Six ways the government is pushing for women’s empowerment in India
For an Indian woman and citizen, freedom does not just mean those guaranteed under the Constitution. It also means more jobs, opportunities for entrepreneurship, increased safety, ease in day-to-day living, and protection of the girl child. In short, the road to women’s empowerment has several factors dotting its path.
To ensure women are empowered, the government and the public sector need to play important roles to enable their welfare in various sectors. Whether it’s providing free cooking gas and education schemes or enabling women to leverage technology, a slew of schemes has been launched in recent years to empower women to be independent in their lives.
Here are a few that are breaking new ground and improving the lives of women, and encouraging them to think big, both in urban and rural areas.
Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Yojana
Launched on January 22, 2015, in Panipat, Haryana, it aims to generate awareness and also improve the efficiency of welfare services for the girl child. The initial aim of the campaign was to address the declining Child Sex Ratio (CSR) but has come to include gender-biased sex-selective eliminations, and propagating education, survival, and protection of the girl child.
It is being implemented through a national campaign and focussed multi-sectoral action in 100 selected districts low in CSR, covering all states and UTs.
The Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Yojana is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and Ministry of Human Resource Development.
Under the purview of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, the government launched Mahila-E-Haat in 2016. It is a bilingual online marketing platform that leverages technology to help aspiring women entrepreneurs, self-help groups, and NGOs to showcase their products and services.
Among the many services provided by Mahila-E-Haat is facilitating direct contact between the vendors and buyers, sensitisation, advocacy, training, packing and soft intervention workshops, and offering a web-based approach.
Open to all Indian women above the age of 18, this platform offers an easy sign-in process and convenient payment modes. Everything can be handled on a mobile with no other intervention required. The portal claims to have attracted 17 lakh visitors since its launch and features over 2,000 products and services across 18 categories from 24 states.
Mahila Shakti Kendra
The government launched the Mahila Shakti Kendra in 2017 to empower rural women with opportunities for skill development, employment, digital literacy, health and nutrition. The Mahila Shakti Kendras will work through community engagement through student volunteers in the 115 most backward districts.
Each Mahila Shakti Kendra will provide an interface for rural women to approach the government to avail of their entitlements through training and capacity building. It works at the National, State, District, and Block levels.
Working Women Hostel
The government launched the Working Women Hostels to ensure availability of safe, convenient accommodation for working family, along with daycare facilities for their children, wherever possible in urban, semi-urban and rural areas.
Under the scheme, assistance is provided for construction of new hostels and expansion of existing ones. The working women hostels are available to any woman provided her gross income does not exceed Rs 50,000 per month in metropolitan cities and Rs 35,000 per month in any other place.
Rent charged from the women should not exceed 15 percent of their total emoluments/gross salary in the case of single bedrooms, 10 percent in case of the double bedrooms and 7.5 percent in the case of the dormitories.
Fees charged from the children in the daycare centre should not be more than five percent of the emoluments of their mother, or the actual expenditure, whichever is less. Under this scheme, around 890 hostels have been sanctioned so far and over 66,000 women have benefited from it.
Support to Training and Employment Programme for Women (STEP)
The STEP scheme was set up to provide skills to women so that they can take up gainful employment. It also provides the right competencies and training for women to become entrepreneurs. Open to every woman above the age of 16, it is run through a grant given to an institution/organisation including NGOs directly.
According to the Ministry website, the assistance under STEP Scheme will be available in any sector for imparting skills related to employability and entrepreneurship, including but not limited to the agriculture, horticulture, food processing, handlooms, tailoring, stitching, embroidery, zari, handicrafts, computers & IT-enabled services along with soft skills and skills for the workplace, such as spoken English, gems and jewellery, travel and tourism, and hospitality.
Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana
Falling under the ambit of the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao scheme, the Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana is a government-backed savings scheme for girl children. The account can be opened at any India Post office or a branch of an authorised commercial bank anytime between the birth of the girl child and till the age of 10 by a parent or guardian.
Only one account is allowed per child and parents with a minimum of Rs 1,000 deposited into it. There is no limit to the number of deposits either in a month or in a financial year. The account offers an interest of 8.6 percent.
The girl child can operate the account once she reaches 10 years of age and the account allows for 50 percent withdrawal for higher education at the age of 18. The account reaches maturity in 21 years after opening it. Deposits can be made till the account completes 14 years and thereafter the account will earn only applicable rate of interest.
(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)