16-Mar-2015: Indian Institute of Public Administration Professor Aasha Kapoor Mehta, while delivering a key note address during a National Seminar on 'Economic Empowerment of Women in India' at Aligarh Muslim University's Centre for Women Studies said that poverty-reduction goals cannot be achieved unless women's poverty is addressed as women make a large proportion of world's poor.
Throwing light on investment in women's economic empowerment, Prof Mehta said that investing in women's economic empowerment sets a direct path towards gender equality, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth but sadly not much is done in India.
She warned, "economies lose out when a substantial part of the population cannot compete equitably or realize its full potential." She added that women who are economically empowered contribute more to their families, societies and national economies.
Prof Mehta pointed out that even after a marked shift in the approach to women's issues from welfare to development after the Fifth Five Year Plan (1974-78), violence, sexual assault, rape and trafficking of women continued in the country. "The National Commission for Women (NCW) was set up by an Act of Parliament in 1990 to safeguard the rights and legal entitlements of women but still women face discrimination in access of resources, property, nutrition, health care, education and work," said Prof Mehta.
"According to official Government of India (GOI) figures, child sex ration has worsened in the past decade," said Prof Mehta who pointed out that the GOI figures in 2011 showed 919 female children per 1000 male children while in 2001, there were 927 female children per 1000 male children.
She also said that even though female literacy has improved from 53.7 percent in 2001 to 64.6 percent in 2011, male literacy was 80.09 percent in 2011. "The male-female literacy gap at 16.2 percent is very visible and something needs to be done," said Prof Mehta. She further said that even after a decline in Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) from 254 per one lakh live births in 2004-06 to 167 in 2011-13, the MMR is still very high.
Prof Mehta added that there is a trend of under reporting of women's work. "National Service Scheme (NSS) estimates that the census report which shows the number of women working in the informal sector could be far higher. In 1971, the GOI census report showed only 13 percent of women working in the informal sector however, NSS maintains that the percentage was higher," said Prof Mehta. She added that the problem of under reporting still persists and needs to be investigated.
Aligarh Muslim University Pro Vice Chancellor, Brigadier S Ahmad Ali (retd) who attended the seminar as the chief guest said that women empowerment can only be done if the male psyche changes. "We have to start treating women as our actual better halves," said Brigadier Ali. He further said we need a spirit of sharing and caring with women to change things.
He said that we need to recognize the resolute being of women and give them their deserved share in life. "I have always wondered why developing and developed countries have a bias when it comes to giving women their share. Even the sports tournaments held in countries like US and UK have lesser prize money for women. I believe that even women laborers are paid lesser than men," said Brigadier Ali. He added that we should understand that what is good for men is also good for women.
During the presidential address, the Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, Prof N A K Durrani said that the key-note speaker has shown us a wide canvas on Economic Empowerment of Women in India and it is wonderful to see that changes are happening. "According to government figures, today our women make 49 percent of entrepreneurs in India. We can see presence of women in retail, finance, media, literature, academics and other fields. The discrimination against women will not sustain and economic empowerment is coming. However, there are problems which need to be taken care of," said Prof Durrani. He added that women have learnt to use their voices and they are heard now.
Director of Center for Women Studies, Professor Nikhat Ahmad while conducting the seminar said that women have the potential to change their own economic status, as well as that of the communities and countries in which they live. "Yet more often than not, women's economic contributions go unrecognized, their work undervalued and their promise unnourished," said Prof Ahmad. She also said that unequal opportunities between women and men continue to hamper women's ability to lift themselves from poverty and gain more options to improve their lives.
Deputy Director of Center for Women Studies, Dr Shehroz Rizvi proposed the vote of thanks.
Related PicturesSeminar in progress on Economic Empowerment of Women in India