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Young Women Leading With Purpose And Making A Difference – IMPRI Impact And Policy Research Institute

Session Report YWPPF Day 5 e1707809535452

Session Report
Reetwika Mallick

The Gender Impact Studies Center, at IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi conducted a Two-Month Online National Winter School Program on ‘Young Women Leaders in Public Policy Fellowship’ from January 6th, 2024 to March 8th 2024.

The course, spread over two months, provided a unique opportunity to gain in-depth insight into public policy. The course led by esteemed experts, empowered young women to be effective leaders. Through a combination of engaging lectures, interactive workshops, networking, guidance by thematic experts and practical exercises.

On day 5 of the ‘Young Women Leaders in Public Policy Fellowship’, Ms. Medhavinee Namjoshi, Gender and Development Professional, Mumbai; Lead Gender Initiatives, Ambuja Cements enumerated the challenges faced by young women in leadership positions and also traced the solutions to such challenges.

Defining Youth

Ms. Namjoshi commenced the discussion by explaining the socially constructed conception of youth. She explained the masculine, energetic notion that is associated with youth is gender biased, thereby leaving no space for the feminine conception of youth. Such a gender-biased conception of youth further influences the policy decisions and thus, hinders the desired outcomes.

Ms. Namjoshi drew the session’s attention towards the lack of a universal definition of youth. The expert delineated different definitions being used by various international and national organisations to define youth for various public policy related schemes and data collection. Such diverse definition, according to Ms. Namjoshi severely impacts the policy outcomes.

Difference in Experience of Young Women

Ms. Namjoshi enumerated a very striking perspective of public policies considering youth as a monolith. However, when viewed by the youths through the socio-economic lense, their experiences, aspirations and challenges are starkly different from one another. Ms. Namjoshi, through an example of comparing urban upper caste, upper class youth with a tribal youth shared the varying obstacles faced by them, thereby requiring policy formulation that is inclusive.

Further, taking the session forward, Ms. Namjoshi shared some facts and figures showing the different experiences that men as youth and women as youth witness. One of the indicators shown by Ms. Namjoshi was the drop-out rates among women in higher education and gross enrollment ratio of girls in higher education, consequently limiting the career opportunities for women to fulfill their ambition.

Ms. Namjoshi while addressing the session cautioned the participants that the numbers need to be studied as humanly as possible. Sharing her experience as a gender and development professional, Ms. Namjoshi tracked the trajectory due to which women remain un-empowered despite efforts made through public policy. The discrimination between the males and the females begins with the birth of a girl child and continues throughout her life. From primary care-giving and addressing the nutritional requirement to burdening the women with domestic chores, women’s expression and aspirations are subdued.

Ms. Namjoshi presented before the session some poems through which women have expressed how the society have been silencing women, thereby continuing the discriminatory practices. Ms. Namjoshi while explaining the need for public policies that address women’s issues specifically mentioned that girls are pulled back at the time when they start building aspirations and realise their capabilities to excel in their chosen fields. Such instances, according to Ms. Namjoshi create a constant struggle between aspirations, growing capacities and the denial of access to opportunities. There is a missing ecology for the growth of women according to Ms. Namjoshi.

Expert in gender development, Ms. Namjoshi explained that women also face self-barrier. Ms. Namjoshi through various examples emphasized that women are held back due to emotional stereotypes and gender biases. The leadership positions in any organisation are considered to be occupied by people with a masculine and aggressive personality, and thus undermining feminine traits. Those women who become part of the workforce face challenges balancing work and domestic responsibilities.  Ms. Namjoshi also stated that women impose upon themselves the burden of perfectionism to prove society’s notion that women are incapable of performing certain duties as constructed.

In the session, Ms. Namjoshi enumerated the lack of mentorship and role models for young women to look up to when they venture out. Ms. Namjoshi used the abbreviation of the three M’s that hold back women, i.e. mobility, motherhood and marriage. Explaining through examples, Ms. Namjoshi comprehensively addressed the under-representation of women in leadership positions in public sphere.

Ms. Namjoshi concluding her thoughts shared meaningful steps that can be taken in order to be the guiding light of young and aspiring women in positions of leadership. There is a need to make knowledge available to young women, especially to those who are at the margins the 21st century skills- digital knowledge. Ms. Namjoshi also urged the women who are in the positions of responsibility, to ensure inclusivity in workspace. Ms. Namjoshi insisted on giving women the agency to empower them.   

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