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Corona Heroes: 2020 YEAR OF NURSE & MIDWIFE, By Dr S. Saraswathi, 2 April, 2020 Print E-mail

Open Forum

New Delhi, 2 April 2020

Corona Heroes

2020 YEAR OF NURSE & MIDWIFE

By Dr S. Saraswathi

(Former Director, ICSSR, New Delhi)

 

When the WHO decided to designate 2020 as the Year of the Nurse and Midwife, its 194 member countries did not foresee the tremendous role and responsibility waiting to fall upon the nursing fraternity during the year. Nurses are hailed now as Corona Heroes along with several other professional and non-professional, skilled and unskilled, paid and voluntary workers engaged in Operation Covid-19 in India and worldwide.

 

2020 is celebrating 200th Birth Anniversary of Florence Nightingale, founder of modern nursing whose selfless nursing of soldiers of British and allied forces in the Crimean War in Turkey is inseparably linked with nursing profession. Today, we have to express our gratitude to thousands of corona warriors in the forefront of the battle against the pandemic.

 

Nurses constitute the “bridge” of healthcare services. They are crucial in any healthcare system and play a central role in a health team. Their role is vital in providing health services and often they are the first and even the single point of care in a community. They have duties in all stages of healthcare – disease prevention, diagnosis, treatment, care, rehabilitation and recoupment of the patient. They care for individuals of all ages, families, groups and communities, sick or well and in all settings.

 

As such, they remain close to the community more than the doctors who stay with the patient for minimum time. Nurse-patient interaction is crucial to public health and disease control.

 

To achieve Universal Health Coverage, a strong nursing and midwifery workforce is indispensable. When the declaration of 2020 as the Year of Nursing was decided, Covid-19 had not made its appearance to draw the committed services of nurses and other health, sanitation, and pharmaceutical workers wholesale in many countries.

     

Nurses form over 50% of health workforce in many countries. In India, they are the only health providers in many rural areas and account for about 30.5% of its health workforce. A WHO publication in 2016 giving some details of the strength of nurses has mentioned that Orissa, Nagaland, and Meghalaya had about 50% nurses in health workforce while UP had 17.95%, Haryana 18.6%, and Bihar 19%. It concluded that across India, percentage of nurses in the health workforce was negatively correlated with percentage of doctors.

 

A government doctor in India today attends to over 11,000 people, more than ten times than what WHO has recommended. It is estimated that there is a deficit of 600,000 doctors. Nurse-patient ratio is roughly 1:483 which indicates a shortage of 2 million nurses.

 

India has much less number of nurses than China or Italy worst affected by COVID-19. They are also concentrated in urban areas. India’s health sector is facing a crisis of inadequate infrastructure and human resource.

 

Even in a progressive and worker-sensitive State like Kerala, which is also providing the largest contingent of nurses in the country supplying to many States and to other countries also, the state of nurses is no better than in other places. The Indian Nurses Association was formed only in 2011 after the tragic incident of suicide of a nurse working under a bond system which shows the lack of collective strength of nurses to promote their own and their profession’s status in the community.

 

If the world is to meet the SDG target of providing Universal Health Coverage, it is said that it must urgently address the global shortfall of 9 million nurses and midwives. Further, their professions need to be strengthened in order to achieve the three most important targets of improving healthcare, promoting gender equality, and supporting economic growth.

 

The barriers in uplifting the nursing profession and professionals are many – professional, socio-cultural, and economic. COVID-19 crisis has brought into focus the tremendous importance of nurses and other health workers and their immeasurable contributions. Since the science of medicine has not yet found a remedy to the disease, the supportive system and the auxiliary troop of doctors have to provide relief, ability, and enthusiasm for the patients to resist the disease. 

 

Indeed, nurses are in many cases the real “life savers” by their prompt action and presence with the patients. Nurses are no longer the “handmaidens” of doctors; today, they are looked upon as responsible for over-all care of the patients.

 

The situation of coronavirus + patients is different from many other patients as they cannot have visitors including close family members. This puts extra strain on nurses to keep the patients in good humour in spite of their tedious medical work. Unfortunately, this role of nurses hardly gets recognition while patients and their family are quick to find fault with them and other hospital staff.

 

Prime Minister Modi’s call to the people of India “to clap as a mark of gratitude” to those working round the clock to keep the country safe should not remain a symbolic gesture without any intent.

 

Women form the major proportion of nurses in all countries. In fact, historically, nursing has been regarded as a female profession naturally suited to women. It is embedded in the gender-based power relations of a society. Hence, improving the status and working conditions of nurses will also mean a step towards gender parity.

 

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, despite a sound healthcare system in the USA finds many inadequacies. Its President has pointed out that public health workers continue to lead us through this national crisis confronting the most difficult possible conditions imaginable, doing life and death work, but do not have the critical tools they need, nor the economic support required in the short and long term.

 

He has noticed that front-line workers of all kinds – healthcare professionals, park attendants, correction officers and more going without the gear that allows them to safely do their jobs.  Skilled and courageous nurses were resorting to wearing garbage bags.

 

Associations for doctors in India are also campaigning for protective kits for them as cases of doctors catching the disease are emerging. Doctors and nurses are advised to wear triple layer mask and gloves. Hazmat Suits (hazardous material suits) used by doctors abroad are not wearable in the Indian climate. Manufacture of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) made in India must be augmented.

 

Healthcare workers have always faced less pay and more work than other workers and at the present time, they work under extraordinary pressure and constant fear of contracting the disease which spreads very fast. At home, they have to remain isolated from other family members.  They are undergoing tremendous physical and mental pressure.

 

In short, the entire healthcare workers are working like soldiers in war time. Reports of instances of social boycott of nurses and doctors attending COVID-19 patients and even their eviction by landlords may be partly results of lack of adequate defence equipment for these warriors.

 

The Government of India has announced health insurance for Rs.50 lakh for health workers fighting Covind-19 under which sanitation staff, doctors, ASHA workers, paramedics, and nurses will be covered. The nation is indebted to these soldiers fighting an invisible enemy.   People must unite to protect and reward them. --- INFA

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

                                                                 

 

Health & Economics: DEADLY NUDGE BY CORONA, By Dr. Oishee Mukherjee, 25 March 2020 Print E-mail
       

Open Forum

New Delhi, 25 March 2020

Health & Economics

DEADLY NUDGE BY CORONA  

By Dr. Oishee Mukherjee

 

The economy seems to be at a virtual standstill due to the coronavirus pandemic, even though the death toll is miniscule in comparison to other countries. While on the one hand, the government is spreading awareness and taking preventive measures like lockdowns, on the other it is resulting in raising panic amongst people of all hues as the economy is going to be severely hit.

 

Nagging uncertainty over the virus remains and speculation is driven by those nations worst-impacted. It is feared the virus may have large-scale impact and lead to business closures, unemployment and loss of basic income at an unprecedented magnitude. Consumption will slow down, impacting production and push back expansion plans.

 

In the midst of all this, while the RBI Governor has claimed there are “enough policy tools and stands ready to take any measures” to help the economy tide over the pandemic impact, no concrete steps have been announced till now. Obviously, the economy’s growth in this fiscal will be further retarded and the growth rate may not cross 4.5%. In the past 7 to 0 days, the stock market has crashed mainly due to bulk selling by foreign institutional investors.

 

According to one report, overseas investors pulled out a net Rs 25,000 crore from equities and over Rs 13,000 crore from debt segment during March 2 to 13. Experts say the LIC has not played any role in stabilising the market while the somewhat hyped up scare has added to the depressed investor sentiment. Is it because there is no signal from the government?   

 

On the health front, experts point that while the government has taken WHO guidelines seriously, the question arises what has it been doing all these years when lakhs of people die  due to diarrhoea, dengue, swine flu etc, every year? This is clear reflection on the poor health infrastructure the country has in comparison to fast developing nations. The facilities in backward districts and sub-divisions are poor and lack of doctors and nurses add to the problem. 

 

Testing facilities in the country is woefully inadequate, specially in populous States like UP, Bihar and Rajasthan, despite government claiming to have one lakh of test kits and another 2 lakh ordered. Records show that till March 13 India performed just 6500 tests on 5900 individuals, mostly  in 3-4 States, much too few for a country of 1.3 billion population.  

 

There is general agreement the government will never give sufficient attention to developing public health infrastructure, and prioritise the needs of its people. Budgetary allocation for health sector has always been insufficient, judged from any criteria. However, there has been a proposal to hand over district hospitals to private parties, which should raise the question whether this could be a solution to the grave health problem existing in the country? Remember, the lower sections of society end up selling off their land and property, or end up in heavy debt just to get the right medical treatment for ailments such as cardiovascular diseases, TB, cancer, leukaemia etc.

 

Such a reality goes against the very principles of social justice. Providing health care facilities to all or at least major segments of population must be viewed as a right in any welfare State. Moreover, the role of the private sector in nation building is far from encouraging as it is always profit-oriented. In fact, recent reports indicate this sector has filed to fulfil its corporate social responsibility (CSR) and the government has conveniently withdrawn the harsh penalty clause obviously due to pressure from big business houses. 

 

Experts demand that it is time the country gears up the public health infrastructure in the country, particularly rural areas with more investments and at least a few hospitals in sub-divisions with bare minimum facilities. At least these should be able to treat patients with dengue, malaria, swine flu etc, let alone the deadly coronavirus. 

 

Then there is the other side of the pandemic i.e. sheer economics. The virus has sent shock waves in an already weak economic environment. As China is severely affected and there is severe disruption in supplies, India may have a opportunity to take this place. But it’s not easy as several measures need to be taken including easy availability of funds, export incentives and the like to make dents in the global supply chain. Most global companies are looking to migrate from their China exposure and create supply chains, which India should try to tap.

 

The cost of borrowing in China has fallen to below 2% while it is around 12% in India. The government needs to explore means of bringing down the cost of capital and improve availability, specially for export and import substitution projects. The RBI could cut interest rates, which are not yet announced, to revive lending when recession is affecting businessmen; some duty waiver for limited period on materials like steel may be considered to encourage global companies to set up units in India.    

 

Dealing with economic challenges may well be long term, as 93% of employment in the country is unorganised. A recent analysis suggests if the current crisis continues for a few months then: the Rs 18 lakh crore-tourism industry is expecting direct job losses of 1.2 million; hotel industry is expecting revenue losses of $1.3-1.5 billion’ restaurant industry, which employs 7 million people, is expecting job losses of around 15 per cent; Aviation experts are predicting over Rs 4000 crore in losses to private carriers and the retail business is expecting 11 million job losses!

 

Experts suggest transferring of Rs 1000-2000 to the bottom half of India’s poor families be considered using the JAM trinity to mitigate their problems; fiscal concerns need addressed and a UBI type support be developed for those affected and to stem further decline in demand. It’s near certain, business as usual may no longer be feasible and joblessness will be further aggravated in the next few months. Experts also feel that Covid-19 may not cost many human lives but economic losses are likely to far exceed, at least in India. The government, like the rest in the world will need to come out with concrete revival plans. As is being heard, it’s better to be safe than sorry and certainly not again.--INFA

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

 

Apni Party: THIRD FRONT IN KASHMIR?, By Sagarneel Sinha, 21 March 2020 Print E-mail

Spotlight

New Delhi, 21 March 2020

Apni Party

THIRD FRONT IN KASHMIR?

By Sagarneel Sinha

 

In static mode for the past eight months, finally there is a stir in Kashmir politics. Recently, Altaf Bukhari, a former senior leader of the People’s Democratic Party, formed his own party “Apni Party”. The party is banking on importing leaders of his previous party and other mainstream parties of the Valley which include the National Conference, Congress and JK People’s Movement, another new party formed last year by former IAS officer Shah Faesal.

 

Kashmir valley for the past two decades has been dominated by the two family-centric mainstream parties -- NC of the Abdullahs and PDP of the Muftis. In between these years, there have been attempts to form a viable third front but without any success. Sajjad Lone, a separatist turned mainstream politician, tried to revive the Jammu and Kashmir's People's Conference founded in the late 1970s by his father Abdul Ghani Lone, separatist politician who was killed by pro-Pakistani elements for refusing to accept the biddings of Pakistan in 2002. And last year, ex-IAS officer Shah Faesal’s formation of People’s Movement attracted a lot of attention. However, the party is presently lost in the wilderness and remains only in paper, whereas Sajjad Lone’s party is mostly limited to Kupwara district.

 

Amidst all this, Bukhari came with his new party where most of the leaders strongly symbolise the well-known English proverb “old wine in a new bottle”. Unlike Faesal, Bukhari is a mature senior politician in the Valley who had also served as an education minister and later as the finance minister in the previous PDP-BJP government.

 

What is of keen interest is that when almost all political leaders of Kashmir, including pro-BJP Sajjad Lone, were put under detention by the Centre after abrogation of Article 370 on 5th August last year, Bukhari was not on the list and wasn’t put under any detention or house arrest. This has prompted many commentators to call Bukhari as New Delhi’s appointee and his party as New Delhi’s party. These allegations become stronger when the BJP too is seento welcome the formation of Apni Party.

 

Bukhari is aware that these allegations may have some negative impact on his party’s image in the Valley and thus to dismiss these, though not quite easy, the senior politician has decided to launch the party in Jammu, the region which is mostly now known as BJP’s bastion. An indication that the leadership is seeking not to be tagged as New Delhi’s party or even the B-Team of BJP, like others too. 

 

However, when it comes to Kashmir, there have been many B-Teams, engineered from New Delhi. The Congress had tried this by managing splits in the National Conference -- prominent examples being of Bakshi Gulam Mohammed and Gulam Muhammad Shah. However, the most successful attempt was the creation of PDP in 1999 by former Congress leader Mufti Mohammad Saeed, who was also in Jan Morcha and served as the Home Minister in the VP Singh’s government. It is often said that the PDP was created with New Delhi's support as an alternative to break the backbone of NC of the Abdullahs — when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was Prime Minister.

 

However, separatism encouraged by the top PDP leadership didn’t go down well with the Centre. As a result, despite having many disputes, it is said that New Delhi, whether it is under BJP or Congress, has often preferred Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah than Mufti and his daughter Mehbooba Mufti. Recently, former RAW Chief A.S. Dulat in an interview to an online media house revealed that the present BJP leadership initially tried to form an alliance with the NC after the 2014 Assembly election results of erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir State.

 

And though it somehow didn't materialise, as perhaps Omar Abdullah wasn’t keen for the alliance, the end result was the saffron party was left with no options but to form an alliance with PDP. Not to forget that during Vajpayee’s era NC was an ally of BJP and Omar was a Cabinet minister.

 

So, the big question in this new push by New Delhi is whether the NC has been the most reliable partner of the Centre for years? There is another side of the story. Separatism has strengthened itself on the ground in the Valley. As a result, pro-New Delhi NC, when out of power, has sometimes spoken in the same vein as those expressed by Pakistan-backed separatists.

 

When it comes to nationalism, the present BJP Modi-Amit Shah leadership follows a tough approach. This can be seen in Bukhari’s language. He hasn’t criticised the abrogation of Article 370 and instead focussed on present issues such as demand for restoration of statehood, domicile law for Jammu and Kashmir, equitable developments of both regions, dignified return of Kashmiri Pandits et al -- which generally don’t get objected to by the BJP.

 

Recently, an Apni Party delegation met with Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, where the latter assured that demographics of Kashmir won’t be changed, a major concern of Kashmiris post the abrogation of Article 370. The delegation also demanded the lifting of house arrest of both Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti.

 

It is also true that many Kashmiris now are trying to adjust with the present situation, as they know that Article 370 has gone forever. New Delhi under Modi-Shah team through Bukahri’s Apni Party is trying to create another PDP as was done by Vajpayee-Advani. The difference is that the present leadership wants to create a party minus colours of Pakistan-backed separatism and the Apni Party, as of now, has avoided the shades of separatism.

 

The Centre is trying to cause a heavy damage to Mehbooba's party, most of the leaders of Apni Party, including Bukhari himself, are from it and which already has lost its base due to its alliance with the BJP. On the other side, this is also a move to keep the pressure on pro-India cadre based NC, which undoubtedly still remains the most popular mainstream party on the ground in Kashmir.

 

Nevertheless, the road for Bukhari isn’t so easy. The Centre has released Farooq Abdullah so that the Valley’s grand old party can resume politics. This perhaps is a signal from New Delhi to Bukhari that it is still eager to do business with NC. And interestingly, senior Abdullah hasn’t yet made any strong criticism against the Centre. So, for Bukahri, who also admires Delhi’s Arvind Kejriwal development model, has to remain connected to the ground realities of Kashmir if he has to make his party “apni” for Kashmiris, while also maintaining friendly relations with New Delhi.

 

After all, the indisputable truth is that Kashmir’s fate is forever connected with New Delhi and not with Islamabad. It remains to be seen whether this third front will be viable. Bukhari’s attempts can’t be dismissed lightly. ---INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

 

Modi’s Video-Conference: WILL IT REVIVE SAARC?, By Dr D.K. Gir, 20 March 2020 Print E-mail

Round The World

New Delhi, 20 March 2020

Modi’s Video-Conference

WILL IT REVIVE SAARC?

By Dr D.K. Giri

(Prof. International Politics JMI)

 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a commendable initiative in video-conferencing with the SAARC heads of states in expression of solidarity as the Corona pandemic invades the entire world including the south Asian region. The response from all the SAARC leaders was overwhelming and equally praiseworthy except from Pakistan whose attitude and presentation left a bad taste in the mouth. The head of Pakistan government did not show up and worse, in a humongous humanitarian crisis, the Pakistani representative, Zafar Mirza, junior health minister displayed their Kashmir obsession out of nowhere.

 

Yet, some observers of South Asian politics express the unfounded optimism that “India has done well to revive SAARC.” My attempt here is to contest this perception as SAARC is quite unlikely to be put back on rails with Pakistan in the bandwagon. But first, let us recap the unprecedented video-conference and discuss its possible impact on South Asians.

 

It was quite creative of Modi to invite the 8 SAARC leaders to a video-conference on 15 March as combined efforts and joint action may tackle this deadly virus better than fighting it alone. Quite clearly, Modi began by saying, “we can respond best by coming together, not growing apart”. That was a call for unity in an emergency of this magnitude which was responded warmly by the SAARC Leaders.

 

All of them except Pakistan thanked the Indian Prime Minister which sounded more than the usual diplomatic courtesy. Again all of them except Pakistan shared the situation arising out of corona attack on their respective counties, the steps they have taken and the problems they are facing. They also made helpful suggestions on how to fight the virus in the most populous region of the world, South Asia.

 

Quite a few ideas came up and promises made. By far the biggest initiative was the creation of an Emergency Covid-19 Fund with voluntary contributions made from the member countries starting with Modi’s offer of $10million. India also offered to raise a Rapid Response Team of doctors and specialists for SAARC. It suggested providing online training to the emergency staff of these countries: activate the SAARC Disaster Management Centre and draw up the Pandemic protocols.

 

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina proposed the creation of a SAARC Institution to fight the contagious diseases that pose a threat to public health and offered to host it. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani shared the problem of their long open border with Iran, one of the worst-affected countries. Bhutan Prime Minister Lotay Tshering and Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih shared the economic fallout of the pandemic as their counties GDPs are tourism-dependent. Nepali Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, recovering from a medical operation himself, attended the meeting and shared the steps taken by his government. 

 

The Pakistani minister did not say anything on the affect of corona in his country which seems to be handling it poorly, but brought up Kashmir and China in a pathetic attempt to politicise a solidarity meeting on the pandemic. Even the Opposition leaders in India have heavily criticised Pakistani attitude and have suggested that “Pakistan should be quarantined globally”.  At the end of the day, it was a good informal meeting of the leaders since the suspension of SAARC summit in 2016, in the wake of the terror attack in Uri.

 

Will it revive SAARC? Sources in the Indian External Affairs suggest “it is too premature to discuss the revival of SAARC. It is difficult to say if it can lead to any other initiative”. At the same time, the violation of ceasefire on LoC by Pakistan continues intermittently. The terrorists from Pakistan keep sneaking into Indian Territory and are engaged by the Indian paramilitary and the army.

 

Besides, the Pakistani President Arif Ali was in China a few days ago in expression of their solidarity with it where Corona broke out first. From the Indian point of view, and by extension for SAARC, Pakistan and China discussed Kashmir and mentioned it in their joint communiqué. Beijing assured Islamabad that it was “watching the developments in Kashmir, opposes any unilateral actions that complicate the situation in Kashmir”.

 

Both Pakistan and China reiterated their agreement to build the China-Pakistan Economic Order (CPEC) running through the Indian Territory occupied by Pakistan since 1947. Furthermore, they resolved to make CPEC a high quality demonstration project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Recall that India has been consistently opposing the BRI. The MEA says “India is opposed to any action by other countries to change status quo in Pak-occupied J&K. Such illegal actions will never be accepted by India”.

 

In views of such belligerent posturing by Pakistan with tacit backing of China, how real and desirable is the revival of SAARC? South Asian observer Prof. SD Muni in a recent article says the initiative by Modi on fighting the epidemic may not fully succeed in eradicating the virus from South Asia, but it may have done enough to bring SAARC back to life which “has been in ICU since 2015 on account of India-Pakistan non-engagement”.

 

Muni argues, India seems to be keen on reviving SAARC for its failure on two counts – first, its lack of success on neighbourhood first policy launched with much fanfare in 2014, second, New Delhi’s failure to isolate Pakistan. He contends that “Pakistan is nowhere near being isolated”. Saudi Arabia is backing it in OIC; China is already a strong ally of Pakistan and even the US is working with Pakistan on Afghanistan.

 

Muni’s second argument is that New Delhi’s substitute for SAARC, the Bay of Bengal initiative for Multi-sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec) is not moving forward as expected. Besides, Myanmar and Thailand, two members of Bimstec are economically and strategically closer to China. India-Pakistan tension is not the only obstacle to the growth of SAARC, other members are also wary of India and are dealing with China as a balancing act.

 

Muni’s suggestion on dealing with Pakistan in SAARC is confusing. He is suggesting Pakistan might isolate itself from SAARC, which is welcome, at the same time, he is saying India could retaliate Pakistani terrorism on Indian soil by Balakot-like strikes without bringing the bilateral  problem into the regional forum. Finally, he suggests that revival of SAARC will meet the challenge of BRI.

 

Let us be clear that SAARC could be revived without Pakistan on board. Any other suggestion on SAARC that involves Pakistan as a member is improbable. The confrontation with Pakistan and competition with China are not over, and will continue for a long time.

 

Let us not ignore that India has plans to retrieve POK even at the cost of a war. The present Army General has gone public on this, and Defence Minister too has said that POK will be a part of India. That will remove any possibility of détente between India and Pakistan. They will be at daggers drawn for ever unless Pakistan dismembers as a State or just reduces to a small vassal State, comprising Punjab and Sind provinces, of some bigger power like China. There is hardly any room for optimism of SAARC with Pakistan. ---INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

 

 

 

Women’s Economic Empowerment: ALTERATION HAS MIXED IMPACT, By Dr S. Saraswathi, 19 March 2020 Print E-mail

Events & Issues

New Delhi, 19 March 2020

Women’s Economic Empowerment

ALTERATION HAS MIXED IMPACT

By Dr S. Saraswathi

(Former Director, ICSSR, New Delhi)

 

UNDP Report released on the Women’s Day 2020 has come out with a startling finding that almost 90% of men and women globally are biased against women. No country, rich or poor, has achieved gender equality. Based on current trends, the Report concludes that it would take 257 years to close gender gap in economic opportunities.

 

The situation must be far worse in India, which is in need of special schemes for survival,   protection and welfare of girl children. It needs even constant prodding by Prime Minister himself for “Beti Bacho, Beti Padhao” (Save the daughter, educate the daughter). Still, we talk about women’s empowerment while fighting against female foeticide and infanticide and have presented the National Policy for Women 2016 as “Articulating a Vision for Empowerment of Women”. It shows the unbridgeable status gap among women – another dimension of the problem.

 

The WHO’s first estimate of the global dimension of violence against women in particular in intimate partner relationship fixes the blame partly on the assumption that women cannot come out of violence because of economic dependence. Economic independence and fighting gender-based violence were the two key priorities in European Union’s 2016-19 ‘Strategic Engagement for Gender Equality’. For 2020-25, the goal set is gender-equal Europe and key objectives are to end gender violence and close gender gaps in labour market.

 

In such an atmosphere, the adequacy of women’s economic empowerment in combating violence against women continues as a topic for research and discussions in the week of International Women’s Day. As we enter the decade of action on Sustainable Development Goals, we have to be more active in shattering long-standing social prejudices against women going on in the name of social norms or traditional beliefs and practices, if we are serious about achieving the Goal.

 

Goal No.5 in the SDG to be achieved by 2030 speaks of Gender Equality, which focuses on financial inclusion of women, poverty reduction, creation of sustainable women’s institutions, and financing gender programmes. The targets are to undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources in accordance with national laws, to enhance the use of enabling technology in particular information and communication technology to promote empowerment of women, adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislations for promotion of gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls at all levels. 

 

Few people may be aware that the targets in this goal include ending all discriminations, eliminating all forms of violence against women, recognising the value of unpaid care and domestic work through provision of public services, infrastructure, and social protection policies, and promotion of shared responsibility within the household and family as nationally appropriate. Another specific aim is to ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political and economic life.

 

Economic empowerment requires active decision-making role in domestic and social life while eliminating violence requires positive change in outlook and behaviour of all. How one will promote the other is not a simple matter of promoting inter-dependent objectives. Lack of economic empowerment in the Indian situation is not the only reason for domestic violence; nor will granting economic empowerment eradicate violence against women.

 

India is generally progressive as regards legislations and falters when it comes to implementation. Social prejudices still rule and accepted quietly and sometimes even justified as part of culture and values.  The way courts are flooded with cases pertaining to women’s right of entry into temples is a typical example of the conflict in the society.

 

Women’s economic empowerment (WEE) is defined as “a process in which women enjoy their rights to control and benefit from resources, assets, income, and their own time and have the ability to manage risk and improve their economic status and well-being”.

 

It is, no doubt, widely accepted that women’s economic empowerment brings a range  of  concrete  benefits like improving health and well-being of an entire family, better education for children,  and thereby a certain contentment and happiness in homes. This can extend to an entire community and promote productivity and sustained development of a country. Directly and incidentally, it is expected to result in lessening domestic violence which grows with poverty and deprivation. Several countries like Australia place strong emphasis on economic empowerment of women.  

 

But, the result has not been an unmixed blessing for women. Effective Aid Programme in Australia, designed to utilise the untapped potential of women in development by increasing women’s “command over financial resources”, also exposed women to “domestic conflict and violence”.

 

Gender-based violence includes domestic violence, sexual assault and rape, forced prostitution, forced marriage, child marriage and other forms of exploitation of women.  Domestic violence may take many forms – physical and mental. Harassment at workplace is a separate category that haunts women at all levels in all sectors of employment. 

 

Of these different forms of offences, domestic violence including violence between intimate partners is not controllable by laws as they mostly happen within the walls of a home and more than that within the prevailing notions of the role of women in a family. According to European Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), almost one in four women experience physical and sexual violence in a relationship with men.

 

The tussle in India is between old notions and the changes introduced by economic empowerment of women. Rape within marriage and intimate partner violence are alien ideas and Indian family system does not admit that such “offences” are possible.   

Gender-based violence is pervasive throughout the world and it is difficult to establish its co-relation with economic empowerment of women, which definitely has the power to reduce violence.

 

Some studies point out that economic empowerment has both positive and negative effects increasing or decreasing violence against women. The very advantages accrued to a family through women’s economic empowerment may become a point of conflict between couples.  For, it requires intelligence and understanding to get over well-entrenched notions of subordinate role of women in family. Not all benefits of financial betterment reach women, but increase in workload on women is certain in most households. Where men tend to perceive a threat to their authority by enhancement of women’s status, problem starts.

 

Women’s economic empowerment often works outside the home, but not inside. It may even promote economic abuse of women at home threatening her ability to acquire, use, and maintain economic resources. Domestic violence may increase in households where men take control of financial matters as a matter of right depriving women of her financial security and the satisfaction of being a contributor to the financial status of the family. The mixed impact of WEE on domestic violence (DE) is result of unequal gender relations and contextual.

 

All these point to the stark reality that while we need Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana and direct benefit transfers under the Jan Dhan Scheme to empower women, we must also promote the concept of family as a partnership enterprise of equal partners.---INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

 

 

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