India dropped four places, from 2018, to take the 112th rank in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index 2019-2020. It is heartening to see the change, which is slowly but steadily coming, not only in India but internationally as well. Government of India (GoI) has taken steadfast measure in favor of women to remove gender disparity in the society and provide them with equal opportunities. The recent ones include a social campaign – Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao launched in 2015 aims at eradication of female feticide and raising awareness on welfare services intended for young Indian girls. Likewise, Mahila E-Hatt It is a direct online marketing platform launched by the Ministry of Women and Child Development to support women entrepreneurs, Self Help Groups (SHGs) and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to showcase products made and services rendered by them. This is a part of the ‘Digital India’ initiative.
To strengthen the situation further so women can enjoy the same right and opportunities as men, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has been continuously supporting and accelerating gender parity. JICA projects realize the need for promoting women to participate in decision making in the community, as well as increasing women’s financial access.
Speaking on the International Women’s day, Ms. Aditi Puri, JICA India, Principal Development Specialist said, “JICA’s vision for every individual is in line with United Nations International Women Day 2020 theme ‘I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights’, in order to sensitize men and women towards the role they can play in creating an equal world. Our projects in India have been particularly designed to promote women participation in all processes. JICA’s projects are not just focused towards facilitation of finances, but aims at making women to be independent in rural parts of the country. Moreover, we lay a larger impetus on safety of women by building a mechanism for prevention of mishaps and immediate redressal.”
In this context, JICA is working to ensure women security through their partnership with an NGO and by developing safer infrastructure through the Delhi metro as well as other metro Projects in the country. Moreover, JICA aims to empower women financially by facilitating the formation of Women Self Help Group by way of their forestry projects.
Through Forestry projects, JICA has been assisting improvement of the livelihood of forest-dependent communities. Members of Self Help Groups (SHGs), largely composed by women, have been benefiting by having access to microcredit and capacity development in Income Generation Activities such as management skills, processing of agricultural products and production of handicrafts. Odisha Forestry Sector Development Project is one good example. Under the Phase 1 (OFSDP-1) that was completed in 2016, a total of 7,358 Women SHGs were formed and their businesses were scaled up to several cluster level enterprises to self-sustain and expand the scale of business. Phase 2 project (OFSDP-2) which was launched in 2017 and targets to assist 3,600 SHGs in the area not covered by the Phase 1.
Women in rural Himachal Pradesh are experiencing transformations in their livelihood with the support of the initiatives of Swan Women Federation (SWF) driven by the Swan River Integrated Watershed Management Project in Una district. Swan Women Federation is an umbrella organization for over 650 self-help groups (SHGs). These SHGs count around 10,000 women as members, making the federation the largest organized collective of rural women in Himachal Pradesh.
JICA is promoting gender mainstreaming in order to strengthen its efforts for gender equality and women’s empowerment based on global and national mandates. A study conducted on the Delhi metro revealed that they feel safe when they are in the women-only coach because they don’t have to share that space with anonymous men. Moreover, it indicated safe mobility for women, traveling for work, education or day-to-day travel. Keeping in mind that women tend to use public transport more than men, improvement in the public transport system has shown immediate positive results on the lives of women and therefore has increased their ratio in the labor market. A working women not only contributes to the family’s income but also helps building the economy.
For security of women, JICA is working in close coordination with an NGO- Terra People ACT Kanagawa (TPAK) in order to establish prevention programs against gender based violence and preparing safety nets in high poverty rural settlements. The integral part of the project is making women aware of their rights and involving men as volunteers so that they can educate fellow men about gender equality.
By supporting projects with a special focus on gender equality, JICA aims to improve India’s ranking in the Global Gender Gap Index.