Sunday, August 26, 2007

Mothers & Daughters Pvt Ltd.

Feminist entrepreneurship holds the key to empowerment

Couple of weeks back, my family and I indulged in one of the most popular therapeutic indulgence for majority of Delhites – ‘shopping’. With that objective in mind we straightaway hit the new ‘mecca for shopping’ i.e. Gurgaon. Amidst the suffocating environment which was on account of the heat and sweat, plus the thousands of families who had come to Gurgaon with similar objective, the only silver lining was, of the 10 shops that we visited, almost all were manned by women, an interesting digression from the convention.

It was also an interesting departure, since in contemporary economics, empirical data points out that woman in our country contribute significantly, by and large in the form of invisible and unpaid labour and skills. Most of the times, their entrepreneurial energies and efforts are belittled by the environment, i.e their families and society at large. Leaving the Gurgaon experience aside and if one were to disregard the ever increasing number of women workforce and businesses in select sectors and regions, the overall control of critical resources by them, a superior indicator of women empowerment is still not encouraging. According to research studies, though women are typically slotted in subsistence-level economic ventures, their capability to organise and own the productive resources is still dictated by their male counterparts. This probably is the biggest irony of our society, knowing for a fact that the women over the years have been more efficient in money matters, yet they have been severely cut off from opportunities entailing productive engagement. A glaring example is Uttar Pradesh. According to the State Level Bankers Committee, UP, a miniscule 7.7 % and 0.5 % of the total priority sector advances were targeted at women by non-private and private sectors respectively for the financial year 2005-06, up to September 2005, when the recovery rates are as much as 96 percent. It is not just UP, this ironical phenomenon is ubiquitous across the country. Accounting for some minor changes in case of other states, this variant of gross neglect permeates the whole of Indian policy environment and reflects the extant imperfect bargaining power of women as a group.

It has been proven that women empowerment has strong linkages to social development, particularly in the areas of health and education. Knowing the current state of social indicators, a mere 10 percent of women of the total entrepreneurs in India does not present an encouraging scenario. This has to ascend, if we need to make some identifiable positive changes. Of late, self-help groups in many parts of India have been effective in favourably changing the feminist economics but then there is still a lot of unfinished policy business for aspiring businesswomen. The most critical and the most challenging is to change the conventional mindset. Though unfortunate, but as a nation we have somehow failed to recognise that there cannot be anything better, if with the fathers and brothers, the mothers and sisters too can join the spirit of liberation and enterprise.


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