By: Bhavsimran Kaur
Women are the most integral part of society on this planet. Without women, we cannot even imagine our existence. They perform numerous roles whether it is productive or reproductive. Their list of chores starting from the household goes on and on to the society, nation, and then at the world levels. Women are the pioneers of the nation. Their roles have no boundaries and they go on as educators, caretakers, birth givers, wives, mothers, and the list is endless. Women are of prime importance in any society. Their contributions however are not accounted for very well and are confined to some limited stereotypical roles. In the presence of a patriarchal society, the fate of a woman is often left in the hands of a man and their potentials are left undiscovered. Whenever we talk about the role of a woman the first thing which attacks our mind is the picture of a kitchen. This is not strange as the overall thinking of society is mended in such a way and this thought does not bring any expression of surprise to our mind. These types of beliefs tend to cage our thoughts, our feelings behind the bars of the wrong perception of an ideal woman. This thought sits right in our roots of so-called traditions and customs which flow from generation to generation. Women’s access to resources also becomes limited in this way. A sense of insecurity arises whenever a woman asks for any role except that of a household. Her identity is mistaken as she will not be able to match her male counterpart be it in terms of strength or intelligence and so on. A man and a woman are two different individuals their differences in strength and capabilities are bound to exist but that does not guarantee that they may be fully incapable and therefore limited to only households. Women as a human entity stand at par with humans and they prove that women have the “beauty with brains”. A woman is leading a life that is catering to various domains starting from family to profession to social arenas and a lot more. She performs multiple roles while being in a single body. It is not wrong to call her the best creation of God.
It is a crystal-clear fact that women perform n number of functions but the question here arises that out of all these functions they perform do these account in the “Productive category”? Most of the contributions that are laid down by women are often termed as noneconomic ones as they do not help in raising any income. The examples include the job of a homemaker who performs functions like cooking, cleaning, taking care of the family, etc. for which she is not paid.
Due to this issue, their works are not accounted for in the national income contribution.
A glance at some data and stance
It is estimated that women in India contribute 17% of the national GDP, as against the global average of 40%. This illustrates a significant gap that is being underutilized in the recovery efforts. data released by the World Bank regarding female Labour Force Participation Rates (LFPR) for 2018-19. The data show that the share of working-age women either being employed or available for work in India is as low as 21.8%, whereas the global average is 40%. India ranks 120 among 131 countries in female labor force participation rates and rates of gender-based violence remain unacceptably high. It’s hard to develop inclusively and sustainably when half of the population is not fully participating in the economy. Women constitute nearly half of the Indian population, yet these figures show that they remain a dependent demographic. We cannot think of the inclusive development of any economy if we unsee the contribution that can come from the other half of the society simply because of gender differences. At present, there are 432 million working-age women in India, of which 343 million are not in paid formal work. A report by McKinsey Global Institute has estimated that India could add $770 billion to its GDP by 2025, simply by giving equal opportunities to women. “Around the world, women perform two-thirds of the work for 10 percent of the income and only 1 percent of the assets. Women also constitute 70 percent of the world’s poor” according to the data from the UN. Does this data put a question mark on this dire situation around us?
The cause of such issues arises from the grassroots levels the major one being education. Literacy rates among women are among the lowest in the world because education for females in India is discouraged, often being viewed as wasteful or heretical. Even with limited skills development, a large proportion of educated women fail to secure gainful employment. Even when women are able to work, they still often face challenges from the family and from a society that does not readily support working women. With a lack of basic infrastructure and childcare provision, often many women simply give up on their careers. The reasons cited tend to be family needs, such as after having children, or if someone in the family becomes unwell. There is also a great deal of gender discrimination within the private sector, which prefers to have a male workforce due to the perceived lower expenditure in terms of gender-specific provisions such as maternity benefits, etc. Most important is the cause of safety factors that contribute to keeping women away from the public domain of work. External safety constraints such as the lack of safe transportation, and internal constraints including sexual harassment in the workplace are both major issues.
The other one is the skilling of the workforce primarily in the rural sector where women are largely uneducated and highly unskilled because they were never seen as economic resources. This is particularly true for the large number of women employed in the unorganized sector who are exposed to these concerns on a much greater scale, yet because they have neither a fixed income nor any job security, their role in the economy becomes almost negligible.
The theme for International Women’s Day, 8 March 2022 is “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”. There are ample amount of questions which arise be it for women getting less paid, or informal sector women working conditions or women at rural households who are excluded from all other thinking except for being as wives and taking care of livestock and their families. So till now, we are well aware of the problems, their causes, their presence in our society. It is well understood how much work needs to be done to help women achieve their basic contributions which have become a barrier to the development and growth of women. Due to some social stigmas or taboos existing around us we are continuing to unnoticed the great power of transformation which can turn our economy upside down if we use our human resources efficiently irrespective of the so-called gender boundaries being set in our society hold no scientific or practical reasons to exist. It’s high time when we need to break down these chuckles around us and should act as an educated human resource that wants to give equal space to another gender as well. There is sufficient evidence to suggest that opportunity and access to knowledge & resources can make all the difference.
Let’s turn down this inhuman attitude towards co-existing gender and instead assist them in making their contribution towards our economies. Before moving this way forward, also don’t forget to clear your minds of specific gender roles assigned as a man or a woman. Women should be equally respected and should be given equal wages and other benefits as their male counterparts. Both men and women have the right to enter and explore any workforce area be it entrepreneurship, corporate world jobs, and importantly at your home! Let’s contribute every inch to this in order to support and respect the rights and responsibilities of each gender unbiasedly. We need to make it successful so that our coming generations will be able to take forward sustainable growth of our societies, our economies free from the existence of any such gender-related issues and make this world a better place to live!!