“Gender bias is undermining our social fabric and devalues all of us. It is not just a human rights issue; it is a tremendous waste of the world’s human potential. By denying women equal rights, we deny half the population a chance to live life at its fullest. Political, economic and social equality for women will benefit all the world’s citizens. Together we can eradicate prejudice and work for equal rights and respect for all.”
Women are excluded from participating equally in many areas of society and economic activity. While activists fight for justice and policy, analysts have found that there is an economic loss when women are held back from workforce participation. In 2019, Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant stated that if women’s participation in the workforce increased ‘to 48%, we will be adding close to USD 700 billion to India’s economy!
Targets under the Goal include ending discrimination against girls and women, ending violence and exploitation of women and girls, providing universal access to reproductive health and rights, equal rights to economic resources, property ownership and more.
There are multiple ways in which NGOs work to ensure gender equality and justice for women. Approaches include working with maternal health, menstrual hygiene, providing scholarships for girls’ education, vocational training and more. Annapurna Mahila Mandal, for example, runs 21 day care centres for children of working slum mothers who otherwise would have to leave their children alone or in the care of an older sibling. The day care centre allows the mothers to continue their jobs, and helps ensure that older daughters are not pulled out of school to take care of younger children.
Mann Deshi Foundation supports the development or rural and vulnerable women and their families. They run a mobile business school for rural women who can’t study formally due to financial and other constraints. They help women access finance through the MannDeshi Mahila Sahakari Bank and set up Self-Help Groups so women can mobilize resources and knowledge more effectively. Parinaam Foundation runs the Diksha Financial Literacy Program designed to help women from low-income families make informed financial decisions about savings and risk. The program is available in 12 languages, and they have trained over 640,000 women so far. A 2015 survey found that Diksha trainees were able to save an average of Rs 35,000 a year, while 70% found it easy to use their bank accounts.
Apna Aap Women’s Collective is an anti-trafficking organization. They support sex workers and their children to break the inter-generational cycle of prostitution. Their services include everything from support with school admissions, after-school tuitions, meals, counseling and lots more. They have worked with over 4,000 women and children. None of the girls in their program for daughters of sex workers have entered prostitution. In fact, some have even quit prostitution and helped with their siblings’ education expenses.
Praveenlata Sansthan runs a menstrual hygiene program called Spotless Dame with adolescent girls in the interiors of Rajasthan. They provide awareness of menstrual hygiene to girls, women and their families. They’ve distributed over 130,000 disposable pads and 6000 cloth pads to beneficiaries so far.
It takes a village to raise a child and it will take all our efforts to build a just and equal world for women and girl. These NGOs provide a beacon of hope and show us what a different world can look like!
PS: You can read our blogs on the other UN Sustainable Development Goals here.
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