International Women”s Day 2013: Empowering Rural Women to Fight Hunger & Poverty [Part-1]

Posted on March 8, 2013 in Women Empowerment

By Dr. Amrit Patel:

Women’s potential to overcome poverty, hunger, malnutrition, fight climate change, start their own businesses through savings and lending groups, among others, has been significant and acknowledged in developing countries. Since International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8, 2013, it should be the endeavor of all of us that should support women’s efforts to claim their legal rights, live free from violence, earn a decent income, get an education, grow food for their families, and make their voices heard in their communities and beyond.


It is heartening that our Finance Minister, while presenting Union Budget for the year 2013-14, recognizing the fact that women are at the head of many banks today including two public sector banks, was overwhelmed to set up India’s first Women’s Bank as a public sector bank that can exclusively serve women, lend mostly to women and women-run businesses, support women’s Self-Help-Groups and women’s livelihood, employ predominantly women, and address gender related aspects of empowerment and financial inclusion. The Finance Minister, further, dwelt upon saying that we have a collective responsibility to ensure the dignity and safety of women and pledged to do everything possible to empower them and to keep them safe and secure. To accomplish these objectives, he proposed to set up a fund to which the Government will contribute Rs.1,000 crore and the Ministry of Women and Child Development and other ministries concerned will work out the details of the structure, scope and application of the fund. This paper briefly highlights women’s role in India’s agriculture, need for empowerment and suggests issues that need focused attention while designing policy and programs for women’s empowerment in the Twelfth Plan.

Women’s participation in economy:
According to various studies and reports following is the status of women’s participation in country’s economy.

– The workforce participation rate of females in rural sector was 26.1% in 2009‐ 10 while that for males was 54.7%. In Urban sector, it was 13.8 % for females and 54.3% for males. Among the States/Union Territories, workforce participation rate of females in the rural sector was the highest in Himachal Pradesh at 46.8% and in the urban sector it was the highest in Mizoram at 28.8%.

– In the rural sector, 55.7% females were self‐employed, 4.4% females had regular wage/salaried employment and 39.9% females were casual laborers compared with 53.5%, 8.5% and 38.0% males in the same categories respectively.

– A total of 20.4% women were employed in the organized sector in 2010 with 17.9% working in the public sector and 24.5% in the private.

– The labor force participation rate of women across all age‐groups was 20.8% in rural sector and 12.8% in urban sector compared with 54.8 and 55.6 for men in the rural and urban sectors respectively in 2009‐10.

– The unemployment rate for women of all ages was 2.4% compared with 2.0% for men in the rural areas in 2009‐10. It was 7.0 % for women and 3.1% for men in urban areas during the same period. Among the States/Union Territories, the highest unemployment rate for women in rural sector was observed in Chandigarh (51.1%) and in the urban sector in Dadra and Nagar Haveli (60.0%) in 2009‐10.

– Of the total job seekers registered with employed exchanges, women constituted 32.5% in 2009.

– The female share of total Central Government employment stood at 10.0% in 2009.

– The share of female employees in the scheduled commercial banks was 15.9% in 2009 which rose slightly to 16.6% in 2010.

– In 2009‐10, the average wage/salary received by regular wage/salaried employees of age 15‐59 years was Rs.155.87 per day for females compared with Rs.249.15 per day for males in rural areas. For urban areas, it was Rs.308.79 and Rs.377.16 per day for females and males respectively.

– In 2010, the number of accounts operated by females in all commercial banks was 153.18 crores compared with 487.37 crore accounts operated by males. The deposit amount was Rs.517209.74 crore for females and Rs.1838826.25 crore for males.

– In 2011-12, women exclusively accounted for 62.99 lakh SHGs [79.1%] and loan of Rs.5,104.33 crore [77.9%] of the total under the SHG-Bank Linkage Microfinance Program.

– In 2011‐12, the share of women swarojgaris (self-employed) in the total swarojgaris assisted under the Swarnjayanti Gram Swarojgaar Yojna stood at 69.4%.

– The share of women in the person days employed through Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme stood at 48.3% in 2011‐12 (all districts with rural areas).

– According to the pilot Time Use Survey conducted in 18,620 households spread over six selected States, namely, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Orissa, Tamil Nadu and Meghalaya during the period June 1998 to July 1999, women spent about 2.1 hours per day on cooking food and about 1.1 hours on cleaning the households and utensils. Men’s participation in these activities was nominal. Taking care of children was one of the major responsibilities of women, as they spent about 3.16 hours per week on these activities as compared to only 0.32 hours by males.

– According to National Family Health Survey—III (2005‐06) in the rural sector currently married women take 26% decisions regarding obtaining health care for herself and 7.6% in case of purchasing major household items. 10% decisions are taken by females in respect of visiting their family or relatives. For urban areas, these figures are 29.7 %, 10.4 % and 12.2 % respectively.

In the age group of 15‐19 years, 46% of women are not involved in any kind of decision making. In the rural sector, 23.4 % females are not involved in any decision‐ making while, in the urban sector, only 13.9 % of urban resident women are not involved in any decision making. It is found that 32.7% illiterate women, 21.6% unemployed women are not involved in any decision making. For the country as a whole, 59.6% have access to money.