Sustainable Development Goal 5 (SDG 5) aims to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. In India, achieving this goal has been a longstanding challenge due to deeply ingrained patriarchal attitudes, gender-based violence, and socioeconomic disparities.
Challenges in Achieving Gender Equality
The most significant challenges to achieving gender equality include the prevalence of gender-based violence and the lack of access to education and economic opportunities for women. In many parts of the country, cultural attitudes prioritize boys’ education over girls, resulting in lower enrollment rates for girls. Women’s participation in the formal workforce remains low, with limited access to formal employment opportunities, and gender-based discrimination prevails in the workplace.
The practice of child marriage and early childbearing in some communities limits girls’ educational and economic opportunities, perpetuating the cycle of poverty and gender inequality, which contributes to high maternal mortality rates and other health challenges for women.
The COVID-19 pandemic further aggravated these challenges, with women facing disproportionate impact due to the pandemic’s economic and social fallout. Women’s job losses have been higher than men’s, and the closure of schools led to increased caregiving responsibilities for women, affecting their ability to participate in the workforce and/or pursue education.
Addressing the challenges to achieving gender equality requires a sustained effort to promote policies and programs that address gender-based violence, provide access to education and economic opportunities, and challenge cultural attitudes and practices that perpetuate gender inequality.
Government Initiatives to Promote Gender Equality & Approaches to Empower Women
The Indian government has launched various initiatives and policies to promote gender equality and empower women. Some of the significant initiatives are:
Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (Save the girl child, educate the girl child) is a flagship program launched in 2015 to promote the education of girls and address the issue of female foeticide. The program creates awareness about the importance of girls’ education and empowering them.
Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana is a savings scheme launched in 2015 to promote the financial security of the girl child. The scheme offers tax benefits and a higher interest rate on deposits to encourage parents to save for their daughters’ future.
Mahila E-Haat is an online platform launched in 2016 to promote women’s entrepreneurship and provide a platform for women to showcase their products and services. The platform provides a market for women entrepreneurs to sell their products and services and promote financial independence.
Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana is a scheme launched in 2016 to provide clean cooking fuel to women from economically weaker sections thereby improve women’s health. The scheme reduces indoor air pollution caused by the use of traditional cooking fuels, such as wood.
One-Stop Centres (OSCs) is a scheme launched in 2015 to provide support and assistance to women who are victims of violence. OSCs provide a range of services, including medical assistance, legal aid, and counseling.
Maternity Benefit Program is a scheme launched in 2017 to provide financial assistance to pregnant and lactating women. The scheme promotes the health and well-being of women and their children and reduces maternal and child mortality.
Women’s Reservation Bill, proposed by the government, seeks to reserve one-third of the seats in the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies for women. The bill will increase women’s political representation and participation in decision-making.
Overall, these initiatives and policies promote gender equality, address the root causes of gender-based discrimination and violence, and empower women.
S M Sehgal Foundation & Its Contributions
S M Sehgal Foundation is a nonprofit organization established in 1999 by Dr. S M Sehgal, a visionary philanthropist, and entrepreneur, and his wife Edda Sehgal. The foundation vision and mission promote sustainable rural development that respects human dignity, protects the environment, and promotes social justice. The foundation teams and partners work with communities in rural India to build their capacities and help them achieve self-reliance.
The foundation’s programs focus on a range of issues, including Agricultural Development, Water Management, Rural Education in India, Women’s Empowerment, etc. S M Sehgal Foundation promotes sustainable and equitable development, and has made a significant impact in improving the lives of thousands of people in rural communities.
S M Sehgal Foundation promotes gender equality in agriculture in India by providing training and support to women farmers. Women make up a significant proportion of the agricultural workforce in India but often face social and economic barriers that limit their participation and decision-making in farming activities. The foundation’s efforts address these challenges and promote greater gender equality in agriculture.
To achieve this, the foundation has developed several programs that focus on building the capacities of women farmers, promoting their participation in decision-making processes, and increasing their access to resources and services. These programs include Women Farmers Clubs and Women’s Leadership, which provide training and support to women farmers on a range of issues, including organic farming, water management, and livestock rearing.
S M Sehgal Foundation has been improving women’s health in rural areas of India, recognizing that health is a key factor in promoting gender equity and empowerment. Women in rural India face significant challenges in accessing healthcare services, including limited resources, lack of information, and cultural barriers. To address these challenges, the foundation developed several programs that focus on improving women’s access to healthcare services and promoting health and nutrition awareness.
S M Sehgal Foundation’s efforts have made a significant impact in promoting gender equality in agriculture and improving women’s health in rural India by providing healthcare services directly to rural communities.