Significant rise in Kerala's gender budget's share in six years: Veena George

Minister Veena George
Kerala Health Minister Veena George. File photo: Manorama

Thiruvananthapuram: Strong emphasis is given to promoting gender-sensitive policies and schemes in the southern state as its progress is deeply rooted in empowering society, specifically women, said Kerala Health Minister Veena George on Tuesday. She also pointed out that the state's gender budget had risen significantly in six years.

Speaking at the G20 EMPOWER (Empowerment and Progression of Women's Economic Representation) meeting that began here on Tuesday, the Minister underlined the increase in the gender budget's (allocations for women-oriented schemes) share from 11.5 per cent in 2017-18 to 20.9 per cent (of total budget allocations) in 2022-23 in Kerala, while emphasising her state's dedication to women's empowerment and progression in economic representation.

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

The minister cited the Kudumbashree programme, launched in 1998, as a key factor in empowering women in Kerala. As one of the largest networks of women in India, Kudumbashree has successfully promoted entrepreneurship and fostered the devolution of power to Panchayati Raj (village local self-governments) institutions and communities.

The minister stressed upon the Kerala government's continued focus on addressing the issues of women from various occupational groups, such as wages, safety, occupational health and insurance.

George also noted the importance of the G20 EMPOWER initiative in working towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, an official statement said.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Sangita Reddy, Chair of G20 EMPOWER and Joint Managing Director of Apollo Hospitals Enterprises, emphasised the importance of empowering women in benefiting society and the economy.

Reddy highlighted the significant gains made by countries that have successfully closed the gender gap in various sectors, such as education and healthcare, as well as with regard to job opportunities and wages.

According to her, these countries have 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, she said, 56 per cent of the workforce was female and there was equal board representation, Reddy called for a shift in perspective, stating, "We don't look at women. We look at the best individual for the job."

She urged the audience to focus on those women who were not yet on the stage but who deserved the opportunity to contribute their talents and skills.

The G20 EMPOWER initiative will concentrate on three major themes throughout the year: education (with a special focus on STEM), leadership at all levels (including grassroots), and women entrepreneurship.

Reddy also highlighted the "unacceptable prediction" from the World Economic Forum that it would take 150 years for women to achieve equal participation in the workforce, and asserted that women were not willing to wait.

The World Bank's Women, Business and the Law 2022 report served as a sobering reminder that 2.4 billion working-age women lack equal economic opportunities, and 86 countries still impose job restrictions on women. The G20 EMPOWER meeting aims to address these disparities and build a brighter future for women worldwide.

Dr MI Sahadulla, Chair, FICCI KESC and Chairman & MD KIMS Hospitals, also spoke on the occasion. He noted that Kerala had promoted about 135,000 entrepreneurs in the past year, of which about 20 per cent were women. But, he added, "Of course, we have to catch up and reach that 50 per cent equality level, which we mark as the international benchmark."  

(With inputs from PTI)

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