Role of Women in India Post-Independence

Part - II

In the 1st part of the article, we read about the gender inequalities causing atrocities against the women of our society – India and worldwide. India has achieved tremendous progress since independence in terms of economic growth, raising the standard of living of people, and social growth. However, it was after Globalisation when Indian economy made progress in real terms. The term ‘Globalisation‘ in ordinary terms means the integration of something, be it economy, society, or thought processes, with the ongoing trends – witnessed across the world. In this sense, we can say that globalisation is an ongoing process, and our Indian economy has been exposed to it since ages. In fact, as per some sources, during the 1700s, our Indian economy dominated the world economy, where it was a net exporter. Hence, the global economy was most influenced by the Indian economy. When the Indian economy was transformed into the colonial economy by the Britishers through mercantilism, India was completely dependent for finished goods on the British economy. When we gained our independence in 1947, the share of the global trade of India came down to as low as 2% of the global trade, and India became a net importer instead of a net exporter.

The Globalisation tendency that we are concerned with is the process of integration of Indian Economies with the global economies, period post-1991. In February 1991, India’s economic condition was quite severe – the foreign currency reserves were hardly sufficient to cover essential exports for only a couple of days. In addition, the ongoing Gulf War started in August 1990, accentuating the overall scenario. Furthermore, there was also an ongoing political turmoil in India – the government then had lost the confidence of the Lok Sabha, and an election was announced on May-June 1991 for the 10th Lok Sabha. In this backdrop, on 24th July 1991, the new government in power announced India’s New Economic Policy, also known as the LPG (Liberalisation, Privatisation, and Globalisation) Reforms of 1991. With PV Narsimha Rao as the Prime Minister and Dr. Manmohan Singh as the finance minister then, several new reforms were introduced, which led to the opening up of the Indian economy to the outside world. In this article, we will mainly discuss the impact of the above mentioned reform on women in Indian Society.

The Effects of Globalisation

The effect of globalisation, after 31 years of its initiation, has been clearly seen in the progress of the Indian economy. However, with its positive effects on women, we shall also see some negative effects associated with it.

As already mentioned in the 1st part of the article, women in India have been excluded and most backward in Indian society. The several measures and steps mentioned in the Indian Constitution were mere words, and if we look carefully, it was hardly adhered to by the society at large. Although, some positive changes toward women were definitely observed in the post-globalisation society.

Positive Effects

  1. Economic Independence Increased– As a result of Globalisation in India, ample job opportunities were created in the initial stages and that too in the private sectors. For the MNCs which came to India post 1991, the top priority for them was to get the job done. As a result, we could witness equal job opportunities for men and women without discrimination. A competitive environment and choosing the best employees regardless of the gender, motivated more women to seek jobs. Hence, this equality of opportunity in the field of employment resulted in economic independence for women in Indian society. Employment had opened up for suitably qualified women in technology and advanced sectors with a global bearing.
  2. Access to Education increased– As a result of economic empowerment, an increased awareness was created in the society that women are not burden, they are no different than men of the society, and that there are opportunities for their economic independence. In this backdrop, families were more inclined to provide better educational opportunities and facilities for their daughters.
  3. Finding a voice in society and increased social status– Employment opportunities leading to economic independence, and increased educational opportunities created a notion in the society, that women are no less than men and also, they are not dependent on men. Especially their economic independence, established them Info 1in the role of a bread earner in certain families, and with it, their social status increased. Hence, all the factors taken together gave the women of Indian society the much-needed voice they lacked for so long.
  4. There was greater inclusivity of women in Indian society. In addition, there was also political empowerment and the creation of consciousness of women’s rights in society.
  5. Changing role in family, caste, and marriage – The institution of patriarchy and stereotyping of women was challenged as a result of globalisation. Women stood up for their rights when they started taking up jobs and achieved social mobility. In families where women hardly had any rights to make any decision, is now being heard by their own family members. In the case of marriage, they have reserved the right to get married to whoever they choose once they attain the legal age. As countries came closer with diminishing boundaries in the globalised world, the women of India were inspired by women across the world to fight for their respective rights and also support women who were unaware of their rights. As a result of the new era of globalisation, these changes received a great push.

Negative Effects

  1. Women, along with their professional work, have a role to play at their home. Even though they moved to the workplace, their work responsibilities at home did not reduce. A woman working is no excuse for her to be completely free from her household chores and the responsibilities associated. As for some women, they are ones to wake up early in the morning, followed by the responsibility of feeding everyone by preparing breakfast, getting the kids ready on time, preparing and packing lunch for their husbands, kids, and in-laws, in the meantime getting ready herself and leaving for office on time. Some women even face extreme pressure from home, due to which they have to leave early from office hours to take care of kids and prepare dinner for the family members. Their dual responsibilities, long hours at the workplace, and attending to household chores hinder their performance and sometimes come in their way of success.
  2. Post globalisation, there have been instances of increased mercantilist approach, where companies have adopted policies leading to increment in sales, often at the cost of civil rights and responsibilities. There have been a number of advertisements showing examples of such attitude, which companies came up with from time to time to boost their product sales. As a result of these advertisements, there was the commodification of women in front of society at large.
  3. Stereotyping women were the most common thing possible in a patriarchal society, especially for those stepping out of their boundaries and trying to prosper in their respective fields. But often, the patriarchal mindset of people in our society generalises about them. One of the generalisations is that women are meant for specific jobs because women would be more focused on their domestic engagements and pay less attention to their office work. For instance- some specific jobs like receptionist, higher management assistants, telecallers, nurses, parlour work, etc., were meant only for women, such as the front-end jobs requiring less responsibility along with added glamour in the work environment.
  4. People with the patriarchal mindset believed women were thought to be more involved and occupied handling their daily chores at home, and this raised another phenomenon of the Glass-Ceiling effect. Often male workers Info 2are preferred by the bosses in some offices rather than female employees when it comes to assigning responsible and challenging tasks. This is due to the above-mentioned mindset. Hence, this results increased the better prospects for promotion for men, even if female workers are more efficient than their male colleagues. Additionally, there are instances where women are not chosen in team or top-level management because the male boss or the senior is more comfortable working with the male employees. Therefore, these instances hinder the promotion prospect of working women in India.
  5. Some women often face the issues of sexual harassment at their workplaces, which often makes them feel vulnerable and hesitant to go to their workplace. Along with this, due to gender inequality, women are often paid lower wages, and their efforts are less recognised and appreciated in some places.

The Women of Today’s Indian Economy

Post-independence, India has come a long way, and the women of our country have worked significantly and equivalently hard for it, yet till today, the issue of gender inequality has not been banished entirely. Women form approximately 48.04% of the female populace, but if we look at the data, it is nowhere near to what men have achieved till date. Although women have a low female labour force participation rate, but they have still contributed to 20% of the country’s GDP. This rate can be further improved with even more better opportunities given to them. India is still agrarian, and it is the women of rural India whose contributions are responsible for agriculture to thrive. Women are said to have contributed more to the heavy manual tasks, and as per the census of 2011, the number of female workers in agriculture accounts for approximately 97 million, which makes up to 37% of the total agricultural workforce. We are aware that science and technology play an important part in the growth of the country, as well as women working there. A significant number of women are pursuing science, although the proportion is low in terms of converting them into a full-time career. But this does not imply that they are not doing any notable work in this field. In fact, many women of our country have contributed to significant innovations leading to increased economic growth, and represented our country on a global platform. Some notions of the patriarchal society are that women are risk-averse – unwilling to take any risks. But when we consider the growth trajectory of India, a significant contribution has been made by the women entrepreneur, and if the numbers increase, the contribution to the economy would be noteworthy. In the number of women entrepreneurs in India, the increment so far witnessed, apart from external opportunities, the strong will to establish something on their own has led these women to build an empire. They have grown exponentially while taking amazing initiatives and setting benchmark innovations across industries.

Some of the roles played by women in contributing to the economic growth of the country are as follows:

  1. Strong financial performance
  2. Empathy-led structure promoted
  3. Female professionals empowered
  4. Development of people for business development

When mapped, the country’s growth trajectory considers its financial aspects along with its cultural growth. Women of India have been an integral part of India’s culture promotion.

Gender diversity has been an important aspect in every sphere of life. In recent times, women’s participation in defence has gained momentum and has led to overcoming the shortages of young cadets. With increased participation of women in such important roles, gender stereotyping is gradually diminishing, and inclusive growth is being promoted in the country.

Conclusion

Women in India post globalisation have witnessed various positive and negative changes. With the increasing number of NGOs in the 21st century, various organisations have been found, and those are created to defend the rights of women. Also, various government regulations in this respect have proved to be quite beneficial. For example – as for the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace, “The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act” was passed in 2013, which broadened the Vishaka Guidelines that were already in place since 1997. As for cleanliness and laying emphasis on sanitation facilities, the government has initiated Swachh Bharat. For provide equal remuneration to women and men employees and prevent discrimination on the basis of gender, the Equal Remuneration Act was passed in 1976, which also dealt with all matters related to employment and employment opportunities. There are also certain schemes Mahila E-Haat (launched by Ministry of Women and Child Development, a direct online marketing platform, to support women entrepreneurs), Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (joint initiative of Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of Human Resource Development for eradication of female foeticide and educating the girl child), One Stop Centre Scheme (popularly known as ‘Sakhi’, was established at various location all over the country to provide shelter, legal help, medical support, police desk, counselling services to the victims of violence all under one roof), Working Women hostelsSTEP (The Support to Training and Employment Programme for Women provides women necessary skills to provide them employable or become a self-employed/ entrepreneur), Nari Shakti Puraskars (national level awards given to women and institutions to recognise their efforts in making a difference in lives of women, especially the marginalised and vulnerable ones), etc.

Women entrepreneurs have been able to sustain and scale their enterprise through innovative ideas of institutions such as EdelGive Foundation’s UdyamStree Campaign and WIFE. Women have also achieved success in innovating and identifying better ways to scale-up strategies, marketing, financial procurement, and sustenance. With the advent of technology and digitization, literacy and awareness among women in India have helped them achieve their entrepreneurial dreams and become truly Atmanirbhar with innovation.

Various research has suggested that the entire economy is meant to benefit if labour force participation rate is raised. Suppose there is equality of opportunity and a comfortable work environment for women. In that case, it can not only lead to increased growth and profitability at a personal level, but the sector and the potential GDP of the country grow. Increasing female labour force participation can be beneficial in economies whose working population is aging – therefore, helping offset the declining population’s negative effect. McKinsey has estimated that if unpaid household duties and care work were to be measured and valued, it would contribute approximately 0.3 trillion dollars to India’s total economic output.

It is high time that women’s efforts should be recognised and given equal importance to that of their men counterparts. There should be intention and investment – intention to bridge the gap between gender and investments that provide opportunities to flourish.

Reference

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