The “BRICS” countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa – are developing nations on the rise. These countries often struggle to deal with internal issues, such as the improvement of individual rights, even as their economies soar.
For India, one internal struggle that the nation faces is gender inequality. According to the Global Gender Gap Index, India ranks 87th out of 144 countries. In addition, according to a report by Catalyst, women make up 48.5 percent of the population but only 28 percent of the workforce. Women in India commonly face taboos against menstruation, gender-based violence, sexual assault, and – in rural areas – even tribal laws preventing women from owning property.
US News has reported that faster, more effective moves toward gender equality could greatly improve India’s economic growth. According to projections by the McKinsey Global Institute, India could gain nearly $700 billion in its gross domestic product by simply matching the speed of gender equality in neighboring nations. Though already growing rapidly in its economy, India could make further progress through ending gender discrimination and increasing women’s economic power and independence.
Recent programs in India to aid and financially empower women, whether executed by the government or outside agencies, have already proven to be successful. These positive programs should pave the way for more advances in gender equality. One such program is the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, a labor law made to guarantee jobs, which has employed rural women and created over two billion days of employment since 2016.
Meanwhile, the Maternity Benefit Programme provides conditional cash transfers for expecting and new mothers, to prevent loss of wages during the months surrounding childbirth. For registering pregnancy, receiving post-pregnancy checkups, and getting vaccines for their newborns, mothers are given installments of rupees. This way, women can partially make up wages, and the health of both the mother and child is ensured.
Another example is wPOWER, a project funded by the U.S. Department of State and USAID. wPOWER trains women in business skills and teaches them to use energy efficient technologies that they can sell in their communities. Although wPOWER’s reach is global, the project has already trained 1,000 Indian women and subsequently allowed one million Indian citizens to adopt clean energy products.
Such programs have already made an impact on India’s economy, and they’re a starting point for more women to rise up, to contribute to the workforce, and to be finally treated as equal citizens. Until gender equality is achieved, India – regardless of its well-known rapid economic development – still has a long way to go.
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