Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow
| Prof. HIMACHALAM DASARAJU, CWF (UK) - 08 Mar 2022

Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow

Promoting Gender Equality and Woman Empowerment:

Dire need of the Day for Sustainable Development

On the occasion of INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY, 8TH OF March 2022


By Prof. Himachalam Dasaraju 

March 8, 2022

Shri. Swami Vivekanandaaptly said that “There is no chance for the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is empowered; a bird can't fly on only one wing.” Hence, itis a dire need to empower women by way of bringing them into the mainstream of the economy. Empowerment of women touches on the enhancement of the scope of choice of action, freedom to act upon in all areas of operation, mostly socio-economic, political, and financial ambit of women. It enhances the scope of women’s life to control over resources and in the decision-making process.

Gender equity and women’s empowerment is crucial for all developing economies as they constitute around 50 percent of the global population, and contribute significantly to economic development. Empowerment economically is a sine qua non for elevating women’s status in the society in any developing economy. Women are relegated backward in many ways in society, though they constitute a considerable proportion of the total population. Women in emerging economies in general and women in India, in particular, are deprived of many socio-economic benefits and status in society. The women are mostly deprived of their basic freedom, mostly due to gender inequality in society and households too. Women need to possess a lot of resources, abilities, and skills to transform untapped assets into products or services. The entrepreneurial spirit with good educational qualification is one of the basic requirements to empower women. Women need basic knowledge, skills, and self-confidence to actively participate in the economic development process of any country.

International Women’s Day (8th March 2022)

International Women's Day is observed on 8th of March every year to commemorate the socio-economic, political, cultural and environmental accomplishments of women. It’s aimed to call for a gender equity and sustainable world. Its prime focus is in the women’s rights movement, throwing light on gender equity, violence and abuse on women across the world. Apart from various movements of women from countries in different forms for their rights and recognition for long, the UN in 1975 started celebrating International Women’s Day and in 1977 UN declared officially 8th of March every year across the world as UN Day for Women’s Rights and World Peace.

UNESCO states that “International Women's Day is an occasion to celebrate the progress made in achieving gender equality and empowerment of women, but also to critically reflect on those achievements and strive for a greater momentum towards gender equality worldwide. It’s a day to review and recognize the extraordinary acts of women and stand together as a united force to advance gender equality around the world”

Theme of the Day:“Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow”

         The UN’s theme for International Women’s Day 2022 is “Gender equity and today for a Sustainable tomorrow”. Gender equality is a human right, but the entire world faces a persistent gap in access to resources and opportunities and decision-making power for women and men. Women have lesser opportunities than men in economic participation, trivial access to basic needs and higher education, greater health and safety, and less political representation across the world. Ensuring the rights of women and giving them opportunities to reach their full potential is critical not only for attaining gender equality, but also for meeting a wide range of international development goals.

Gender Equality and Woman Empowerment

Gender Equality and Empowerment of women are the key elements to achieve progress in all areas of the economy across the world. It is one of the eight-millennium goals and seventeen sustainable development goals as well, set for the wellbeing of the people.  Empowerment in the context of women’s development is a way of creating opportunities and facing challenges in a woman’s life for enhancing her ability to make her life successful. It is a multidimensional process that enables women to realize their full energy, social recognition, and economic stability in life. Economic empowerment is a prerequisite for enhancing the status of women in the society in any developing economy like India, as Indian women are deprived of many socio-economic benefits and status and are backward in many ways in the society.

Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. There has been significant progress over the last decades: More girls are going to school, fewer girls are forced into early marriage, more women are serving in parliament, and positions of leadership and laws are being reformed to advance gender equality. Despite these gains, many daunting problems and challenges are persisting like discriminatory laws and social norms remain pervasive, women continue to be underrepresented at all levels of political leadership, and 1 in 5 women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 report experiencing physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner within 12 months (UN SDGs, 2020).

The Beijing Conference (1995) was the first significant milestone in the journey towards ensuring gender equality and women's empowerment. The goals of the Conference were (UN-Women, 2020).

(i) Sharing power equally;(ii) Obtaining full access to the means of development; (iii) Overcoming poverty; (iv) promoting peace and protecting women's rights; (v) Inspiring the new generation of women to work together for equality and equity.

The Gender-related Development Index (GDI) and the Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) were introduced in 1995 in the Human Development Report of the UNDP to add these measurements of gender-sensitive dimensions to the Human Development Index (HDI). The first measurement that they created, as a result, was the Gender-related Development Index (GDI).


Global Gender Gap Index 2021

The World Economic Forum (WEF) reported in its Global Gender Gap Index Report, measuring the extent of gender based gaps among 4 key dimensions – 1. Economic Participation and Opportunity, 2.Educational Attainment, 3.Health and Survival, 4.Power Empowerment.

Ten countries with smallest gender gaps are:

1. Iceland (0.877),  2. Norway (0.842), 3. Finland (0.832),  4. Sweden (0.820), 5.Nicaragua (0.804), 6.New Zealand (0.799), 7.Ireland (0.798), 8.Spain (0.795), 9.Rwanda (0.791), 10. Germany (0.787).

Ten countries with largest gender gaps are:

1. Yemen (0.494), 2. Iraq (0.530), 3.Pakistan (0.564), 4.Syria (0.567), 5.DR Congo (0.578), 6.Iran (0.584), 7.Chad (0.596), 8.Saudi Arabia (0.599), 9.Lebenon (0.599), 10.Oman (0.602).

It is observed from the Global Gender Gap Index 2021 of WEF, that India got the 140th global rank out of 156 countries, and 62.5 percent of the gender gap in the gender parity in South Asia. India has slipped 28 places to rank 140 among 156 countries in the Global Gender Gap Report 2021, by World Economic Forum. In 2020, India ranked 112th among 153 countries. Iceland has topped the index as the most gender-equal country in the world for the 12th time.

The Global Gender Gap Report is annually published by the World Economic Forum (WEF). It benchmarks countries on their progress towards gender parity in four dimensions: Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment (WEF, 2021). The global gender gap index score rose from 0.601 in 2006 to 0.625 in 2021 and the rank rose from 98 in 2006 to 140 in 2021. It indicates that the global rank slipped 42 ranks from 2006 to 2021. Likewise, all other factors like economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment also declined from 2006 to 2021.

The biggest challenge that women are facing today is that their work is not recognized at all and no equal distribution of wealth and income. Women have always contributed to society and the economy in the form of a helping hand in agriculture and food production in developing countries and the form of part-time and temporary workers in developed countries. This is apart from their role as a homemaker which is not even measured in economic terms. The recent statistics of the UN, report that 53% of work in developing countries is carried out by women and out of $ 16 trillion global output which is invisible, $ 11 trillion is contributed by women. Even after considerable contribution, there is a lack of acknowledgment regarding the role of women in every sphere of life in all economies. (UN, 2021).

Glass Ceiling:  According to UN Report, no country has achieved gender equality and violence against women and girls remains rampant globally. Women job market participation stagnating at less than 50 percent for the last 25 years. In terms of power and decision-making, women held only 28% of managerial positions globally in 2019 – almost the same proportion as in 1995. And only 18% of enterprises surveyed had a female Chief Executive Officer in 2020. Among Fortune 500 corporations only 7.4%, or 37 Chief Executive Officers, were women. In political life, while women’s representation in parliament has more than doubled globally, it has still not crossed the barrier of 25% of parliamentary seats in 2020. Women’s representation among cabinet ministers has quadrupled over the last 25 years, yet remains well below parity at 22% (UN Women, 2020).The Oxford university, a 800 year old premier university of UK, had get its first-ever woman VC Professor Louise Richardson, assumed office on January 1, 2016.She said “unfortunately, academia like most professions is pyramid-shaped – the higher up you go the fewer women there are”.In India JNU was established in 1969, named after Jawaharlal Nehru, the India’s first Prime Minister,  got its first woman VC  Professor SantishreeDhulipudiPandit on February 7, 2022 after its 52 years of existence.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021, indicates the following in the Indian context (WEF, 2021).

1. India ranked 140 among 150 countries in the overall global rankings. It is noticed that India has fallen 28 places in the overall ranking globally.

2. In South Asia, India lagging behind the neighboring countries like Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Srilanka, and Myanmar.

3. India has declined in the political empowerment index as well by 13,5 %  points.

4. India has ranked 114th in the index of education attainment.

5. India has fared badly in Health and Survival, which includes sex ratio and economic participation in national and regional economic activity.

6. In India the estimated earned income of women is only one-fifth of men’s, which puts the country among the bottom 10 globally on this indicator.

The index/factor-wise score of India in 2006 and 2021 reveals that the global gender gap index score raised from 0.601 in 2006 to 0.625 in 2021 and the rank rose from 98 in 2006 to 140 in 2021. It indicates that the global rank slipped 42 ranks from 2006 to 2021. Likewise, all other factors like economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment also declined from 2006 to 2021. The adverse impact of Covid-19 pandemic is visible from the limited progress made by the countries on gender equity and women’s basic rights in the society. Women play a predominant role in containing the virus as frontline healthcare workers and caretakers. Women’s unpaid home care efforts has doubled due to the closure of the schools and the higher needs of the older people for better care during Covid time (UN, 2021).

Government Initiatives:

The Government of India has given top priority and initiated a good number of programs to empower women. The government initiation towards this end is ensuring required financial stability and protection against women abuse and toxic relationships as they don’t have sufficient financial independence. Since the starting of movements like (me too and time's up) brought violence and discrimination against women get enough attention in countries around the world, including India, which emphasizing much on women empowerment. The Indian government has realized and recognized the contribution of women to the economic progress of the country and consequently introduced schemes for women empowerment. All these schemes are the real backbone of women's enrichment and empowerment. These include:

(a) BetiBachaoBetiPadhao Scheme, (b) One-Stop Centre Scheme, (c) Women Helpline Scheme,(d) Ujjwala Scheme (A comprehensive scheme for prevention of trafficking and rescue, rehabilitation and re-integration of victims of trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. Ministry approves new projects under Ujjawala Scheme and continues existing projects).

(e) Working Women Hostel,(f) SwadharGreh (A scheme for women in difficult circumstances)

(g) Nari Shakti Puraskar, (h) Awardees of Stree Shakti Puraskar, 2014 & Awardees of Nari Shakti Puraskar, (i) Awardees of RajyaMahilaSamman&ZilaMahilaSamman, (j) Nirbhaya (Designed to improve the safety and security of women),(k) Mahila Police Volunteers,(l) Mahila Shakti Kendras (MSK)

(Source: Ministry of Women & Child Development, Govt. of India, 2020).


Gender equality and Women empowerment are the key elements to achieve economic progress across the world without any exception. Empowering women is a major task globally and it is one of the eight-millennium goals and seventeen sustainable development goals set for the wellbeing of the people.  It is a prioritized task to enhance the status of women in developing economies like India, as women are deprived of many socio-economic benefits and are backward in many ways.The success in this endeavor ultimately depends upon the commitment, willpower, and spirit of the government agencies and among women as well. Women's empowerment would be possible only through meticulous and serious efforts to bring them into the mainstream of economic activity and nurturing and promotion of women's entrepreneurship as well. A multi-pronged strategy is required to achieve gender equity and women empowerment as part of UN sustainable developing goals by 2030. Let us hope for the best.



(Professor Himachalam Dasaraju is presently serving as Commonwealth Visiting Fellow, UK)


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