Part three of a multi-part series done on the ranking of Asian countries in the World Economic Forum's Gender Gap Index Report 2013.
India Overall Rank: 101
About one third of Give2Asia’s work focuses on India.
In terms of projects, G2A’s efforts range from helping to provide sustainable sources of clean water, access to quality healthcare, to helping to improve literacy rates and accessibility for the disabled. The diversity of efforts going into India in these areas speaks the complexities facing India’s development, but does not paint an entire picture.
With the backdrop to deeply rooted social and political problems, India has managed to position itself in a way that allows it to benefit from globalization better than most. A little more than a month ago, India launched the first-ever space mission to Mars – for only $73 million (NASA spent $671 million). India’s healthcare is not just on par with healthcare in the United States, it is available at 5%-10% of the cost. Very recently, a report released by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) estimated that number of India’s internet users would surpass the United States by the end of 2013. From October-December, India’s internet population is poised to grow by 4 million people.
Almost simultaneously one can see reports out of India depicting a place that the country is growing at a ‘significant’ pace while seeing reports on how largely undeveloped the country is - by even the most basic standards. At times, conditions in parts of India are actually considered a violation of human rights by the UN.
When juxtaposed, the challenges to India’s economic development become obvious. Of the challenges being faced, one that stands out is India’s gender gap, according to Onno Ruhl of the World Bank. In fact, the WEF Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex found that India’s economic participation amongst women ranked the worst of the BRIC economies.
This is consistent with India’s female secondary (111th) and tertiary (107th) education enrollment, as well as literacy rate (123rd). See also: “India’s top 10 states with highest women literacy rate”
Interestingly enough, women’s political empowerment in India was ranked 9th and the report showed that was even “some evidence from India to suggest that women in local government roles make decisions with better outcomes for communities than men when charged with budget decisions”
As encouraging as those findings may be, “they should not be considered victories,” explains Give2Asia’s representative in India, Surya Loonker. Rather “it is natural progression or organic growth,” citing the increased presence of women in high-level positions at private organizations.
However, the biggest issue facing women in India goes deeper than economic or political conditions and manifests itself in a much darker way.
One of the most horrifying stories last year came from Delhi where a young female student was gang raped by six men, later dying from the injuries she sustained. While the story sparked international outrage, India’s “rape culture” is only the product of traditional Indian conceptions of gender.
Even in the most basic facets of society such as in some public schools, notes Surya, there can be a “lack of toilets or separate toilets for girls.”
While there are strides both politically and economically being made towards women’s empowerment in India, the cultural aspect continues to dampen these prom prospects.
Until India can reconcile these challenges in a substantial and meaningful way, India will continue to stagger in its economic development – putting its entire 1.2 billion-strong population at risk.