How gender sensitive are the government’s flagship programmes, probes a report to be released today

Why is the concept of ‘citizen’ always a male? Why is the formulation of government policies always male centric leaving out the female counterpart that actually constitutes half the population and contributes in equal measure to the economy?

Perhaps keeping this in mind, UN Women and economists have come up with a report on eight flagship programmes of the government and whether they are gender sensitive enough.

The report, that is to be released in the Capital today, also offers recommendations on how the gender gap in policy initiatives can be bridged.

Keeping the 12th Plan in mind, the report postulates ways in which key policy decisions can enable women to play an effective role in urban planning and development among other things.

Arguing that gender remains one of the most prominent axis of exclusion, along with class, ability and sexual orientation, the report states that “urban planners continue to operate on the assumption that what is good for families is (and should be) good for women; that male-headed households and nuclear families are (and should be) the norm; that all women have (and should have) the same needs and aspirations”.

Making specific recommendations about the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), the report highlights key concerns related to lack of women’s participation in key processes and suggests that there should be a derecognising of male headed households as the ‘norm’, ensuring women’s voices in urban governance through community based organisations and systematic training of urban planners on gender perspectives, among other things.

Manufacturing is another sector which has historically been the second largest avenue of employment after agriculture for Indian women. They work mostly in labour intensive manufacturing industries such as textiles, handlooms, food processing, garments and leather and leather products. Women’s work in the sector comprises mainly of unpaid family work or meagrely paid, low-productivity, often home-based piece-rate work.

The report points out how sexual division of labour is deeply rooted in manufacturing organisations in modern industries, how bank credit is hard to come by for women in general and those from disadvantaged backgrounds in particular because of the prejudice that works against them even from policy makers at State and Union levels.

The report goes onto recommend that labour laws need to be made more flexible, varying according to the size and nature of the units. The State should get various state-funded research organizations to devise goods that suit local availabilities and can work in local conditions. These can then be produced and sold by local enterprises of women’s groups with State support. These can also be a part of permissible work under MGNREGA.

The other flagship programmes that the report analyses are Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna, higher education, Integrated Child Development Services, MSME, shelter services and National Rural Health Mission.

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