Despite being the world’s most populous democracy, India’s latest gender gap index is pretty bad

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The World Economic Forum released its Global gender gap index report 2021 last month in March and its disappointing to watch India’s spot. According to the report, India is ranked 140th among 156 countries in the world. Data given in the report suggests, India’s gender gap is 62.5% which is double from the last year’s score that led country to fall 28 spots.

The report briefs about the state of gender gaps by subindex – educational attainment, health and survival, economic participation and opportunity and political empowerment and the scores of countries accordingly. In the case of India report stated, “The main change that took place this year is the significant decline in the share of women among ministers, which halved, from 23.1% in 2019 to 9.1% in 2021.“ The political empowerment section witnessed major decline with up to 13.5 percentage. Another reason that has been listed is the economic participation of women in the country. “The share of women in senior and managerial positions also remains low: only 14.6% of these positions are held by women and there are only 8.9% of firms with female top managers,” said report. Whereas the other two sectors, educational attainment and health and survival are quite on a better position comparatively.

Photo: Isha Bhandari

Isha Bhandari is a global Indian woman who has received colossal appreciation from across the globe for her initiatives in the social sector including women empowerment. Isha chairs DSB foundation India that works towards road safety, environment, women empowerment and international campaigns. On the recent global gender gap report, she commented, “India became the third worst performer in South Asia. It is indeed an alarming issue.“

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Isha Bhandari told Eat News, attaining gender justice has never been an easy task in India. She said, “From time immemorial, a girl child has been considered as an unwanted entity and a burden. Discrimination against women begins even before her birth in India. Though the Indian constitution provides equal rights and privileges for men and women and makes equal provision to improve the status of women in society, majority of women are still unable to enjoy the rights and opportunities guaranteed to them.“ She further added, “Traditional value system, low level of literacy, more house hold responsibilities, lack of awareness, non-availability of proper guidance, low mobility, lack of self-confidence, family discouragement and advanced science and technology are some of the factors responsible to create gender disparity in our society.“

On India getting worse in gender gap index year by year while most of the developing countries are moving forward, Isha Bhandari said, “The major problem is health and survival, which includes sex ratio, and economic participation of women and serious declines in the share of women in professional and technical roles, in senior and managerial positions etc. These are merely indicative of the overall fall in the country’s female labor force participation rate, which suggests a large number of working-age women are, per force or per choice, in unpaid work.“ Adding on to her statement, she told how pandemic has strained the particular gender financially majorly as compare to others. “A range of studies have shown that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on women, who have lost jobs at a higher rate than men and had to take on much more of the extra childcare burden when schools closed. The pandemic has also added decades to the trajectory towards closing the gender gap especially in India,“ she said.

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According to NITI Aayog report in 2018, all Indian states except Kerala and Sikkim falls under the red zone on gender equality ratio. States like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Manipur, Haryana and Gujarat are doing worse according to the list. In Isha’s opinion, lack of knowledge and poor enforcement of law to check female foeticide. “High level of son preference is also one of the reasons. In these states gender equality, resource usage, education and economic opportunity are in serious need of reform,“ she added.

Isha Bhandari has voiced many forums in India and abroad and she has also been a TEDx speaker, Madagascar. As a woman, she feels responsible to acknowledge this issue and spread awareness as much it is possible from her end. “Indian society is often considered conservative in several matters even though it is one of the most rapidly growing economies of the world. Yes, I feel responsible to voice for the women of India. We need to intensify the awareness drives on gender gap and ensure the government and the society at large addresses it. The only long-term solution is to change attitude,“ said Isha.

Female infanticide and foeticide are very much common in India from ages. To put an end to this, it is important for parents to understand the value of each life beyond gender. According to Isha, “The more aware parents are of their own values, the clearer they will be in expressing them and communicating them to their children. Parents need to give equal platforms to their son or daughter. Children can sense the discrimination from an early age, parents need to educate their children about gender equality from an early age.“

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In the end, Isha Bhandari expressed her heart out and said, “Every child has the potential to achieve astounding things. But for girls in India that potential is cut short by discrimination and inequality. Educating girls saves lives and builds stronger families, communities, and economies. An educated female population increase a country’s productivity and fuels economic growth.“

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