entering into certain new fields that were unknown to the woman’s sphere of role-sets. They are activating participating in social, economic, and political activities.
Besides the lack of time faced by women after care giving activities to pursue income generating skills and active careers, they also find themselves often subjected to a family imposed ideal of priority skill sets to work on which in turn shapes them to cater to the requirements of a chauvinistic marriage market rather than a job market.
Women’s Liberation Movement
In the 19th century, the male social reformers with the blessing of the British administrators, influenced by western liberal democratic values initiated the process of fight against female infanticide, widow-burning, segregation of women from the public life, prostitution and begging by the destitute women.
They also organised public functions for widow-remarriages. As a result, their relatives, neighbours, community leaders and the organised religion boycotted them. In a way, it was a blessing in disguise because their isolation from petty politics gave them ample time and resources to interact with the power-structures to bring about legal reforms and establish educational institutions, shelter homes, training centers for women from where the first generation of teachers, nurses, skilled workers came out. Enormous amount of literature of that time, produced by the Indian social reformers in Marathi, Hindi, Gujarati, Malayalam, Tamil, Bengali bears witness to their path-breaking efforts.
The first generation of English educated empowered women became pioneers of the women’s movement in the pre-independence period. Most of them channelised their energies in building pioneer women’s organisations such as All India Women’s Conference (AIWC), Young Women Christian Association (YWCA) and Anjuman-e-Islam.
Non-violent means of protest actions under the leadership of Gandhiji, ensured massive participation of women in the national liberation movement. Women family members of the Congress leaders gave up purdah participated in public functions, rallies, demonstrations and experienced prison-life. Families, which allowed women to take political risks, emerged as powerful politicians. Some of the highly educated women joined educational institutions, diplomatic crew, public service boards, public and private sector industries. The rest became enlightened home-makers with a strong commitment for their daughters’ education.
At the time when Brahmo Samaj was born – the whole country was steeped in a debasing form of idolatry and the grossest superstitions had taken hold of the national mind. As a result, revolting practices like the suttee, or the throwing of children into the Ganges by their mothers, committing suicide under the wheels of the chariot of Lord Jagannath became fashionable and were looked upon as great acts of virtue. As many as 309 widows were burnt alive under the jurisdiction of Calcutta in 1828.
Rammohan Roj embarked on a massive mission of social reform. His first action was to wage a tireless crusade against the act of sutte. He gave petitions to the English government and published tracts championing the cause for women. He also organised a vigilance committee who witnessed the sutte acts to see if force was used to burn the woman in the pyre. In the pages of his newspaper Sambad Kaumudi – he published a tract on “The Modern Encroachments on the Ancient Rights of Females according to Hindu Law of Inheritance.”
Due to his efforts the Lord William Bentinck abolished the act of suttee on 4th December 1829. In order that the women who were saved from being burnt could survive – he requested prominent and wealthy Bengalis to make a fund which could provide subsistence to these widows. This was the first concept of the Pension Fund in India. Rammohun was also an advocator of widow re-marriage.
In order to save the plight of women who suffered an account of the deaths of their husbands the Brahmo Samaj launched a campaign advocating widow remarriage. Despite Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar’s campaign that led to the legalisation of widow remarriage (1856) in India, Hindu society had many reservations on this issue. The Brahmos campaigned against such prejudices. To reinforce their commitment to this many young men of the Brahmo movement made a positive point of marrying widows.
Besides championing the cause of widows the Brahmo Samaj also came to the aid of unmarried women as well. It wasn’t just the lower castes who suffered in the caste system. Despite their caste status, the girls from the upper caste families suffered because of their position. If a suitable bridegroom could not be found for such a girl in their caste, their options were limited, as marriage to lower caste men was not permitted. These girls often found themselves being married off to very old men who were already married several times over. Or worse still, sometimes these girls would be poisoned to death. Again the Brahmos campaigned against such unjust practices and saved the lives of many such girls.
It was a Hindu reform society established in Bombay in the 1860s. In purpose it is similar to, but not affiliated with, the more widespread Brahmo Samaj and had its greatest sphere of influence in and around India’s Mahārāshtra state. The aim of the society is the promulgation of theistic worship and social reform, and its early goals were opposition to the castesystem, the introduction of widow remarriage, the encouragement of female education, and the abolition of child marriage.
The social reforms of Prarthana Samaj included introduction of:
1. Inter-caste marriage and widow remarriage.
2. Abolition of untouchability, dowry system, early marriage, polygamy etc.
3. Spread of female education,
4. Opening orphan homes.
5. Widow’s homes.
The Arya Samaj was a revivalist movement in its character. It took inspiration from the indigenous culture. The major concerns and social ideals of Arya Samaj are based on equality of the sexes, absolute justice and fair play between men and women and equal opportunities for all according to their nature, karma and merit.
The leaders of Arya Samaj attacked child marriage, prohibition of widow re marriage, purdah. Swami Dayanand found the solution to all the social abuses in the education of women. But the leaders of Arya Samaj found it difficult to perceive the changed position of women outside the domain of domesticity.
The leaders of all the movements aspired to reorder society in the areas of ‘social behaviour, custom and structure or control’. It was in this context that the “women” question assumed significance and many of the reformers sought to improve the condition of this deprived section of society.
Swami Dayanand did his best to eradicate the social evils afflicting the women and incorporated “women emancipation” as an integral, if not crucial, part of his programmes, He assigned supreme authority to women in domestic matters and advocated equal right to men and women in all respects, in education, in marriage and in matter of property.
Role of Women in the Freedom Movement
For the period of freedom struggle in the motherland, women were not staying at the back. The role of women in the freedom struggle is extremely significant and they also participated in the Indian struggle for Independence. There is a large list of great women whose names have gone down in history for their dedication and undying devotion to the service of India’s freedom struggle.
Bhima Bai Holkar fought against the British Colonel Malcolm, and defeated him in guerrilla warfare. The Rani of Jhansi, Rani Lakshmi Bai whose heroism was an outstanding example for all. Begum Hazrat Mahal was a great Indian freedom fighter who played a major role during India’s First War of Independence. Arun Asaf Ali played an outstanding role in the Quit India Movement. Annie Besant was the first Women President of the Congress and gave a powerful lead to women’s movements in India. Sarojani Naidu was elected as a president of Indian National Congress.
She campaigned for the Montague Chelmsford Reforms, the Khilafat issue, the draconian Rowlett Act and the Satyagraha. Kasturba Gandhi was a leader of women’s Satyagrah. Madam Cama unfolded the first National flag at International Socialist Conference in Stuttgart(Germany) in 1907. She declared “the Flag is of India”.
Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987
Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987 is a law which was enacted by the Government of Rajasthan in 1987. It became an Act of the Parliament of India with the enactment of The Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987 in 1988.
The Act seeks to prevent Sati practice or the voluntary or forced burning or burying alive of widows, and to prohibit glorification of this action through the observance of any ceremony, the participation in any procession, the creation of a financial trust, the construction of a temple, or any actions to commemorate or honor the memory of a widow who committed sati.
Amendment to Criminal Act 1983
This Act talks about domestic violence as an offence. Rape is also made a punishable offence under this Act.
Special Marriage Act
The Special Marriage Act, 1954 is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted to provide a special form of marriage for the people of India and all Indian nationals in foreign countries, irrespective of the religion or faith followed by either party. The Act originated from a piece of legislation proposed during the late 19th century.
Conditions for Marriage, as per the Act
1. Each party involved should have no other subsisting valid marriage. In other words, the resulting marriage should be monogamous for both parties.
2. The bridegroom must be at least 21 years old; the bride must be at least 18 years old.
3. The parties should be competent in regards to their mental capacity to the extent that they are able to give valid consent for the marriage.
4. The parties should not fall within the degree of prohibited relationship.
The Hindu Succession Act, 1956
The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted to amend and codify the law relating to intestate or unwilled succession, among Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs.
The Act lays down a uniform and comprehensive system of inheritance and succession into one Act. The Hindu woman’s limited estate is abolished by the Act. Any property possessed by a Hindu female is to be held by her absolute property and she is given full power to deal with it and dispose it off by will as she likes.
Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (ITPA), 1986
In 1950 the Government of India ratified the International Convention for the Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Persons and the Exploitation of the Prostitution of others. In 1956 India passed the Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girls Act, 1956 (SITA). The act was further amended and changed in 1986, resulting in the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act also know as PITA
The first section of the act has provisions that outline the illegality of prostitution and the punishment for owning a brothel or a similar establishment, or for living of earnings of prostitution as is in the case of a pimp. Section five of the act states that if a person procures, induces or takes a child for the purpose of prostitution then the prison sentence is a minimum of seven years but can be extended to life.
To ensure that the people in the chain of trafficking are also held responsible the act has a provision that states that any person involved in the recruiting, transporting, transferring, harbouring, or receiving of persons for the purpose of prostitution if guilty of trafficking. In addition any person attempting to commit trafficking or found in the brothel or visiting the brothel is punishable under this law.
Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
This Act prohibits the practice of giving or taking of dowry by either parties to a marriage. This law also punishes demanding and advertising dowry. It imposes a duty on parties getting married to make a list of gifts and presents. If dowry has been exchanged at a wedding anyway, it imposes a duty on the person who is given dowry to give it to the bride.
Maternity benefit Act, 1961
The Maternity Benefits Act, 1961 aims at regulating employment of women employees all over the country. The act provides 12 weeks as the maximum period for which any working woman shall be entitled to maternity benefit. She can avail this benefit as 6 weeks up to and including the day of her delivery and 6 weeks immediately following the day of her delivery.
Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act
The Supreme Court has permitted a rape survivor to terminate her pregnancy at 24 weeks, which is beyond the permissible 20 weeks limit prescribed under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971. An adult woman requires no other person’s consent except her own.
The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act
The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986 was enacted to prohibit indecent representation of women through advertisement or in publications, writings, paintings, figures or in any other manner.
Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act
The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted to protect women from domestic violence. It was brought into force by the Indian government from 26 October 2006. The Act provides for the first time in Indian law a definition of “domestic violence”, with this definition being broad and including not only physical violence, but also other forms of violence such as emotional/verbal, sexual, and economic abuse. It is a civil law meant primarily for protection orders and not meant to penalize criminally.
Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 is an Indian legislation passed by the Lok Sabha on 19 March 2013, and by the Rajya Sabha on 21 March 2013, It was originally an Ordinance promulgated by the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, on 3 April 2013, in light of the protests in the 2012 Delhi gang rape case.
Constitutional Provisions for Women
Important Constitutional and Legal Provisions for Women in India
The principle of gender equality is enshrined in the Indian Constitution in its Preamble, Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Duties and Directive Principles. The Constitution not only grants equality to women, but also empowers the State to adopt measures of positive discrimination in favour of women.
Within the framework of a democratic polity, our laws, development policies, Plans and programmes have aimed at women’s advancement in different spheres. India has also ratified various international conventions and human rights instruments committing to secure equal rights of women. Key among them is the ratification of the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1993.
The Constitution of India not only grants equality to women but also empowers the State to adopt measures of positive discrimination in favour of women for neutralizing the cumulative socio economic, education and political disadvantages faced by them.
Fundamental Rights, among others, ensure equality before the law and equal protection of law; prohibits discrimination against any citizen on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth, and guarantee equality of opportunity to all citizens in matters relating to employment. Articles 14, 15, 15(3), 16, 39(a), 39(b), 39(c) and 42 of the Constitution are of specific importance in this regard.
Equality before law for women (Article 14)
1. The State not to discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them (Article 15 (i)).
2. The State to make any special provision in favour of women and children (Article 15 (3)). Equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State (Article 16)
3. The State to direct its policy towards securing for men and women equally the right to an adequate means of livelihood (Article 39(a)); and equal pay for equal work for both men and women (Article 39(d))
4. To promote justice, on a basis of equal opportunity and to provide free legal aid by suitable legislation or scheme or in any other way to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities (Article 39 A)
5. The State to make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief (Article 42)
6. The State to promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people and to protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation (Article 46)
7. The State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people (Article 47)
8. To promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India and to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women (Article 51(A) (e))
9. Not less than one-third (including the number of seats reserved for women belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes) of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Panchayat to be reserved for women and such seats to be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in a Panchayat (Article 243 D(3))
10. Not less than one- third of the total number of offices of Chairpersons in the Panchayats at each level to be reserved for women (Article 243 D (4))
11. Not less than one-third (including the number of seats reserved for women belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes) of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Municipality to be reserved for women and such seats to be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in a Municipality (Article 243 T (3))
12. Reservation of offices of Chairpersons in Municipalities for the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and women in such manner as the legislature of a State may by law provide (Article 243 T (4))
To uphold the Constitutional mandate, the State has enacted various legislative measures intended to ensure equal rights, to counter social discrimination and various forms of violence and atrocities and to provide support services especially to working women. Although women may be victims of any of the crimes such as ‘Murder’, ‘Robbery’, ‘Cheating’ etc, the crimes, which are directed specifically against women, are characterized as ‘Crime against Women’.
These are broadly classified under two categories.
1. The Crimes Identified Under the Indian Penal Code (IPC)
2. The Crimes identified under the Special Laws (SLL)
Indicators of Women’s Status in India
Sex-ratio (number of female per 1,000 male) is an important indicator of women’s status in the society. In 1901 there were 972 females per 1,000 males, while by 1971; the ratio has come down to 930 females per 1,000 males. In 1981 there has been only a nominal increase in the female sex ratio within 934 females to 1,000 males. There were only 926 females per 1000 males in India according to 1991 census.
The 2001 census indicate that the trend has been slightly arrested with the sex ratio at 933 females per 1000 males, with Kerala at 1058 females. The sex ratio of the 0-6 age group has declined sharply from 945 in 1991 to 927 in 2001.
The average Indian female has only 1.2 years of schooling, while the Indian male spends 3.5 years in school. More than 50 per cent girls drop out by the time they are in middle school. Similarly, life expectancy has increased for both the sexes; it has increased to 64.9 years for women and 63 years for men according to UN Statistic Division (2000). The Working women population has risen from 13% in 1987 to 25% in 2001.
Women constitute 90 per cent of the total marginal workers of the country. Rural women engaged in agriculture form 78 per cent of all women in regular work. They are a third of all workers on the land. The traditional gender division of labour ensures that these women get on average 30 per cent lower wages than men.
The total employment of women in organized sector is only 4 per cent. Although industrial production increased in the 1980s; jobs in factories and establishments — or non-household jobs — stagnated at eight per cent of the workforce. A study by SEWA of 14 trades found that 85 per cent of women earned only 50 per cent of the official poverty level income.
The sociological research on the status of women has generally suggested that the Indian women enjoy a low status in their households because family decisions relating to finances, kinship relations, selection of life partner are made by the male members and women are rarely consulted.
Although there has been an expansion in health facilities maternal mortality rate continue to be high at 407 per 1, 00,000 live births (1998).WHO estimates show that out of the 529,000 maternal deaths globally each year ,136,000 (25.7%) are contributed by India. A factor that contributes to India’s high maternal mortality rate is the reluctance to seek medical care for pregnancy – it is viewed as a temporary condition that will disappear. The estimates nationwide are that only 40-50 percent of women receive any antenatal care.
Demographic Profile of Women in India
As per Census 2011, the population of India is 1210.19 million comprising 586.47 million (48.5%) females and 623.72 million (51.5%) males. Females have a share of 48.1% in the urban population and of 48.6% in the rural population. In the age‐group 0‐6 years, the share of female child population is 47.8% of the total child population in that age‐group. Among the States, this share varies between 45.4% (Haryana) and 49.3% (Mizoram).
The sex‐ratio (number of women per 1000 men) is 940 in 2011 which shows continued improvement over the sex ratios of 927 in 1991 and 933 in 2001. Among the States, in Census 2011, Kerala has the highest sex‐ratio of 1084 and Haryana has the lowest of 877. Historically, the age‐specific mortality rate is the lowest for both males and females in the age‐group 10‐14 years. The mortality rate among females across all ages is 6.7 and that among males is 7.7 for the year 2010.
Health and Well Being
The female Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) was 49 compared with the male IMR of 46 and the overall IMR of 47 in 2010. Among the major States, the highest overall IMR of 62 was observed in Madhya Pradesh and the lowest of 13 in Kerala in 2010. Life Expectancy at Birth (LEB) has increased more among women compared to men. It is observed that in 2002‐06 LEB for males was 62.6 years compared to 64.2 years for females. The Maternal Mortality Ratio has come down from 254 during 2004‐06 to 212 during 2007‐09.
The share of deliveries in hospitals, maternity/ nursing homes, health centers, etc. is 40.8% while the deliveries assisted by doctors, trained ‘dais’, trained midwives, trained nurses, etc. constitute another 48.8%.
The awareness about female sterilization is very high in both urban and rural areas. The rural women are found to be less aware about the traditional methods of contraception (55.5%) compared with the urban women (62.4%).
Participation in Economy
The workforce participation rate of females in rural sector was 26.1 in 2009‐ 10 (NSS 64th Round) while that for males was 54.7. In Urban sector, it was 13.8 for females and 54.3 for males. In the rural sector, 55.7% females were self‐employed, 4.4% females had regular wage/salaried employment and 39.9% females were casual labourers compared with 53.5%, 8.5% and 38.0% males in the same categories respectively.
A total of 20.4% women were employed in the organized sector in 2010 with 17.9% working in the public sector and 24.5% in the private. The unemployment rate for women of all ages was 2.4 compared with 2.0 for men in the rural areas in 2009‐10. It was 7.0 for women and 3.1 for men in urban areas during the same period.
In 2009‐10, the average wage/salary received by regular wage/salaried employees of age 15‐59 years was Rs. 155.87 per day for females compared with Rs. 249.15 per day for males in rural areas. For urban areas, it was Rs. 308.79 and Rs. 377.16 per day for females and males respectively.
The share of women in the person days employed through MGNREGA stood at 48.3% in 2011‐12 (all districts with rural areas). Taking care of children was one of the major responsibilities of women, as they spent about 3.16 hours per week on these activities as compared to only 0.32 hours by males.
Literacy and Education
As per Census 2011, 74.0% of the population is literate comprising 65.5% females and2.1% males. The incremental increase over Census 2001 of 11.8% for females is higher than 6.8% for males.
Among the States/Union Territories, the female literacy rate is the highest in Kerala at 92.0% followed by Mizoram at 89.4%. The highest male literacy rate is observed in Lakshadweep at 96.1% followed by Kerala at 96.0% as per Census 2011.
Of the currently attending students aged 5‐ 29 years, 69.2% females in primary schools, 65.6% females in the middle schools and 56.8% females in secondary and higher secondary schools were attending Government schools. The share of males is across the board lower at 65.4%, 64.0% and 55.6% in the respective categories.
Share of females getting free education/ exemption from tuition fee and receiving different types of incentives is higher than that for males in all the three levels of school education. However, the average annual expenditure for females is lower than that of males. The main reasons of females never attending school are ‘expensive cost of education’, ‘not interested in studies’, ‘education is not considered necessary’ and ‘required for household work’.
Participation in Decision Making
According to National Family Health Survey–III (2005‐06) in the rural sector currently married women take 26% decisions regarding obtaining health care for herself and 7.6% in case of purchasing major household items. 10% decisions are taken by females in respect of visiting their family or relatives. For urban areas, these figures are 29.7 %, 10.4 % and 12.2 % respectively.
In the age group of 15‐19 years, 46% of women are not involved in any kind of decision making. In the rural sector, 23.4 % females are not involved in any decision‐ making while, in the urban sector, only 13.9 % of urban resident women are not involved in any decision making. It is found that 32.7% illiterate women, 21.6% unemployed women are not involved in any decision making. For the country as a whole, 59.6% have access to money.
Crime against Women
Cruelty by the husband and relatives continues to occupy the highest share (43.4%) among the crimes committed against women in 2011 followed by molestation (18.8%). 15.6% cases are that of kidnapping and abduction, 10.6% of rape, 3.8% of dowry deaths and 3.7% of sexual harassment.
10.4% cases of cruelty by husband and relatives underwent trial by the Courts of Law in 2011 and conviction was done in 8.3% cases. The highest conviction rate of 16.5% was observed for the crime ‘importation of girls’ and the lowest of 4.0% for ‘indecent representation of women’.
In 2011, of the total Juvenile Delinquency, 5.8% were girls. Also, the rate of incidence of the crime per lakh population was 2.1.
India in the International Arena
India ranks 134 in 2011 among 187 countries in terms of the UNDP Human Development Index (HDI) and Gender Inequality Index (GII).
Factors affecting women’s work participation:
1. Education is one of the most important factors influencing female labour force participation. Human capital theories underline the importance of education in employment outcomes.
2. In the static labour supply model, the effect of education on female labour force participation is dependent on the relative strength of the substitution effect and the income effect. First, education increases the potential earnings and, therefore, the opportunity cost of not working also rises. Second, as a result of higher income, an individual prefers leisure to work and reduces his/her working hours. The net effect depends on which force prevails.
3. A number of studies have shown higher returns to education for women than for men. It is well established in literature that higher levels of human capital lead to higher wages, thereby increasing women’s participation in market work. However, the relationship between educational attainment and female labour force participation is by no means straightforward.
Women’s labour force participation in rural India is negatively influenced by the number of young children (below 5 years) in households. Recent analysis also reported the negative impact of the number of young children on women’s participation in both rural and urban India. In general, and especially in South Asia, it is believed that cultural and societal norms have a significant influence on women’s decision to participate in the labour market and choice of work and on their mobility.
These norms operate at multiple levels of society, for example, religion, caste and region. It has been widely recognized that these norms discourage women to take up paid employment and that they confine women to the role of caregivers.
Cultural factors limit women’s rights in the workplace and their engagement in work. Religion still has a key role to play in determining gender norms in many countries. This is especially the case in India, where women’s role in society is constrained by gender and familial relations and their activities are confined to (unpaid) care work Higher social status has a negative impact on women’s labour force participation, in line with the “Sanskritization” process. Women also have to play the role of caregiver in the family and are, therefore, burdened with housework, a situation that is influenced by gender norms. These gender norms are strengthened by occupational segregation. Segregation is the tendency for women and men to be employed in different occupations.
Such separation creates gendered occupations which are disproportionately “female” or “male”. In other words, occupational segregation by gender refers to the inequality in the distribution of men and women across different occupational categories. Gender segregation of jobs has been a widely discussed issue in various studies.
Social, cultural, historical, and economic factors all play a role in determining the pattern of occupational segregation. As a result, women crowd into certain jobs which are low in the occupational hierarchy, payment and status, but are considered socially acceptable.
Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA)
Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), meaning “service” in several Indian languages, is a trade union based in Ahmedabad, India that promotes the rights of low-income, independently-employed female workers. With over 2 million participating women, SEWA is the largest organization of informal workers in the world and largest non-profit in India
Self-employed women are defined as those who do not receive a salary like that of formally-employed workers and therefore have a more precarious income and life. SEWA is framed around the goal of full employment in which a women secures for her family: income, food, health care, child care, and shelter. The principles behind accomplishing these goals are struggle and development, meaning negotiating with stakeholders and providing services, respectively.
Liberalizing the economy to foreign trade in 1991 caused a huge migration of rural inhabitants to Indian cities that then forced urban dwellers into informal occupations. Since the financial crisis of 2008, over 90% of India’s working population is in the informal sector(Shakuntala 2015); yet 94% of working women in 2009 worked in the informal sector. India’s history and modern culture of female subjugation also contributes to this disparity because traditional gender roles exclude women from regular, secure work.
Working Women’s Forum (WWF)
Working Women’s Forum (WWF) was born out of an activist’s commitment that the poor are entitled to their rights, in terms of organised social platform, access to credit, education, health care and all the other basic services. Annapurna Pariwar is a group of 5 Developmental Organisations working in Pune and Mumbai since 1993 and covering 1000 slum pockets. Its main aim is to empower poor women and their families in terms of finance, education, health, etc.
Budgeting For Gender Equity
Gender Budgeting is a powerful tool for achieving gender mainstreaming so as to ensure that benefits of development reach women as much as men. It is not an accounting exercise but an ongoing process of keeping a gender perspective in policy/ programme formulation, its implementation and review.
GB entails dissection of the Government budgets to establish its gender differential impacts and to ensure that gender commitments are translated in to budgetary commitments. The rationale for gender budgeting arises from recognition of the fact that national budgets impact men and women differently through the pattern of resource allocation. Women, constitute 48% of India’s population, but they lag behind men on many social indicators like health, education, economic opportunities, etc. Hence, they warrant special attention due to their vulnerability and lack of access to resources.
The way Government budgets allocate resources, has the potential to transform these gender inequalities. In view of this, Gender Budgeting, as a tool for achieving gender mainstreaming, has been propagated.
Working Women Hostel
The objective of the scheme is to promote availability of safe and conveniently located accommodation for working women, with day care facility for their children, wherever possible, in urban, semi urban, or even rural areas where employment opportunity for women exist. To achieve this objective, the scheme will assist projects for construction of new hostel buildings, expansion of existing hostel buildings and hostel buildings in rented premises.
The working women’s hostel projects being assisted under this scheme shall be made available to all working women without any distinction with respect to caste, religion, marital status etc., subject to norms prescribed under the scheme.
While the projects assisted under this scheme are meant for working women, women under training for job may also be accommodated in such hostels subject to the condition that taken together, such trainees should not occupy more than 30% of the total capacity the hostel and they may be accommodated in the hostels only when adequate numbers of working women are not available. Children of working women, up to the age of 18 years for girls and up to the age of 5 years for boys may be accommodated in such hostel with their mothers.
Support to training cum employment for women (STEP)
The programme of STEP advocates the objective of extending training for upgradation of skills and sustainable employment for women through a variety of action oriented projects which employ women in large numbers.
The Scheme covers 8 traditional sectors of employment, viz., Agriculture, Small Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries, Handlooms, Handicrafts, Khadi and village industries and sericulture. Two more sectors, namely Social forestry and waste land Development have been added later and now locally appropriate sectors as recommended by the State Governments have also been incorporated.
Swayamsidha scheme was launched in the year 2001 dedicated to Women’s Empowerment. It is a Self Help Groups based programme with emphasis on convergence activities. The objective is to ensure that Self Help Groups members avail the benefit of all schemes and services in an integrated and holistic manner.
Swa Shakti Pariyojna
This programme works with the help of world Bank, International Agriculture Development fund and Indian Government. This programme is an effort in the direction of Women’s Empowerment. It focuses on the women participation in political activities at village level.
Rashtriya Mahila Kosh
Rashtriya Mahila Kosh (RMK) was established by the Government of India in March, 1993 as an autonomous body under the Ministry of Women & Child Development. It was registered under the Societies Registration Act 1860.
The aims and objectives of the Kosh are to undertake activities for the promotion of credit as an instrument of socio-economic change and development through the provision of package of financial and social development services, to demonstrate and replicate participatory approaches in the organization of women’s groups for effective utilization of credit resources leading to self-reliance, to promote and support experiments in the voluntary and formal sector using innovative methodologies, to promote research, study, documentation and analysis, to promote the federation and net working of women’s organisations for shaping & exchange of experience and information and to develop skills in response management & social mobilization, to promote and support the expansion of entrepreneurship skills among women, and promote and support grassroot level societies and organisations and other participatory structures for providing for women effective access to decision making.
The scheme envisions a supportive institutional framework for women victims of difficult circumstances so that they could lead their life with dignity and conviction.
It envisages that shelter, food, clothing, and health as well as economic and social security are assured for such women. It also envisions that the special needs of these women are properly taken care of and under no circumstances they should be left unattended or abandoned which could lead to their exploitation and desolation.
Women play a crucial role in the growth of the economy. Over the years, Indian women have made a substantial impact and achieved success across sectors, both within the country and overseas. Today, India boasts nearly 1.4 million women panchayat leaders – a number that is an indicator of the leadership roles women are increasingly taking up.
For more women to be a part of the workforce, it is essential to promote skill development. Skill development facilitates high productivity, increased employment opportunities and higher income. Skill India envisions to train over 400 million people in India by 2022.
In India, the manufacturing sector employs 20% of the total workforce, much lesser than a number of Asian countries. Though women are under-represented in this sector, there are a range of companies that have set an example for others to follow.
Internet and Women
In India, over 110 million women are active users of internet and growing at a rate of 46% for females, according to a report by Internet and Mobile Association of India and IMRB International. Urban India isn’t just witnessing women’s contribution to social change, health care and education. There are a considerable number of initiatives undertaken by rural women at the grass root level too in spreading awareness for gender equality. Women village-level entrepreneurs run a range of Common Service Centres in India.
Women hold the reins of some of the largest Indian banks and financial service companies. Another achievement in this industry was the establishment of an all-women’s bank, Bharatiya Mahila Bank (BMB) Ltd in August 2013. A pan-India bank, BMB has over 100 branches across the country. The bank focuses on providing monetary assistance to economically neglected, discriminated, rural and urban women.
According to NASSCOM’S IT-BPM Sector in India ‘Strategic Review 2015’, this industry contributes a staggering 9.5% to the national GDP and employs more than 1.2 million women. Some of the biggest multinational technology firms, including IBM India and HP, are headed by women.
Support to Training and Employment Programme for Women (STEP)
The Ministry of Women and Child Development introduced the ‘Support to Training and Employment Programme for Women (STEP)’ scheme to provide employment to women. Under this scheme, women above 16 years of age are provided training to help them become self-employed. The sectors covered under this programme include Agriculture, Food Processing, Handlooms, Handicrafts and Computers, among others.
Women’s Vocational Training Programme
The Women’s Vocational Training Programme was introduced in 1977 by the Ministry of Labour and Employment. The programme attempts to promote the employment of women in industries (mainly the organised sector). As part of this programme, women are trained under the Craftsmen Training Scheme and Craft Instructors Training Scheme.
Digital India aims to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy. A beginning has already been achieved, with the first Women Village Level Entrepreneur Conference that was held in March 2015. Other programmes include Arogya Sakhi, which is a mobile application that assists women entrepreneurs to deliver preventive health care at the doorstep.15 Similarly, Internet Saathi aims to deploy 1,000 specially-designed bicycles with connected devices to give women a chance to experience the Internet for four to six months.
Start Up and Stand Up India
Both the Start Up and Stand Up India initiatives empower women entrepreneurs and provide financial assistance to those who are setting up their businesses. The programmes also aid those who have already established their business but fall under the startup category.