Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

[op-ed snap] Digitally empowering women in rural India

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Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Role of women & women’s organization

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Empowerment of women by addressing digital gender gap


Context

Addressing digital gender divide

  1. Bridging the gender gap in mobile ownership and digital literacy in both urban and rural India may increase the agency of women and help dismantle social norms that have been holding them back for decades
  2. Addressing the gender divide in digital literacy is perhaps necessary to ensure inequality of opportunity across gender does not widen in an India where the digital economy is expected to multiply by five times by 2023

How can digital transfer of money help women?

  1. The women beneficiaries get an improved household bargaining power
  2.  The mobile-transfer beneficiaries are more likely to obtain the transfer on their own as opposed to relying on their husbands
  3. They are more likely to travel to weekly markets and be involved in selling household grain than the manual cash transfer recipients

Kenya model of digital empowerment

  1. The M-Pesa mobile money service has gained much traction in development circles in the past year
  2. M-Pesa is a service that allows users to store monetary value on their phones and transfer to others via text message
  3. A research suggests that access to M-Pesa has uplifted 2% of Kenya’s households out of poverty
  4. The results are most compelling for female beneficiaries
  5. There is a change in the financial behaviour of these women, particularly saving behaviour
  6. This has translated into their altering occupational choices by graduating from subsistence agriculture and multiple part-time jobs to business ownership
  7. This could be a result of direct access to remittances through M-Pesa, and therefore, increased agency
  8. This could also be because these women may have not been primary earning members in their households, and were constrained before they had access to mobile money

Role of mobile phones in increasing women’s agency

  1. Digital inclusion can empower women not only through improving their individual agency but also by dismantling hostile norms surrounding gender
  2. A study on mobile phone ownership and usage by women in India, using 2004-2005 National Family Health Survey cross-sectional data, found that households, where women had mobile phones, reported lower tolerance for domestic violence and higher women’s autonomy in mobility and economic independence

Way Forward

  1. India’s changing digital landscape is offering tremendous scope for women’s empowerment, and evidence from rigorous research suggests how mobile phone usage can transform women’s household agency and workforce participation
  2. This calls for a greater effort to close the gender gap in digital literacy, and more innovation in integrating mobile phone usage with social welfare programmes
  3. There has never been a more pertinent time to bridge the gender digital divide
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