Updated: Oct 31, 2022
Image Graphics by Team Geostrata
First constituted in 1999 and alternatively known as the Group of Twenty, the G20 works as an intergovernmental forum comprising developed and emerging economies of the globe that meets annually to discuss diverse matters. India, being a member of the Troika alongside Indonesia and Brazil, is ready to shoulder the opportunity of presiding over the 18th summit of the G20 in 2023. Initially formulated to deal with financial and economic issues, the group now purveys agendas ranging from global unemployment, supply chains, trade, climate change, and sustainability. The G20 in recent years has deeply recognized that women empowerment and gender justice are a fundamental part of global stability, economic growth, and governance as supplemented by reports from the OECD, ILO, IMF, and World Bank.
Evolution of Dialogue on Women Empowerment and Gender Equality
The discourse on gender equality and the empowerment of women on an international stage can be traced back to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of discrimination against Women in 1979, which saw the ratification of India as well and was a huge success. Gender inequality revolving around the G20 was first addressed at the Los Cabos 2012 summit, where problem areas in the social and economic participation of women were identified. Consequent summits like the G20 2014 gave the Brisbane Action Plan, whose aim was to reduce the gender gap in labor market participation by 25% by 2025. India has been witnessing a huge growth in its population since the last decade by about 180 million and is soon to overtake China as the most populated country. Unlike China, India has a young population, which will aid its growing labor pool, thus providing it with a competitive edge as the current fastest-growing economy in the G20 at 7.5%. The present government, headed by Prime Minister Modi, has been actively pursuing an explicit policy to increase women's participation and gender equality in order to achieve economic growth based on intensive employment. Modi’s Make in India campaign is intent on increasing industrial production and expanding India into a global production location for which 25 industries have been selected. A major one among these is the clothing and textile industry, which largely employs women, and is an investment option open to foreign direct investment. In Modi’s flagship ‘Mudra Yojana’, 68% of loans up to 1 million have been granted to enterprises owned and operated by women. This holds the record as the largest financial inclusion program amongst the G20. According to a 2016 IMF report, the economic participation and opportunities for women in India ranks 136 among the G20 when compared to the gender gap indicators, which is impressive considering its population size and other social complications- thus being a utilitarian example to other emerging and developing economies.
W20 and its Importance
The W20, or the Women 20 was instituted during the Antalya summit in 2015. It is a dialogue group solely dedicated to the promotion of causes related to women empowerment with the participation of women’s delegations from the G20 countries. W20 gives concrete holdings insofar as it calls for tax revenue assessments based on gender and analysis, gender budget planning, and the rights of women to possess economic ownership. According to an IMF report, only one-third of G20 countries annually publish gender budget statements so as to raise awareness on the differential impacts of budget policies on women and men. Notably, India has been producing gender reports consistently, exhibiting the government's transparency and its gender commitments and priorities. India also upholds its adherence to the 1995 United Nations Beijing Platform for Action calling for an integrated gender perspective into government processes, the 2015 UN Sustainable Development Goals which seek pertinent resources to track budget allocations for gender equality, all of which now have dialogues formulating in G20 discussions.
G20 has reiterated its allegiance to achieve the 2030 agenda for sustainable development with numerous measures being formulated by the participating countries. India on her part has flourished the ‘Ayushman Bharat’ scheme keeping in sight SDG-3, enabling good health and well- being. Under this scheme, India provides affordable healthcare, free of cost treatment and medical packages to half a billion poor, disadvantaged women. Regarding SDG-5, gender equality and the rights of women, while some G20 countries such as the US have revoked a woman's right to abortion, India has in a historic ruling extended the right to safe abortion to all women, thus granting them autonomy and paving a progressive step towards women empowerment.
India’s Initiative for Women Empowerment
Acknowledging the fact that women are equal stakeholders and key partners, if not more, women empowerment and gender equality has been looked at through renewed vigour. In a first, the G20 Ministerial Conference on Women’s Empowerment was held in 2021 at Italy in an effort to discuss agendas which have more or less been superseded in the Sherpa and Official meetings. An Indian delegation headed by Smt. Smriti Irani, Union Minister of Women & Child Development, joined the Gender Equalities Ministers of G20 and undertook the endeavor of addressing women centric issues through mutual cooperation. In solidarity to this, the minister highlighted PM Modi’s recently launched ‘Mission Shakti’ - a programme based on the integration of values enshrined in the Indian Constitution. It seeks to regulate concerns faced by women responsibly, recognising that women play a substantial role in nation building through citizen ownership. India also aids women in economic upliftment by its ‘Stand Up India’ scheme wherein 81% of loans ranging from 1-10 million have been made available to women. Digital Literacy, another goal of the G20, focuses on women with its ‘eSkill 4 Girls’ initiative to tackle the gender digital divide. India’s enterprise to counter this has been through the RBI’s national strategy for financial inclusion, NABARD, and the ‘PM Jan- Dhan Yojana’ which has enabled 230 million women in rural India to open bank accounts, transforming the rural landscape through ecologically sustainable ways. The government also extends collateral loans in order to resuscitate women-led MSMEs.
Avenues for Women Empowerment in India's upcoming G20 2023 Presidency
Emerging from a global pandemic and an impending recession, it is contingent that the international community witness an inclusive oath for overall but necessary development. India believes in a strong, comprehensive and balanced growth chart which will be elevated only by the participation of women in not only the economy but also by the power to voice their ideas in major decision undertakings. Women have historically been subject to disproportionate inequalities and discriminations originating from policies, social stigma, unemployment and even by climate change. India has shown its capabilities in intercepting and challenging gender inequality and illustrating particularly women empowerment through the numerous schemes implemented by its government. In its G20 presidency, India has an Engagement Group involving civil society, private sector and independent bodies the likes of which are Youth 20, Urban 20, Think 20, etc.
Moreover, India has been a signatory to major international instruments for securing equal rights and has been an active member of the UN Commission on status of women. As the host for G20 2023, India has to develop a robust women centered agenda and adopt a multi pronged strategy which will ascertain its commitments and that of the G20’s to shape a world based on gender justice and equality combined with equity for all. G20 EMPOWER was created in 2020 to advance women's economic security with a government representative from the primary sector of the G20 countries. Additional task forces, conferences and working groups can be instituted to facilitate more discussions so as to certify that gender and women considerations are being mainstreamed into the G20 meetings. W20 has to be seen as an official high delegations forum whose insights shall be taken into policy draftings and consultations. India being an advocate for multiculturalism has the welcome opportunity of incorporating women empowerment as an effective channel for strategizing multiple avenues for further inclusion of women in all intergovernmental bodies like the G20.
BY MADHURA VARTAK