This financial statement for the year 2019-20 is out and India took pride for the ‘Bahi Khata’ to be presented by the country’s first full-time woman Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. While in 1970, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was technically the country’s first woman to present the union budget, the second being Nirmala Sitharaman (after a gap of 49 years). This had also raised hopes for a more gender-responsive budget.
Sitharaman, in a first-of-its-kind announcement, proposed a broad-based committee with the government and private stakeholders to evaluate and suggest actions for moving forward. The other announcements were to strengthen Self Help Groups and women entrepreneurship through schemes such as Mudra and Startup India.
But as an organisation working on norms to end violence against women and girls, Breakthrough believes there’s a lot of work and infrastructure that is needed on the ground to bring back women into the mainstream workforce. ‘Mainstream’ being the key word here.
India’s Female Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) has dropped to a historic low of 23.3% in 2017-18.
The recent NFHS – 4 data shows that violence against women is very high in the country and there is an urgent need to strengthen the existing response and support mechanisms for women. An increasing number of cases of sexual violence against young girls also makes it important for the government to look at institutions and other mechanisms that are supposed to be protective in nature and instead have been hostile to women.
These issues become a part of the larger problem of rapidly decreasing participation of women in the workforce. India’s Female Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) has dropped to a historic low of 23.3% in 2017-18. We believe the change will emerge only with the possibility of improving the safety of women in public places. Should there then be a specific budgetary allocation for infrastructure that will help increase the ease of living for women?
While we must acknowledge that there is a substantial increase in the budget allocations of schemes like Ujjwala, National Nutrition Mission, National Creche Scheme and Mahila Shakti Kendras – but at a very grassroots level, the structure to strengthen and improve participation of women in jobs needs a major revamp.
- Allocation of specific funds for the gender-based sensitisation and awareness building training of all governmental secondary and senior school teachers, which will help them ensure gender parity in how they approach students.
- Allocation of specific funds for life-skills training for the age group of 11-18 in government schools in identifying and taking action against gender-based discrimination.
- Priority must be given to strengthening the existing institutional mechanisms like shelter homes and short stay homes for women and children.
- The NDA government had, during its previous tenure, initiated the process of creating a National Women’s Policy which was highly appreciated and was considered a big step towards institutionalising women’s needs and rights. The emphasis on social protection within this scheme will strengthen women from marginalised backgrounds, thus reducing their vulnerabilities.