Tuesday was International Women’s Day – a day dedicated not just to celebrating “the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women” but also to promoting the need for accelerated change if women are to enjoy gender parity by 2030 – goal 6 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Levels of gender equality vary drastically around the globe. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2015 report, Scandinavian countries like Iceland and Sweden are the clear winners, while countries in the Middle East, in particular, have much further to go – Yemen scores a measly 0.484 for gender equality, compared to Iceland’s 0.881.
In the last 5 years, India has struggled up 4 places on the Forum’s report, from a lowly 114 out of 145 countries, to an unimpressive 108. When you consider that India is home to approximately 17% of the world’s women – around 600 million – the country’s score on the Index is alarming. Perhaps more alarmingly, India is conspicuously absent from the list of countries which made national commitments at a UN Conference last September to close the gender gap by 2030.
Discrimination against women in India is endemic. The practices of female foeticide and infanticide, though illegal, have resulted in a skewed population with only 943 women for every 1000 men – a telling statistic that shows the status of women in India. According to this article, more than 93k cases of violations of women’s rights have been made since 2012. Rape, sexual assault and domestic violence are sadly not uncommon. Women have to fight for the right to public spaces, to toilet facilities, to education, to paid work, to technology, to freedom, to respect – and in some case – to life.
For women in rural areas – particularly those from lower castes and tribal communities – the fight is twice as hard. Jeevika’s priorities lie in the 600,000 villages where 7 out of 10 women lead their lives. Their challenges are radically different from those of women living in urban slums where rudimentary access to public services is greater; in the vast rural areas exposure to the elements, poor access to water and sanitation, poor food security, poor access to basic health services and education – just to name a few factors – combined with a low social standing means day-to-day life for millions of women is grinding.
We at Jeevika believe that women’s empowerment and equality is vital – not only for women, but for the development and progress of humankind. Our projects prove that, when women are empowered, the results are dramatic. By improving access to clean water, we stop women having to walk for hours each day to collect water for their families. By improving sanitation – helping communities to build toilets near their homes as well as gender-segregated toilet blocks in schools – we reduce the risk of diarrhoeal diseases, help girls to stay in school and stop women from having to defecate in the open, where – particularly at night – they are vulnerable to violence and sexual assault. By educating women and adolescent girls about sanitary and reproductive health, as well as improving access to sanitary napkins, we not only help to reduce the number of reproductive or urinary tract infections, but also help women to stay in work and girls to stay in school so that they can realise their full potential. By empowering women and providing them with income generation opportunities – from producing and marketing honey or sanitary napkins to growing and selling produce – we not only help women to increase their household income, but also to grow in self-confidence and to gain greater freedoms and greater respect within their communities.
Help women in rural India realise their full potential by donating to Jeevika today.