by Rhythm Gupta
Did you know, the Female Labour Force Participation Rate in India, is a mere 23.3% as of 2017-2018? The Female Labour Force Participation Rate (FLFPR) is the percentage of women in the workforce in a country. This means that over three out of four women, over the age of 15 in India, are neither working nor seeking work. Furthermore, most of India’s neighbouring countries — China, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Pakistan have Female Labour Force Participation Rates greater than India. In fact, in 2019, India’s FLFPR was the sixth-lowest in the Asian ranking. As a young Indian female myself, these statistics are harrowing.
In this context, two pertinent questions arise —“Where are India’s working women?” and “Where are India’s women working?”
There are several facets of the Indian society which answer these questions collectively: Lack of jobs in all sectors including the ones that encourage women, more women staying in education for longer, the persistence of patriarchal attitudes and stigma around the idea of women having paid jobs, cultural expectations that married women should not work and that they should prioritize housework and care work, lack of political will to improve opportunities for women and refine policies for better maternity leave, subsidized childcare, and flexibility in jobs, wider problem of sexual violence and harassment against women, encouragement to take up only non-formal, non-corporate sector employment options, and the significant wage gap between males and females.
It’s 2020, and it’s bizarre to even know that a country with the fifth-largest economy in the world cannot unleash the potential of half of its population merely because of gender. No wonder books such as “Choo…mantar” are still so relevant and paramount for today’s young readers. “Choo…mantar” is a brilliant opus written by Geeta Dharmarajan and illustrated by Sujasha Das Gupta and Priyanka Pachpande. The book entails a transformational journey of the village of Bhopali, from a conservative and irrational beginning to a progressive and hopeful culmination of events and thoughts. This book is not just important for children, but it is also an essential read for every Indian parent.
The fantastical tale makes one realize that in reality, no incantation can revolutionize the stale Indian mentality. It is the sensitivity and intelligence of the masses, and the right strategy implemented by the Government, that can comprehensively upturn the grim situation of the country. When I read the book, I was thankful to Katha and relieved that there is still hope, India can still break free from the shackles of unreasonable discrimination.
Michelle Obama rightly said, “No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half of its citizens.” And it is about time that India realizes that societal attitudes that give preference to early marriages over jobs and education, and generally, disapprove of working women, are tremendously staggering and will continue to stagnate India’s growth. We don’t know, maybe the young lady working in the mom-and-pop shop near our house is capable of doing purposeful work as a member of the Government of our country.
About the author: Rhythm Gupta is a volunteer at Katha. A B.Sc. Economics and Finance student at Ashoka University, she is fond of all forms of art and literature. She also likes travelling and understanding different cultures.
This article is a part of Katha’s segment titled “Write To Equality”, a medium to use Katha books for questioning various spectrums of inequality in India.
Featured Image from Katha.