Of all the world’s major ills – such as war, hunger, and natural disasters – none can quite compare to the millions of baby girls and female fetuses killed by parents  .The  National Family Health Survey 4 data for 2015-16  indicates that the practice of aborting female fetuses and murdering girls after birth is being contained  efforts

The   sex ratio at birth (number of females per 1,000 males) improved from 914 to 919 at the national level over the last decade with the highest in Kerala (1,047), followed by Meghalaya (1,009) and Chhattisgarh (977).Haryana also witnessed a significant increase from 762 to 836.while this has shown only marginal improvement   sates like Haryana which had bad records have shown very significant progress.

Life’s women with electricity, clean cooking fuel, toilets and improved drinking water reaching more homes than before, but improved infrastructure does not find a reflection in improved health.

Women’s health has improved, but only marginally. There was a slight fall in the number of women with anaemia — from 55.2% in 2005-06 to 53.1%. The number of underweight women fell by close to 13%, while those who are overweight and obese have risen sharply.

Violence against married women has come down. The percentage of women facing marital violence has dropped from 37.2% to 28.8%.over the decade. The number of women facing violence during pregnancy is now at a low of 3.3%. This indicator seems to reflect a better awareness of   rights and improved social standing among women.

Female literacy rate that has gone up to 68.4% as compared with 55.1% in the previous survey. The female literacy rate, however, continues to lag men who have a literacy rate of 85.6%. The number of females having attained more than 10 years of schooling also grew from 22.3% to 35.7% between NFHS3 and NFHS4.

India is home to 586 million women, just over 17% of the total number of women in the world. India is also home to 173 million women below the age of 15, which is about 20% of the world’s young women. So the developments and changes in the lives of these women socially and economically are of import, not only to India, but to the world at large.

Between 1981 and 2011, women’s literacy in India increased from 29.8% to 65.5%. In 1990, only 60% of 21-year-old women were literate and, in 2011, this figure had improved to 85%. The 2011 Census was a landmark because for the first time, out of the total number of literates added during the decade, females outnumbered males.

Between 1980-81 and 2000-01, the percentage of girls who were in school at the primary level (classes I to V) increased from 64.1% to 85.9%. In urban India, women’s literacy levels increased from 58.1% to 79.9% over the last three decades. In rural India, women’s literacy levels improved from 21.4% to 58.8%. Statistics for urban India are expectedly better than the all-India average. But rural India is not far behind in terms of decadal improvement although there is still a long way to go.

The NFHS shows that India has witnessed an impressive jump in financial inclusion of women+ , with 53% of the female population now having bank accounts as compared to a mere 15% a decade ago,

The 38% jump in women with bank accounts is complemented by the survey finding that 84% married women in the age of 15-49 years are increasingly participating in decision-making as compared to 76% in the third round of NFHS conducted in 2005-06. The data also show 38.4% of women own a house and or land — alone or jointly with others.

Not surprisingly, improvements in banking and an enhanced role in the household are accompanied by an increase in the female literacy rate that has gone up to 68.4% as compared with 55.1% in the previous survey. The female literacy rate, however, continues to lag men who have a literacy rate of 85.6%. Women with more than 10 years of schooling also grew from 22.3% to 35.7% between NFHS3 and NFHS4.

.The national trend of improving literacy is also reflected in rural areas among the 11–14 year old cohort. However, in the age group of 11–14 years in rural India, 6% of the girls were not in school while the comparable number for boys was lower at 4.8%. While on the face of it, these numbers may be discouraging, in 2006, 10.3% of the girls in the 11–14 years age group were out of school and the comparable number for boys was 7.5%. Clearly, even in a short period of five years, between 2006 and 2011, the enrolment of girls and boys is converging even in rural areas

According to a Harvard Business Review study, women in emerging markets reinvest 90% of every dollar earned into “human resources”— their families’ education, health and nutrition — compared to only 30 to 40% of every dollar earned by men.

India‘s achievements are heartening but a lot has to be done to undo decades of discrimination of women on account of entrenched patriarchal traditions.   When compared to other countries the picture of India’s gender domain is still grim .The status of women has long served as a civilization index. In our times, organizations like the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) measure it according to specific indices such as reproductive health (measured by maternal mortality ratio and adolescent birth rates), empowerment (measured by proportion of parliamentary seats occupied by females and proportion of adult females and males with at least some secondary education), and economic status (measured by the labour force participation rate of adult female and male populations). India ranks a dismal 130th (out of a total of 188 countries ranked) on the Gender Inequality Index devised by the UNDP, according to the latest report.

Thus  while India has substantially improved its rank in the Global Gender Gap index — moving from 108th to 87th position  according to   released by the World Economic Forum (WEF) it  ranks 142nd in terms of ‘health and survival’ of women’ according to its parameters.

Supported by government’s policies, women are using whatever their levers of agency provide to bring about change in their societies.    Ela   Bhatt, founder of SEWA (Self-Employed Women’s Association) whose  trade union movement  has helped realize the dreams of thousands of women at the grassroots level-vendors, agricultural labour, rag pickers, embroiderers, construction workers and countless other women toiling in rural and urban areas-has always believed in the enormous  potential of India’s  women.

“She has a name, an address, a bank account number. She has learned who the exploiting forces are. She is more aware that poverty is not destiny: that she does not have to accept that as her destiny. You see that transformation all the time. The macro forces change, but what the women have gained is self esteem, a sense of mutuality that is strength giving.

“But what makes me happiest is that they see that they are more self-reliant, and they are fiercely independent. This is very much the Gandhian approach.”

Moin Qazi is a well known banker, author and Islamic researcher .He holds doctorates in Economics and English. He was Visiting Fellow at the University of Manchester. He has authored several books on religion, rural finance, culture and handicrafts. He is author of the bestselling book Village Diary of a Development Banker. He is also a recipient of UNESCO World Politics Essay Gold Medal and Rotary International’s Vocational Excellence Award. He is based in Nagpur and can be reached at moinqazi123@gmail.com

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One Comment

  1. K SHESHU BABU says:

    Though many parameters concerning women are encouraging, there are still some important parameters in which the women lag behind. The male hegemony has not gone down nor the incidents of rapes and tortures. Women are subjected to harassment in villages even to this day. Beside maintaining domestic chores, they are forced to plan family by undergoing operations. Male sterilisation is among the lowest in the world. Women are forced to undergo the operations. They are affected by wrong operations. Many women died due to doctors negligence in Chhattisgarh and other areas.
    Hence, a lot remains for improvement. Women empowerment is at an inception stage only. Their struggles have started …