Union Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani on December 20 questioned the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index assessment which ranked India at 135th place in terms of gender parity.
Ms. Irani said the Index failed to take into account the political empowerment and financial inclusion of women at the grassroots level.
The Union Minister interacted via video link with the audience during a seminar organised at the Rashtriya Raksha University at Lavad in Gandhinagar district of Gujarat.
She was asked questions related to the empowerment of women and gender equality.
“It is time to challenge what the Global Gender Gap Index has done in the way India has challenged the Global Hunger Index. This measurement has been done through the western standards,” Ms. Irani said.
She said when it comes to marks of political empowerment, the Index does not take into account women who serve across panchayats and municipalities as district panchayat presidents, sarpanchs, mayors and councillors.
“If we may just take into account women who are serving across all the political systems in our country, our number would go up. They do not have grassroots democratic systems in their countries, hence they would like to measure us through western standards,” the Union Minister said.
In the WEF’s report released in July 2022, India was ranked low at 135th place in terms of gender parity despite an improvement of five places since last year on better performance in areas of economic participation and opportunity.
Iceland retained its place as the world’s most gender-equal country, followed by Finland, Norway, New Zealand and Sweden, as per the annual Gender Gap Report 2022 of the World Economic Forum (WEF) released in Geneva.
Ms. Irani said women are serving the country in various capacities including in the administrative system as collectors, superintendents of police, and paramilitary forces.
There are crores of women serving as ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) workers and anganwadi workers, she said.
“They do not count our political intervention, they do not take into consideration our administration offices. The minute we start counting women in political offices at the grassroots level in India, the minute we start counting women in administrative offices in India, India’s rank will shoot up in the top 20,” she said.
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Ms. Irani said the Index also did not take into account the women who have been financially empowered through Central schemes like Mudra Yojana and Stand Up India etc.
“If we do not count 22 crore women as empowered who are financially transacting every day if we do not count 1.90 crore women in administrative offices if we do not count over 20 lakh women who serve in panchayats across the country, then honestly the question before us, is the index fair in its assessment?” she asked.
Ms. Irani said her ministry has worked to secure women by using Nirbhaya Fund up to ₹9,000 crore, which was otherwise lying unused.
“Projects worth ₹9,000 crore have been evaluated across all State governments and all Ministries of the Government of India. Fiscal support worth ₹5,000 crore under such projects has already been obtained by various State governments and Union Ministries,” she added.
The fund has been used to set up 1,063 fast-track courts, and more than 1.5 lakh cases have been solved, the Union Minister said.
She said the government integrated emergency response service systems across the country.
“Women helplines have serviced 22 crore phone calls from women who are in the need of protection, and all calls for help have been attended to.
“Today close to 700 districts have one-stop centres, and the government has decided that those districts with higher incidents of crime against women…We will set up 300 more such one-stop centres. And across these units, we have additionally helped 76 lakh women,” she said.