Raise Up India’s Women | The Indian Express


Until recently, the representation of women on the world stage was often a symbolic gesture and, at best, a photo op. But that no longer applies. Women are no longer seat fillers; They finally have a seat at the table, having earned that seat through merit and hard work.

Equality, parity, empowerment and inclusivity are the leitmotifs of global dialogue today. In India we know that no form of development and progress can be achieved unless we put women at the center of every policy decision taken at the highest levels of government.

For too long women had been ignored and forgotten, and government programs sidestepped their inclusion and benefits. Women in rural areas – already historically disadvantaged – were pushed further into invisibility. Prime Minister Narendra Modi not only introduced welfare systems and policies that put women in charge, he went a step further to ensure women have access to opportunities regardless of their husbands, fathers or brothers. Launched since 2014, the schemes and programs are well planned and offer women the opportunity to benefit from India’s progress as equal and independent partners.

Between 2019 and 2021, women accounted for almost half of the total number (49.6 percent) of enrollments under the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana – the world’s largest health insurance scheme of its kind, serving 50 million Indians. This program’s health benefits package includes 141 procedures for women, including 136 obstetrics and gynecology packages—the second most used benefit in 15 states after general medicine. To date, women accounted for 42 percent of the total number of beneficiaries who have sought treatment. This includes nearly three million screenings for breast cancer and over two million screenings for cervical cancer by June 2021. The Beti Bachao Beti Padhao program plays an important role in ensuring the survival, protection and education of girls today.

The Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, launched within two years of the BJP government taking office, continues to focus on women’s health and empowers them to make choices that affect their lives using traditional cooking fuels such as firewood, cow dung cake and Coal – one of the main causes of indoor pollution, which disproportionately affects women. Nine million LPG connections have been released under the program (by January 31, 2022), exceeding the initial target of eight million connections by 2020, achieved in 2019. An independent study by the World Resources Institute India found that as a result of increased intake of LPG bottles in India, 1.5,000 pollution-related deaths were prevented and indoor air pollution deaths were reduced by 13 percent in 2019.

In 21st century India, women need to be financially empowered and have equal access and opportunities. Anything else would be unacceptable. Policies and programs have been tailored to encourage women to participate in programs and join the labor market. Of the 2.5 million homes built under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, the flagship affordable housing initiative, women will have co-ownership rights to two million of those homes. Similarly, to encourage entrepreneurship in India, the government launched the Pradhan Mantri MUDRA scheme in 2015, which provides loans of up to Rs 10 lakhs to small businesses. 68% of the beneficiaries of the 32 billion loans that have been granted are women. Similarly, the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana was a priority program for this government to ensure financial literacy and universal access to banking services, ensure at least one bank account per family, and provide access to credit, insurance, and pension schemes. As of March 2022, 45 million Jan Dhan accounts had been opened, of which more than half (56 percent), or 25 million, were owned by women.

Much has been achieved in India over the past eight years to place women on an equal socio-economic footing, and our commitment and efforts to develop policies and programs that focus on women continue.

In January 2014, before he became prime minister, Modi spoke of women as nation builders. His commitment to that statement has remained steadfast and strong. Prime Minister Modi recognizes that women must scale new peaks and be equal partners to drive progress for India to thrive. To that end, our government’s programs and policies will continue to create an environment where women have access to the equal opportunities that are rightfully theirs.

The author is Minister for Women and Children‘s Development in the Government of India


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