Skip to main content

Women entrepreneurs in Bundelkhand region trigger gender equity, 'well-being of all'

By Dipali Sharma* 

International Women’s Day on 8th March provides another occasion to reflect on the status of women and girls, our progress in achieving gender equity and equality, and the continuing challenges women and girls face.
Significant strides have been made for women’s socio-economic and political empowerment and women-led feminist change for the well-being of all. Thus this day is also an occasion to celebrate the achievements and contributions of women. However, after more than 100 years of celebrating this day, we also need to address how near we are to the goal of women’s emancipation.
The COVID-19 pandemic is said to have taken back several of the past gains. While economies are said to be well on the path of recovery and growth, do we see a proportionate improvement in the status and conditions of women and the goal of gender equality? The data doesn’t suggest so.
As per a report by CMIE, between 2017 and 2022, about two crore women disappeared from the workforce, leaving only nine per cent of the eligible population employed or looking for positions. Average female employment in urban India in 2021 was 6.9% lower than in 2020 and 22.1% lower than in the pre-pandemic year 2019. In rural India, female employment in 2021 was 9.2% higher than in 2020 and only 0.1% lower than in 2019. This data suggests that female employment has suffered a significant reversal in urban India since the pandemic.
Another report by Lancet analyses India’s progress against various indicators of SDG Goal 5 of “Achieving Gender Equality and empowering women and girls” by 2030. It reports that mid-way into achieving the SDG targets by 2030, India is off target on critical indicators like anaemia among women (both pregnant and non-pregnant women), partner violence (both physical and sexual), modern contraceptive use and girl child marriage.
As per the analysis, over 75% of the 707 districts analysed are off-target on these indicators. NFHS-5 data showed significant strides in bringing the number of girl children married before the age of 18 from over 40% to 23.5%. However, this figure remains too high and is an area of concern, particularly as the pandemic has reportedly been an additional push factor for incidences of girl-child marriages.
Lower women’s participation in the labour force and continuing and perhaps higher incidence of child marriages are just a few markers to remind us of the all-around efforts and investments that need to be made consistently. We need action daily and across all spheres - individual, societal and government - to achieve gender equality.
In 2023 the theme for women’s day is #EmbraceEquity, based on the understanding that equal opportunities cannot on their own address the inherent social and economic inequalities that women face. Inclusion requires equitable action that enables all women to participate and belong to the change we must see.
The UN Women have adopted “DigitALL: Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality” as the theme for their celebrations, underscoring how innovation, technology and education can lead to gender equality and empowerment for women and girls.
Hope lies in several remarkable initiatives across the country that embrace these values. One such is being led and supported by ActionAid Association in the Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh across Jhansi, Lalitpur and Mahoba districts. Over the last three years, the initiative has brought together more than 3,000 women entrepreneurs and their families, supporting various sustainable, innovative livelihood models.
The women entrepreneurs have registered Basant Farmers Producer Company with all-women 7-member board. While none of these women has attended school beyond the primary level, they have all fought personal battles to get where they have reached today.
None of these women had even a small piece of land in their name, a prerequisite to registering an FPO. Regular meetings were organised with the partners and in-laws of these women that helped to sensitise them on the idea of gender equity and equality, and who subsequently realised the importance and need for women’s right to property. As a result, one of the partners came forward and transferred the ownership of two acres of land that belonged to him to his wife.
While none of the women has attended school beyond primary level, they have  fought personal battles to get where they have reached
The women’s groups developed seven prototypes and operational details. They took technical guidance and received full support from the local departments of agriculture, horticulture, forest, the Central Agro-forestry Research institute, and the department of MSMEs.
The Basant Farmers Producer Company has set up Basant Community Farmers Resource Centres in each district, which support product procuring, processing, packaging, marketing, branding and quality control. All products are organic and natural. The company has a Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and WhatsApp business account and is also into online and mobile marketing.
The initiative has not just led to economic empowerment of women, improved health and nutrition status of women and children, enhanced food security, their children’s education, and reduced migration, amongst other achievements. Still, above all, it has paved the way for social and structural transformation in the status and condition of women in the project area.
It is such initiatives that demonstrate the potentiality that lies in supporting the protagonism of women and feminist leadership. Women’s collectives need to be supported, amplified and scaled up across the country. It is only active women and feminist thought that change the mindsets, break stereotypes, recognise potential, and enable the reaching of aspirations through the voice and agency of women and girls.
Governments and the private sector must invest in women and girls for equitable and inclusive education, health, infrastructure, and gender-responsive public services. Above all, it helps build feminist solidarities prioritising social and environmental gains over financial benefits.
International Women’s Day, every 8th March, calls upon people, societies and their leaders, the Governments and the private sector to come together to help achieve the goal of gender equality, to build a world that is inclusive, equitable and free from bias and discrimination for all. Sustained and collaborative efforts will go a long way in building gender justice and equality and creating sustainable futures for societies as a whole.
*Director organisational effectiveness, programmes and policy, ActionAid Association



Junk food push causing severe public health crisis of obesity, diabetes in India: Report

By Rajiv Shah  A new report , “The Junk Push: Rising Consumption of Ultra-processed foods in India- Policy, Politics and Reality”, public health experts, consumers groups, lawyers, youth and patient groups, has called upon the Government of India to check the soaring consumption of High Fat Sugar or Salt (HFSS) foods or ultra-processed foods (UPF), popularly called junk food.

Insider plot to kill Deendayal Upadhyay? What RSS pracharak Balraj Madhok said

By Shamsul Islam*  Balraj Madhok's died on May 2, 2016 ending an era of old guards of Hindutva politics. A senior RSS pracharak till his death was paid handsome tributes by the RSS leaders including PM Modi, himself a senior pracharak, for being a "stalwart leader of Jan Sangh. Balraj Madhok ji's ideological commitment was strong and clarity of thought immense. He was selflessly devoted to the nation and society. I had the good fortune of interacting with Balraj Madhok ji on many occasions". The RSS also issued a formal condolence message signed by the Supremo Mohan Bhagwat on behalf of all swayamsevaks, referring to his contribution of commitment to nation and society. He was a leading RSS pracharak on whom his organization relied for initiating prominent Hindutva projects. But today nobody in the RSS-BJP top hierarchy remembers/talks about Madhok as he was an insider chronicler of the immense degeneration which was spreading as an epidemic in the high echelons of th

Astonishing? Violating its own policy, Barclays 'refinanced' Adani Group's $8 billion bonds

By Rajiv Shah  A new report released by two global NGOs, BankTrack and the Toxic Bonds Network, has claimed to have come up with “a disquieting truth”: that Barclays, a financial heavyweight with a “controversial” track record, is deeply entrenched in a “disturbing” alliance with “the Indian conglomerate and coal miner Adani Group.”

Modi govt intimidating US citizens critical of abuses in India: NY Christian group to Biden

Counterview Desk  the New York Council of Churches for its release of an open letter calling on the Biden administration to “speak out forcefully” against rising Hindu extremist violence targeting Christians and other minorities in India. In the letter addressed to President Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and other major elected officials, the NY Council of Churches expressed "grave concern regarding escalating anti-Christian violence" throughout India, particularly in Manipur, where predominantly Christian Kuki-Zo tribals have faced hundreds of violent attacks on their villages, churches, and homes at the hands of predominantly Hindu Meitei mobs.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Link India's 'deteriorating' religious conditions with trade relations: US policymakers told

By Our Representative  Commissioners on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) raised concerns about the “sophisticated, systematic persecution” of religious minorities by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a hearing on India in Washington DC.

Green revolution "not sustainable", Bt cotton a failure in India: MS Swaminathan

MS Swaminathan Counterview Desk In a recent paper in the journal “Current Science”, distinguished scientist PC Kesaven and his colleague MS Swaminathan, widely regarded as the father of the Green Revolution, have argued that Bt insecticidal cotton, widely regarded as the continuation of the Green Revolution, has been a failure in India and has not provided livelihood security for mainly resource-poor, small and marginal farmers. Sharply taking on Green Revolution, the authors say, it has not been sustainable largely because of adverse environmental and social impacts, insisting on the need to move away from the simplistic output-yield paradigm that dominates much thinking. Seeking to address the concerns about local food security and sovereignty as well as on-farm and off-farm social and ecological issues associated with the Green Revolution, they argue in favour of what they call sustainable ‘Evergreen Revolution’, based on a ‘systems approach’ and ‘ecoagriculture’. Pointing ou

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Jharkhand: Attempt to create red scare for 'brutal crackdown', increase loot of resources

Counterview Desk  The civil rights group Forum Against Corporatization and Militarization in a statement on plans to crackdown on “64 democratic progressive organisations” in Jharkhand under the pretext of the need to investigate their Maoist link, has alleged that this an attempt to suppress dissent against corporate loot and create an authoritarian state.