As an economy, we won't grow if we treat every woman as a homemaker: Paytm's Vijay Shekhar Sharma

The inaugural event of Verizon Media’s MAKERS, a digital and video storytelling platform, which was launched in India on Friday, saw a dialogue on how we can accelerate the women’s movement in India.

Verizon Media’s MAKERS, a digital and video storytelling platform, that has accelerated the women’s movement in the US, was launched in India on Friday evening. The inaugural event initiated a dialogue on how we can accelerate the women’s movement in India.

A panel discussion on the state of women in India, chaired by YourStory's Shradha Sharma, saw participation from Rekha Sharma, Chairperson of National Commission for Women; Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Founder & CEO, Paytm; and Shereen Bhan, Managing Editor, CNBC TV18.

The panel deliberated on guidelines to empower women and increase the possibility of success on how barriers and challenges can be addressed through changes at multiple levels.

CNBC TV18's Shereen Bhan asserted that for any successful organisation, the culture has to be built on equity, where meritocracy is nurtured, encouraged, rewarded, and recognised.

“So today, when I say that at CNBC TV-18, we have a lot of women in leadership roles, it's not because I'm a woman on top, it's because we have used the lens fairly and with only merit being the driving factor, and the dominating force,” she said.

She said that more and more organisations need to exemplify that kind of structure. “And that's what drives you to bring your best self to work every single day and that culture is perfection,” she said.

To a question on what are the things that NCW is doing on this front, Rekha said that NCW is often considered as a complaint redressal body, but it is not that. It is working to empower women so that the complaint should not come to NCW. 

“Complaints are coming to us because women are not empowered. They don't know how to take care of themselves, they don't know the relevant laws, and they don't know how to approach the body which can help them. So from taking complaints and making them aware of the laws, we are also talking about the changes in the laws, where we think that the laws are not according to this time, as some laws are made long back and now the condition is changing,” said Rekha.

NCW is trying to change various laws such as Section 6(a), which makes father the first natural guardian and then the mother for children born within wedlock. The provisions lay bare the prejudices of the society behind the law. For example, within a marriage, a father’s right is given primacy.

The NCW is recommending a change in this section in line with the rights to equality and against discrimination enshrined in Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution. The natural guardian, according to NCW, shall be the father or the mother, and not the father and then the mother.

Other laws it is working towards are the sexual harassment at workplace. The NCW has recommended that the number of members in the internal committee probing sexual harassment at the workplace should be increased to an odd number so as to take a majority view. The present composition of the internal committee mandates a minimum of four members. The NCW also recommended the period of reporting about sexual harassment should be increased.

“We are trying this because we see that women are not helped by the law,” said Rekha. She highlighted that the biggest agenda of NCW is making women financially equal to make their own decisions, to make their life independent, and for that, NCW has various programmes of entrepreneurship. Last year, NCW had partnered with hospitality company Airbnb to create livelihood opportunities for women in India as a step towards their empowerment.

Agreeing to financial freedom and empowerment of women in India, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Founder & CEO, Paytm, said “as an economy, we won't grow if we treat every woman by default as a homemaker, especially if their constructive inputs are not taken into consideration.”

“If we believe that India will be a $5 trillion economy soon, and I call upon every woman to be the biggest contributor,” he said. He added that women going out to work should be a revolution that we bring in this country.

He also reiterated that women empowerment should be a mainstream agenda for all of us, and not just a couple of associations. Adding to which Shereen added that this is something that the government, civil society, the social sector, and the private sector must come together and address, and this has to happen at the grass-loot level.

Vijay Shekhar Sharma also said that he will create 100 million bank accounts for the unbanked women in India. 


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