Equality and inclusion are the cornerstones of India’s development journey. The New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration, which was adopted at the G-20 under India’s presidency, is testament to this commitment. By prioritising inclusion at the centre of focus areas such as socio-economic empowerment, bridging the digital divide, driving climate action, ensuring food security, nutrition, health, and well-being, among others, the declaration underlines the need for advocating a growth agenda that is driven by women-led development.
At the World Economic Forum in January this year, India took the mission for gender equity several steps ahead with the launch of the ‘Alliance for Global Good – Gender Equity and Equality’. This multi-stakeholder initiative has placed India centre stage for accelerating the socio-economic cause as it will have a sustained global impact. With the Alliance, India has managed to transition the two buzzwords, equity and equality, to the working agendas of stakeholders around the world.
Mainstreaming gender equality and equity has been a key development area for the Government of India for over a decade now. The passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill last year, ensuring reservation of a third of seats for women in Parliament and the State Assemblies, is a revolutionary tool for women’s empowerment and is expected to contribute extensively to improving the processes of India’s governance. Allocations of nearly $27 billion under the gender budget in 2023-24 are a manifestation of the commitment of the government to advancing women-led development.
There has been an increase in India’s female labour force participation rate, from 23.3% in 2017-18 to 37% in 2022-23 (data from the annual Periodic Labour Force Surveys). Female enrolment in higher education has gone up by 28% in the last 10 years. In terms of enrolment in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) courses, the share of women is a significant 43%, which is one of the highest enrolment rates in the world. Even within rural India, there is a participation of over nine crore women in 83 lakh self-help groups, improving the socio-economic conditions in rural areas. All these provide a glimpse of women-led development that India is witnessing.
An Indian contribution at Davos
I am happy to observe that global leaders are now acknowledging the success of these initiatives and learning from our success stories, be it in space exploration, sports, entrepreneurship or even in United Nations peacekeeping operations around the world. The changes are there for all to see. The enthusiasm around the We-Lead Lounge set up by the Ministry of Women and Child Development and the Confederation of Indian Industry at Davos, saw global interest and curiosity. It served as a platform to have many meaningful deliberations around how the world can contribute, join, and drive inclusive development. The Alliance for Global Good – Gender Equity and Equality now serves as a platform to channelise the resultant enthusiasm and intent into action at the global level.
The Alliance, anchored by the CII Centre for Women Leadership, guided by the Minister of Women and Child Development, Government of India and supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will have a global network of experts, think-tanks, industry and country leadership that will drive collective actions to augment women empowerment. The partnership of the World Economic Forum as a network partner in this initiative, is testament to the global relevance and the global resolve to drive growth that is inclusive and equitable.
With an overarching goal to share and develop scaleable and practical solutions for advancing women-led development in the areas of ed-tech, medical capacity building, and delivery of health interventions for women, learning and skill development, agrotech, women enterprise development and unlocking capital to enable stronger gender outcomes, the Alliance brings together stakeholders on this critical global development agenda. India’s leadership in these areas is proven, gaining the label of “pharmacy of the world”. India’s digital prowess is also well known. The alliance is yet another example of leadership, as India accepts responsibility to provide shared direction to stakeholders globally.
For industry across the globe, this is an opportunity: to share some of the practices that we have developed to advance the entry and growth of women in the workspace; to invest in proven programmes and initiatives and enable them reach scale, and to work collectively to make inclusion a business conversation. It is also an opportunity to learn and develop solutions with the global community consisting of industry, think tanks and investors to advance our commitment to increased engagement and leadership of women within the economy, through increased access to health care, education opportunities and economic opportunities.
Given India’s abiding commitment to ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – One Earth, One Family, One Future’ and its continued efforts towards Sabka Saath, Sabka Prayaas, Sabka Vikaas, this Alliance for Global Good – Gender Equity and Equality is poised to be a force to reckon with on all gender-related issues.
Chandrajit Banerjee is Director-General, Confederation of Indian Industry