Context: India’s fight against COVID-19 is at a critical juncture considering presence of various vulnerable communities in the country.
- Heavy toll due to pandemic:
- The pandemic has already exacted a heavy toll. Fragile health systems and frontline health workers are overburdened and lives and livelihoods impacted.
- Beyond this, the causes and effects of climate change stressed agriculture, food insecurity, unplanned urban growth, thinning forest covers, rising temperatures and shrinking water resources have also hit vulnerable groups disproportionately.
- Announcement of various reforms: Against the backdrop of recent economic reforms by the centre, and significant stimulus packages, recovery measures are poised to lift millions from this health crisis and tackle widening inequalities.
Impact on women
- Greater demands of unpaid care work during the COVID-19 and rising rates of reported violence are a stark reminder of the work that remains to be done
- Decline in Female labour force participation rate:
- According to the India Voluntary National Review 2020, female labour force participation rate for the 15-59 age group is showing a declining trend and stands at 25.3% which is one of the lowest rates in the world.
The recovery path: The recovery is offering India two golden opportunities:
- Build climate resilience for the most vulnerable by ensuring that stimulus measures are green;
- Aligning India’s recovery packages with our commitments on climate change by investing in green jobs will improve lives and make our planet healthier.
- These green investments ought to be reflected across agriculture, urban planning, energy and the health sectors and in climate-resilient civil works, including under MGNREGA.
- Addressing gender equality issues.
- Women, particularly those from indigenous and marginalised communities, play a significant yet unsung role in various sectors.
- Comprising more than 50% of the agricultural labour force, and nearly 14% of all entrepreneurs, women’s relationship with the environment and the informal economy can be a useful lever of action to transform the lives and livelihoods of their families and communities.
- The Asian Development Bank(ADB) projects that India’s GDP growth rate will rebound to 8% in 2021-22. Putting women at the heart of this recovery will make it faster, just and inclusive.
- Implementing few successful initiatives on a large scale:
- Disha, a UNDP initiative supported by the IKEA Foundation, has reached one million women and girls with skills and livelihood opportunities.
- This initiative has shown the benefits of investing in local jobs for women and vulnerable communities.
- Another initiative by the Self-Employed Women’s Association and the Electronics Sector Skills Council of India, and supported by the UN Environment Programme.
- It gives training to young rural women to develop a cadre of 15,000 solar technicians for the maintenance of solar pumps in remote locations.
- The initiative will not only introduce clean energy options but also reduce production costs.
- Putting women at the heart of recovery:
- Creating the right financial incentives, fostering sustainable public-private partnerships and enabling women entrepreneurs to access markets, training and mentoring will be critical in scaling up these approaches.