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India Ranks 114 Out Of 142 Countries In WEF’s Gender Gap Report, Here Are Some More Shocking Facts!

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By Debamita Samajdar:

A quota leads to action. Action leads to training” – Carlos Ghosn, C.E.O of Renault-Nissan alliance.

This view was echoed by the speakers at the 44th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, where, apart from ‘promotion of women’s leadership roles’ which seemingly ‘boosts business profits’ and aims at ‘creating environments more conducive to women’s input as it makes good sense from the perspective of business, politics and ethics’, stress was also given by all speakers alike on ‘setting Quotas and targets to include women’ which leads to ‘new breakthroughs in Gender Equality’. This recommendation perhaps makes sense in light of India’s almost paradoxical success story at being able to be among the 20 best performing countries as regards to the SubIndex of Political Empowerment, inspite of faring poorly at all other indicators, thus ranking a dismal 114 out of 142 countries as per the W.E.F’s 2014 Gender Gap Index report. But the notion of replicating this quota scheme in other fields of life holds dangerous implications in a country like India, which is already strife with Anti-Reservation protests with popular opinion not in favour of the already existing multitude of reservations. India ranked an impressive 15, making it the highest ranked country in years with female head of state (over 50 years) indicator, a feat only rivalled by Iceland which has taken the top spot on the index consecutively since 2009. It is less of voluntary conscientious political participation and more of legally mandated privileges (the 33% quota) that has helped India save face in the International Media. With out-of-work actresses, devoid of any political knowhow, making up a good chunk of M.P’s and M.L.A’s getting elected from constituencies they hardly ever visit, political ‘Empowerment’ is perhaps a misnomer.

Picture Credits: Asian Development Bank
Picture Credits: Asian Development Bank

The silver lining is the suggestion made by the report that Indian women in local Govt. roles make decisions with better outcomes for communities than men do, when charged with budget decisions. Obtaining more resources for their constituencies despite having significantly lower education and relevant market experience, these women surely come up as competent representatives.

This index, first introduced by the World Economic Forum in 2006 as a framework for capturing the magnitude of gender-based disparities and tracking their progress, benchmarks national gender gaps on economic, political, education and health criteria. On the criteria of economic participation and opportunity, India was ranked 134, which is not a surprise given only 14% of the companies questioned have 40% or more women among their employees, mainly present at the entry and middle levels of management with only a few attaining senior management level. This, apart from the lowest number of firms with female participation in ownership, and also the highest difference in the male and female R&D personnel. Most companies do not even track salary gaps. Despite the clear wage gaps between men and women, only 4%of the companies surveyed are attempting to monitor salary gaps. “Women, as half of the human capital of India, will need to be more efficiently integrated into the economy in order to boost India’s long term competitive potential. The World Economic Forum’s survey of some of the biggest companies of India shows that,to achieve this integration, Indian companies will need to set targets, improve policies to close salary gaps and promote work-life balance,” said Saadia Zahidi, Co-author of the Forum’s Global Gender Gap report 2009 and head of the Forum’s Women Leaders and Gender parity Programme.

The 114th position makes India the lowest ranked BRICS nation and one of the few countries where female labour participation is shrinking – a recurrent trend if we are to believe a 2009 report by Nancy Lockwood of Society for Human Resources Management, the world’s largest human resources association with members in 140 countries, wherein it is cited that notwithstanding the rapid increase since the 1990’s, the female labour participation in India is still lower than men; out of India’s 397 million workers in 2001, 114 million were women with a wage gap ratio of 1.87. In manual ploughing operations, women earned Rs55/day compared to men’s Rs103/day. The shrinking labour force participation could have been interpreted as a positive development (better educational opportunities would ensure a deviation from manual labour) had it not been for the female to male literacy ratio of 48% and 73% respectively, thus ranking India at 126.

A staggering difference of 300 exists between Indian men and women in case of average minutes/day spent on unpaid work – the highest difference among the 142 countries surveyed.

India had closed 93% of its health gender gap, 84% of its education gap, 41% of its economic participation gap and 27% of its political empowerment gap according to the Global Gender Gap report 2009. From thereon, it’s been downhill as India slips 13 places from its last year’s ranking of 101 with a drop (in absolute and relative value) on the health and survival index, compared with 2006. In stark comparison are some countries from even the Sub-Saharan region who have managed to close more than 80% of the Economic Participation and Opportunity Sub Index, 25 countries fully closing the gap in Educational Attainment and 8 countries – Bahamas, Belize, Brazil, France, Guyana, Latvia, Nambia and The Phillipines – fully closing the gap on both the Health and Education Sub Index.

The plight of Indian rural women with hundreds dying each day at childbirth and thousands more with no primary health care access is reflected on India’s rank of 141 on the Health and Survival Sub Index. The main criterion – a decrease in female to male ratio at birth.

The indifferent and incompetent health workers are the root cause of the non-implementation of the numerous schemes (The National Maternity Scheme/Janani Suraksha Yojana, JSSK, NSSK, RCH Phase 1 and 2, to name a few) meant for achieving the Millennium Development Goals of gender equity, reduction of child mortality, maternal health improvement etc.

As the world takes lessons from the Nordic Countries (consistent toppers of the index), considered as the pioneers in the field of gender equality, it remains to be seen if India can take cues from these countries’ political will to achieve gender equality through policies as groundbreaking (after the soviet area) as paternal leave (thus explicitly encouraging mothers to take up paid work) achieved through the public debate forum – a feat perhaps only possible for these Atheist majority countries.

With a U.N. study finding how some Indian laws such as the Goa Polygamy Law reinforce gender inequality, the gap between the equal rights to women as enshrined in the constitution, the preamble etc. and the situational reality of the status of women but naturally exists. With the newly appointed N.C.W chairperson already failing to keep her promise to send a notice against the Haryana khaps’ Talibani diktats, the government surely seems in no hurry to correct the situation.

With even U.S.A., the forerunners of the feminist movement, transcend from its ‘Bra burning’ days to the age of ‘Victoria’s Secret’, the fine line between sexual liberalisation and female objectification easily gets blurred in India (proud emulators of anything Firangi especially Amreeki) with even the beacons of Indian journalism failing to live up to their names as exemplified by the Deepika Padukone – Times of India spat.

It will take India 81 years just to achieve gender parity at the workplace, says the W.E.F report. The participants at the ground level would perhaps beg to differ as it takes aeons to change the psyche of the society, and that too of one with its pillars of latent coercion and control firmly rooted in the soils of habit and religion with the vanguard of patriarchy.

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  1. Dark Knight

    It is about using women as a sword to tarnish the image of other countries. India is at 114, but who comes up with these facts and figures? Organisations and nations who hide the agony of their womenfolk and make India look bad on the international scale. Men suffer too, but that does not sell, so print and electronic media are not interested.

  2. Templetwins

    I am going to discard this whole GGP as the ‘gender’ here only denotes women. Any nation where women have marginally worse outcomes than men is severly penalized on “gender equality”; but nations where men have outrageously worse oucomes than women are rewarded and given “100% equality” marks.

    Gender equality vs. women’s empowerment: The third distinguishing feature of the ‘Global Gender Gap Index is that it ranks countries according to their proximity to gender equality rather than to women’s empowerment. Our aim is to focus on whether the gap between women and men in the chosen indicators has declined, rather than whether women are “winning” the “battle of the sexes”. Hence, the Index rewards countries that reach the point where outcomes for women equal those for men, but it neither rewards nor penalizes cases in which women are outperforming men in particular indicators’ – UN GGP. Also check out the last line which indicates ‘it neither rewards nor penalizes cases in which women are outperforming men in particular indicators’.

    So until they recognize men as human beings whose marginalization must also be included to attain equality, I am going to discard this sexist ranking methodologies. It summarizes why most of homeless are men, why suicides rates of men higher, why women out live men, why the overwhelming majority of victims of homicide, workplace fatalities, substance abuse, mental health issues, etc. are men, why boys are failing out of school, why young men are giving up on a college education, why masculinity is considered toxic … and why nobody cares. Becasue it is only a problem when women are worse off than men.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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