Union Minister of Women and Child Development and Minority Affairs Smriti Irani on Tuesday questioned the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index that ranked India at 135th place in terms of gender parity, saying it did not incorporate women working at the grassroots level.
Speaking at a national seminar on Women in Parliamentary Force at the Rashtriya Raksha University (RRU) in Gandhinagar, Irani said the assessment was using western standards, in reply to a query by a participant on the huge gender gap in India.
“When it comes to marks for political empowerment, the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Index does not take into account the women who serve across panchayats, municipalities as councillors, including women who serve as zilla parishad adhyaksha and sarpanchas. They do not have grassroot democratic systems in their country, hence, they would like to measure using the western standards,” Irani said.
Adding that she has spoken to the WEF on the issue, Irani said about two crore women would account to be in service at the administrative level, only considering women in pani samitis, as ASHA workers, anganwadi workers and district administrators. This is excluding those in armed and paramilitary forces.
“But the WEF does not count us. They do not take our political intervention into consideration, nor our administrative offices,” she said.
Claiming that India’s rank would shoot up to top 20 if those were taken into consideration, Irani said women who have access to financial schemes such as Suraksha Bima Yojna, who have bank accounts, (22 crore women), and those who have taken enterprise under Mudra Yojana are not considered as financially independent or empowered.
“When I was the education minister, in collaboration with the national book trust I started a book engagement called ‘Veergatha’, where all the Param Vir Chakra winners and their individual stories were told through comic books to children,” said Irani asking for support and contribution to such stories, especially on women in paramilitary and armed forces as well as auxiliary nurses, to be distributed digitally.
The seminar also discussed the role of women in conflict management, need for more women in uniform and armed forces, issues and challenges in such fields faced by women, and the role of women in gender neutral working spaces like the CRPF.