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Young Women Reclaiming The Past, Redefining The Future

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Session Report
Ritika Sen

Introduction

#IMPRI Gender Impact Studies IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi organized “YWLPPF Young Women Leaders in Public Policy Fellowship- Winter’24”, a two-month online immersive introductory leadership certificate training fellowship program to empower young women to become effective leaders in the field of public policy through a comprehensive learning experience delivered by leading women experts in the field.

On Day 2, the distinguished panel of experts included Miss Urvashi Prasad, and our program chair, Professor Vibhuti Patel. The first half of the session was put in motion by Professor Vibhuti Patel introducing the first topic of the day, “Women in India: Exploring Economic, Social, and Political Dimensions”, taking us through 75 years of challenges and triumphs for Indian women to understand the reality an Indian woman faces today.

Young Women’s Workforce Challenges and Rights

Professor Vibhuti discussed the challenges women face in the workforce, focusing on discrimination, unequal pay, and workplace safety. She highlighted the importance of Article 11.1 in the constitution which mentions the right to work as an inalienable right of all human beings. The professor then emphasized the role of laws such as the Equal Remuneration Act and the Maternity Benefits Act in protecting women’s rights and ensuring equal treatment, remuneration, and opportunities. She explained further by citing cases from the states of Tamil Nadu, and Kerala where women fought for their work rights in the past, and how the scenario has changed in today’s time with globalization and evolution of industrial organizations.

The professor also highlighted the negative impacts of neoliberal economic policies on the global population, particularly women, including increased economic hardship, reduced public spending, dismantled public distribution systems, and reduced welfare. She spoke about the negative implications of devaluation, deregulation, and inflation on poor countries, and how women were the most hardly hit population amongst it all expressing a need for stricter advocacy by women on the international floor. She suggested the need for gender-disaggregated data, improvements in labor laws, and increased visibility of women’s contributions to the economy.

Gender Equality and Political Representation

While celebrating women’s political gains in certain nations, Professor Vibhuti highlighted persistent hurdles like financial constraints, patriarchal structures, and societal misogyny, particularly in India’s stagnant reservation debate. She began with a discussion on the struggle for women’s political representation in India, where a bill requiring 33% reservation was introduced in 2010. She cited successful instances of women’s political participation and leadership in postcolonial nations such as Rwanda, Cuba, and Nicaragua.

Professor Vibhuti stressed the importance of both quotas and substantive equality, underscoring the need for continued activism within religious and tribal communities for true gender justice. Finally, she also discussed the influence of many contentious problems during the last 30 years, emphasizing the significance of women’s fights for gender justice in various religious and ethnic societies.

Gender and Agriculture: A Discussion on Empowerment

On addressing a question on the shift from subsistence to commercial agriculture and how it has affected women’s participation, Professor Vibhuti explored the trajectory of women’s daily lives, and how the entry of cooperatives changed the scenario for them in terms of financial independence and enhanced social security. She emphasized the importance of skill development and training for young rural women to empower them.

The second half of the discussion focused on gender inequality in the workplace, with the professor using the example of Audrey River, who suffered a salary disparity and a lack of promotion chances owing to her gender. The professor underlined the importance of working together to foster an environment conducive to the use of various types of power.

Gender and Education in North and South India

Professor Vibhuti deliberated on the participation of women in education in North and South India, and the relevance it holds in a woman’s life. She noted that the Southern states had made greater progress in terms of women’s mobility than the North. She also examined the impact of 19th-century social reform movements aimed at educating lower caste women, which resulted in mass education and enrollment efforts in Southern states.

In the latter half of the discussion, she stressed the importance of state policies and budgetary allocations for social sectors such as education and health, citing Kerala’s 40% allocation to its overall budget as an inspiring example. The conversation finally touched upon the role of English as a tool for upward social mobility, and a global language linking the world in today’s age.

Gender Gap, Housework Wages, and Care Work Recognition

On a response to a question raised regarding the gender gap index and the unpaid domestic work done by women, Professor Vibhuti emphasized the need of recognizing and incorporating this form of work into the index calculation. She noted the wage dispute for housework, which began in 1978, as well as the studies that have been conducted to evaluate the opportunity cost of this activity.

She explored the potential consequences of paying for housework, such as institutionalizing gender-based division of labor. She enlightened the participants with a Time Utilization study done by 84 countries around the world, and the 2019 TUS report released by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI). The conversation closed with a discussion of how to recognize unpaid care work in national accounting systems.

Conclusion

Overall, the session successfully covered the social, economic, and political aspects of public policy related issues regarding women’s leadership and encouraged the participants to contribute to the landscape of women’s development and empowerment.

Acknowledgement: This article was posted by Ritika Sen, a research intern at IMPRI.

Read more at IMPRI:

Reshaping Narratives in Public Policy through the Young Women Leaders Fellowship

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