The government proposes a separate quota for single women under its two ambitious housing schemes — the Indira Awas Yojana and the Rajiv Awas Yojana — and assured access to employment and equal wages through special job cards under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. Women’s groups will be included as implementing agencies of MGNREGS works.

It also proposes launching separate entrepreneurship and leadership development schemes for single women with preferential selection in credit grants with flexible payment modalities and lower interest rates.

Accepting that single women and women-headed households are now a reality in India, the government has sought to give special attention to their issues in the Twelfth Plan to be finalised before month-end.

Further, single women must be made aware of their rights and entitlements within their maternal and matrimonial households. For this, special focus is needed on legal aid to single women as well as promotion of separate federations of single women at the block and district levels.

The Twelfth Plan will give special attention to older women in order to address their health, nutrition and pension concerns. The focus will be on creating awareness of various diseases such as osteoporosis, breast cancer and cervical cancer.

Mental health issues will get due attention. The cost of medical procedures for single/poor senior citizens will be subsidised. Waiver of the income criteria for old-age pensions to women above the age of 75 in rural areas/urban slums/JJ colonies will be provided.

A pension fund will be set up for elderly women in the unorganised sector rendered jobless.

The Plan will reach out to women living with HIV and AIDS, especially those who have been deserted by their family, have lost their husbands, and are without any social or economic support.

HIV positive or affected women will be empowered through vocational training, including training to conduct HIV and AIDS awareness programmes. Legal services will be made a part of the process of rehabilitation. Importantly, the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) guidelines will integrate information on nutritional support to women and children on Anti Retroviral Treatment.

There is a separate provision for migrant women that will ensure provision of financial services to enable promotion of savings and to facilitate secure transfer of remittances. To protect migrant domestic workers from exploitation by placement agencies, a system of registration, monitoring and accountability may be introduced. To prevent marginalisation of migrant labour, portability of entitlements such as ration cards will be ensured.

Women in disturbed areas facing special issues including continuous Army presence, suspended civil rights and lack of normal access to facilities/services will be provided special attention in areas like health care, schools, and free legal aid.

Gender sensitisation programmes will be held for the authorities who implement specific legislations such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) applicable to disturbed areas.

In order to break the vicious cycle of second generation prostitution and brothel-related livelihood, the children of sex workers will be mainstreamed.

Empowering transgenders

The Plan proposes empowerment of transgenders by advocating that Ministries support their education, housing, access to healthcare, skill development, employment opportunities and financial assistance. Identification will be provided for them in all government and non-government records by introducing a separate column to include the third gender.

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