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'Crisis: Women empowerment holds the key'

By Dharam Shourie in New York
March 13, 2009 13:38 IST
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Noting that the burden of ongoing financial crisis has fallen disproportionately on women and girls, India has asked for regional and international cooperation to ensure that they get their rightful status in the society.

If the international community concentrates on empowering women through gender equality, it will actually be promoting the cause of democracy, mitigating poverty and improving general health, joint secretary in the ministry of women and child development Kiran Chadha told the ongoing session of Commission on Status of Women.

"What is required is a committed effort to change the existing prejudice against women to enable their entry into areas of activity that would enhance their capacity to influence decision-making in areas affecting their lives," Chadha said.

The ongoing financial crisis, she said, has posed a challenge for all countries. However, the negative fallout of this has disproportionately fallen on the vulnerable group of society, namely women and girls.

"Women, invariably end up as the first victim of any job reduction policy, resulting in unemployment or underemployment. They are forced to take up jobs which lack job security or involve hazardous working conditions or are under-remunerated," she said. 

Although gender responsive policies have been implemented by several countries domestically, yet regional and international cooperation is not only essential but also indispensable in this field.

"This would mean that developed countries should continue, if not augment, their contributions to various bilateral and multilateral financial assistance programmes," she said.

"In India, it is more a cultural reality that women and girls act as principal care givers in a family. Therefore, it is essential that their capacity is strengthened by providing them resources and facilities" she added.

Stressing that economic growth does not automatically reduce gender inequality, Chadha called for rapid social change, social justice and full emancipation of women.

Pointing to successful Indian 'Swayamsidha' programme of self help, she said, the idea behind this scheme is holistic empowerment of women through formation of Self Help Groups, awareness generation, economic empowerment and convergence of various schemes by ensuring their direct access to, and control over, resources through a sustained process of mobilisation and convergence of all the on-going sectoral programmes.

"In India, we have nearly 2 million SHGs covering 33 million families," she said.

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Dharam Shourie in New York
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