Saturday, July 20, 2024
Editorial

Gender gap

India slipping down two spots to rank 129th in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index 2024 is not just a statistical setback but a reflection of the challenges women continue to face across societies and communities in the country. The low level of women participation in the workforce has been identified as one of the main causes of India’s subpar performance on the Gender Gap Index. Recent statistics indicate that just 20.3% of Indian women are in the labour force, a startlingly low percentage. This stands in sharp contrast to the 47% global average. This problem is a result of a number of factors, such as deeply ingrained cultural norms that place women’s household duties ahead of their career goals, inadequate childcare support and lack of accessible and safe public transit. Women in India are paid about 20% less for doing the same work as males. This inequality not only threatens women’s economic autonomy but also impedes the nation’s overall economic progress. Although female literacy rates in India have increased significantly, there are still large discrepancies in higher education and professional training. The Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) for females in higher education is 27.3%, slightly higher than the GER for males, according to the All India Survey on Higher Education of 2020-21. This advantage does not, however, translate into equal opportunity in the workplace, especially in STEM sectors (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Girls’ academic opportunities are frequently restricted by societal prejudices and financial limitations. Promoting gender-sensitive educational policies that encourage girls to pursue higher education and professions in historically male-dominated industries is essential to closing this gender gap. Community assistance, mentorship initiatives and scholarships can all be very helpful. India also faces health inequalities based on gender. Maternal mortality, with a rate of 103 deaths per 100,000 live births, is still a major problem, according to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5). Women are severely impacted by problems including malnourishment, maternal mortality and limited access to healthcare, particularly in rural areas. A multifaceted strategy is needed to address these problems ~ one that tackles socio-economic determinants of health like discrimination and poverty as well as enhances healthcare access and quality. Political empowerment of women is another area where progress has been too slow. One glaring example of the obstacles women face in accessing positions of power and influence is their under-representation in political offices. Establishing a supportive environment that addresses barriers such as political violence, discrimination and lack of access to resources is essential to ensuring women engage in politics. The societal and cultural conventions that perpetuate gender inequality are deeply-rooted and at the heart of many of these problems. It will take a coordinated effort by the Government, the media, civil society and the private sector to change these standards. Education, community involvement and public awareness campaigns can all be used to challenge and change discriminatory beliefs and actions. The media plays an important role in influencing the attitudes and views of society. By promoting positive portrayals of women and highlighting their achievements, the media can help shift public opinion and inspire change. Stories of successful women breaking barriers can act as powerful role models for the next generation. Thus, taking a comprehensive and inclusive approach is necessary to address the drop in the Gender Gap Index ranking. Gender equality must be given top priority by policymakers, who should incorporate it into all facets of development and governance. This entails putting laws protecting women’s rights into effect and upholding them, funding healthcare and education and fostering inclusive economic opportunities. In addition, it is critical to include men and boys in the gender equality conversation. Everyone in society must take an active role in changing societal norms and behaviours. The decline in India’s Gender Gap Index is a wake-up call and a reflection of the systemic and pervasive inequalities that continue to hinder the progress of our societies. Although the road to gender equality is long and difficult, it is one that we must undertake with urgency.

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