Kerala’s gender Budget share up from 11.5% to 20.9% in five years: Veena

Countries that closed gender gap have made significant gains in various sectors, says Sangita Reddy, chair of G20 Empower

Published - April 04, 2023 08:25 pm IST - Thiruvananthapuram

Minister for Women and Child Development Veena George has emphasised the importance of Kerala’s gender Budget in promoting gender-sensitive policies and schemes.

She was speaking at the G20 Empower meeting, organised under the umbrella of the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development, at Kovalam here on Tuesday.

Underlining the increase in Kerala’s gender Budget share from 11.5% in 2017-18 to 20.9% in 2022-23, the Minister spoke about the State’s commitment to women’s empowerment and progression in economic representation. Kerala’s progress, she said, was deeply rooted in empowering society and, more specifically, women.

She provided a historical perspective on women’s roles in shaping Kerala society, detailing the various social and political changes that have occurred since the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These changes had led to a more inclusive and equitable society, she said.

Devolution of power

The Kudumbashree programme, launched in 1998, was a key factor in empowering women in the State. As one of the largest networks of women in the country, Kudumbashree had successfully promoted entrepreneurship and fostered the devolution of power to Panchayati Raj institutions and communities, she said. She stressed the State government’s continued focus on addressing wages, safety, occupational health, and insurance issues for women in various occupational groups.

Ms. George also noted the importance of the G20 Empower initiative in working towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Sangita Reddy, chair of G20 Empower and joint managing director of Apollo Hospitals Enterprises, highlighted the significant gains made by countries that had successfully closed the gender gap in various sectors, such as education and health care. These countries, she said, had experienced a positive ripple effect across all areas of development. She also stressed the advantages of having more women on corporate boards, leading to higher growth rates, improved customer sensitivity, and better bottom lines.

Drawing from her experience at Apollo Hospitals, where 56% of the workforce is female and there is equal board representation, Dr. Reddy called for a shift in perspective. “We don’t look at women. We look at the best individual for the job.”

Dr. Reddy also said the World Economic Forum prediction that it would take 150 years for women to achieve equal participation in the workforce was unacceptable. Women, she asserted, were not willing to wait.

Brighter future

According to the World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law 2022 report, 2.4 billion working-age women lacked equal economic opportunities, and 86 countries still imposed job restrictions on women. The G20 Empower meeting aimed at addressing these disparities and building a brighter future for women worldwide, she said.

M.I. Sahadulla, chair, FICCI Kerala State Council and chairman and managing director, KIMS Hospitals, said Kerala promoted nearly 1.35 lakh entrepreneurs last year, of which around 20% were women. However, there was a need to catch up and reach the 50% equality level, which was seen as international benchmark, he said.

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