IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 30th November, 2016
TOPIC:General Studies 1
Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues.
Gender Equality in India: Long road ahead
Gender budgeting- an instrument to increase gender equality
In India, gender budgeting was formally adopted in 2005. 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 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 behind such budgeting is 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.
That is why the way government allocates budgetary resources, it has the potential to transform the existing gender inequalities.
In 2005, the finance minister included a separate statement on spending programmes that benefit women in particular in budget document.
Since 2005, every budget has a statement that lists out schemes meant specifically for women. There are two types of schemes
100% provision for women
At least 30% provision for women
Along with central government, sixteen state governments have also implemented gender budgeting over past decade.
Is gender budgeting successful
Recently, economists from IMF did an empirical check on states’ data to see if a focus on gender budgeting has made a difference in those states that have adopted it. Specific programmes targeting women have made a difference.
The results were positive as it was revealed that the states that had adopted gender budgeting had moved towards greater gender equality that was measured by female to male enrolment ratios at different levels of schooling, especially, primary level has more intensity than secondary schooling.
Giving free bicycles to girls has been a fruitful decision by some governments as it empowered the girls to visit the schools on their own, have reduction in travel time as well as be on time, whether school or home, with the cycle.
Similarly, separate toilets play an important role in girls going to schools. Lack of safe and separate toilets was one of the foremost reason of higher drop out amongst girl students.
This is also impacted by the nature of existing political power. As per an economist’s research, the village panchayats that are controlled by women tend to spend more on public goods such as drinking water which are closer to the concerns of women rather than men. (Women have to travel miles to collect drinking water).
Such interventions are welcome but gender budgeting is unlikely to solve all the problems of gender inequality which not only prevents women’s growth but also hurts economic productivity.
India has the lowest level of female participation in the labour force when compared to most other regional economies.
Indian women enter labour market only when there is economic distress and retreat back when the situation improves. This is a rare case of employment going down when economy improves!
Two more issues need public policy attention- economic freedom and public goods.
There is a link between economic freedom of individual countries with the level of economic freedom its women enjoy.
An index has been developed to measure the legal barriers women face when it comes to exercising the same economic freedom available to men in their countries. This index has five components- freedom of movement, property rights, financial rights, freedom to work and legal status.
In India, the legal rights are protected by constitution but social norms prevent women from exercising these freedoms.
Another issue is the public good- it is accessible to all citizens because their consumption is neither exclusive nor rival. Yet, the lack of certain core public goods such as safe streets or lack of clean drinking water are more likely to hurt the economic prospects of women more than men.
How can gender inequality be improved?
The Gender Inequality Index measures gender inequalities in three important aspects of human development
Reproductive health- measured by maternal mortality ratio and adolescent birth rates
Empowerment- measured by proportion of parliamentary seats occupied by females and proportion of adult females and males aged 25 years and older with at least some secondary education
Economic status- expressed as labour market participation and measured by labour force participation rate of female and male populations aged 15 years and older
India’s Gender Inequality Index value of 0.56 and rank of 130 out of 155 countries is indicator of a greater disparity between men and women.
No doubt India has shown progress with its gender budgeting initiative, especially the state of Kerala which has designed many innovative ‘gender in infrastructure’ projects that have demystified the notion that public expenditure related to infrastructure investment is gender neutral.
Adding to it, there are small steps that can be taken to increase gender equality
Involving women and girls in decision making process in programmes at grassroots level such as designing ways to implement MDGs, forming SHGs, talking about sex education etc.
A simple gesture of girls using mobile phones increases their confidence.
Stopping child marriages and strict action against sexual harassment cases and sexual offenders will make them empowered.
Education should be incentivised for girls so that they are encouraged. On the other hand, educating and empowering mothers too in making choices about their children reduces gender gap.
Political empowerment through village panchayats and other level of politics.
Supporting women in non-traditional jobs like mechanics, driving, hospitality, mobile-phone fixing etc. will not only making long-lasting change in their lives but also help break social taboos.
Men and women should be encouraged to work together. Women entrepreneurs should be provided incentives for their decision making power, risk taking abilities and generating employment opportunities.
Gender Inequality has to be targeted from various dimensions to bring in gender equality.
According to IMF, India’s gender budgeting efforts stand out globally because they have not only influenced expenditure but also revenue policies, and have extended to national and state government levels.
Together with it, the classroom has the power to induct long lasting changes. Hence, girls’ education is the single best investment a country can make. One extra year of primary school boosts a woman’s earning potential by 10 to 20%. One extra year of secondary school boosts her earning potential by 25%. Hence, education is called for to be the first step in narrowing down the gender gap. Rest will follow.
Connecting the dots:
What do you understand by gender inequality? How can it be reduced? Substantiate.
Gender budgeting is said to be foremost instrument in bringing about gender equality. Do you agree? Critically examine the need for gender budgeting and its impact.