The United Nations’ 2017 theme for International Women’s Day was, “Women In The Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030”, which is in conjunction with UN’s Goal 5 of Sustainable Development Goals to achieve by 2030. The goal is to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”.
To achieve this gender parity, we have to change the world as a place that is free of inequity between the two sexes, a social set-up that no longer frowns upon a woman who chooses to work, but in turn encourages the myriad roles she juggles: a caring mother, a loving wife, an affectionate daughter yet manages to be a thorough working professional.
The initiative aims to “recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate”
The goal is to “ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life”.
The reality is men, the world over, still occupy most of the top positions and gender pay gap exists. How women fare in an urban ecosystem differs starkly from a rural reality. In India, women devote almost triple the time as men to unpaid care work. This is because in a patriarchal society like ours the dominant social perceptions towards females is that they more adept at handling household chores and undertaking responsibilities of care. Women drop out of the workforce because of many reasons, with marriage as the dominant one for both urban and rural women, often there is domestic violence because the husband is unable to accept the economic independence, even if it is a pittance. Some leave jobs because they are unable to handle the stress. The corporate perception that woman are not equally competent is another reason for women dropping out of the workforce.
In India, where there has been a decline in the number of women in the workforce, Planet 50-50 looks a distant dream.
According to a 2013 World Bank Study, India has the lowest rate of women’s participation in any workforce among BRICS countries – only 27 per cent of the female population over 15 is working compared to 64 per cent in China
We are a traditional society and change which challenges the deep-rooted belief system is difficult and slow paced. Yet for sustainable development it is imperative to attain gender equality. We have to consciously work towards a society which is truly liberated and believes that men and women can co-exist as equals. A society, where girls pursue higher education out of passion, and not to fit in to the shoes of an “ideal bride”. Women need to get encouraging husbands, an understanding family, and a supportive employer. Even the corporate environment has to recognise the multiple roles a career woman juggles and make policies that are in her favour.