July 07, 2020
New Delhi: Empowering the female section of the society and promoting gender equality is of immense importance for advancing and fulfilling the sustainable development goals. The discrimination which women face is not only a violation to the written and granted human rights but also a hinderance to many developmental processes and the progress along with it. Women face unacceptable inequality in terms of access to paid employment, wage gaps still existing in a number of sectors along with restricted opportunities in fields like political leadership. Having been considered as passive citizens in a number of regions in India, women face sexual violence, exploitation and undue societal pressures like restrictions in movement, forced to raising children, which restrains them from taking up jobs in public and private sectors and remain confined to their domestic work. According to a research study, in New Delhi alone, about 92% of the women have been subjected to or been through some sort of physical, sexual or mental violence/assault in their lifetime.
Under the goal ensuring that women have full knowledge and access to the reproductive and sexual health, there have equal opportunities and equal rights to economic resources such as property, jobs and land. India has taken important measures which have been fairly successful in creating gender equality. India marked its success in case of primary education level, where it achieved gender parity. In the Panchayati Raj Institutions as well, 46% of the seats are now held by women but, no successful progress has been made in case of Lok Sabha seats as still only 11% of the seats are held by women representatives.
For the employed women, the Indian Parliament, to empower and to safeguard them, passed a Maternity Benefit Bill which provided 26 weeks paid leave to the working women who are pregnant. There have been initiatives like “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” for initiating or catalyzing a change of mindset as well as for protection, equal opportunities and education for the girls of India. “Sukanya Samridhi Yojana”, launched by government of India aimed at female employment along with the empowerment and creating awareness among the adolescent girls. To advance the commitment further, “Janani Sukraksha Yojana” was also launched for the mothers. These are some of the legislations and welfare schemes which have been fruitful towards achieving the sustainable development goal of gender equality in India.
On the state level, initiatives such as “Bharosa” and “Himmat” were launched by the states of Telangana and Delhi respectively. The former helped women who have faced violence, to regain confidence and face the challenges whereas the latter is a 24/7 police emergency service, providing free services inclusive of legal support. During the recent pandemic, millions of women are coming forward and volunteering, forming the India’s frontline for COVID-19 response. For instance, workers of the “Anganwadi” centers which involves semi-literate women who were initially responsible in taking care of and addressing malnutrition among vulnerable children and women have now become the frontline responders in the fight against this pandemic. They along with the Accredited Social Health Activists have been responsible for tracking migrants, screening and monitoring suspects, accompanying the infected etc.
This has shown that women along with men have been equally responsible and successful in overcoming this global pandemic to a large extent and have been appreciated for the same by the government and the public.
(Tamanna Kavdia is an intern at OneWorld South Asia)
 United Nation in India, SDG 5: Gender Equality. https://in.one.un.org/page/sustainable-development-goals/sdg-5/ (Accessed June 29, 2020)
 Achieve Gender Equality and empower all women and girls, UNDP in India https://www.in.undp.org/content/india/en/home/post-2015/sdg-overview/goal-5.html (Accessed June 29, 2020)
 Achieving SDGs in India, https://www.devalt.org/images/L3_ProjectPdfs/AchievingSDGsinIndia_DA_21Sept.pdf (Accessed June 29, 2020)
 Women volunteers form frontline COVID response, National Geographic https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/2020/06/millions-women-volunteers-form-india-frontline-covid-19-response/ (Accessed June 29, 2020)