India Ranks 129th on Global Gender Gap Index; Iceland Leads the World

By manish198832 Jun12,2024

India Ranks 129th on Global Gender Gap

Introduction

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has published its annual Global Gender Gap Index, revealing that India has slipped two places, ranking 129th in 2024. Meanwhile, Iceland continues to lead the world in gender equality, retaining its top position. The report highlights significant disparities in gender equality across different regions and countries.

India’s Position in South Asia

In South Asia, India ranks fifth, trailing behind Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bhutan. Pakistan is positioned last within the region. This placement underscores the ongoing challenges India faces in bridging the gender gap, particularly in areas such as economic participation, education, health, and political empowerment.

Bangladesh: Leading in South Asia

Bangladesh has made notable progress, leading South Asia in gender equality. The country’s efforts to improve female education and political participation have contributed significantly to its higher ranking. Initiatives aimed at empowering women economically and socially have also played a crucial role.

India

Nepal: Progress Amidst Challenges

Nepal ranks second in South Asia, showing steady progress in gender equality. The nation has implemented various policies to enhance women’s roles in governance and the economy. However, challenges remain, particularly in rural areas where traditional gender roles are more deeply entrenched.

Sri Lanka and Bhutan: Striving for Balance

Sri Lanka and Bhutan rank third and fourth respectively. Both countries have made strides in improving gender equality through educational reforms and increased female participation in the workforce. Nevertheless, cultural and societal barriers still pose significant obstacles to achieving full gender parity.

Global Context and Comparison

Globally, the gender gap remains a critical issue. The WEF’s index, which assesses 146 countries, indicates that no country has yet achieved full gender equality. Iceland, however, stands out by consistently leading the rankings.

Iceland: A Model of Gender Equality

Iceland has retained its top position on the Global Gender Gap Index, showcasing its commitment to gender equality. The country has implemented progressive policies that support women’s rights and participation across various sectors. These include parental leave reforms, gender quotas in government and corporate boards, and a strong emphasis on closing the pay gap.

The Last on the List: Sudan and Pakistan

Sudan is ranked last globally, highlighting severe gender disparities in the country. Issues such as limited access to education for girls, low female labor force participation, and significant health disparities contribute to its position. Pakistan, which has slipped three places to 145th, faces similar challenges. Deep-seated cultural norms and lack of access to opportunities for women are major hurdles in both nations.

Key Indicators and Areas of Concern

The Global Gender Gap Index evaluates countries based on four key dimensions: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment. India’s performance in these areas reveals critical insights into the gender inequalities prevalent in the country.

Economic Participation and Opportunity

India has struggled significantly in terms of economic participation and opportunity for women. Despite an increasing number of women entering the workforce, they continue to face substantial barriers, including wage disparity, lack of job security, and limited opportunities for career advancement. The informal sector, where many women are employed, offers little protection and benefits.

Educational Attainment

Education is a vital area where India has made considerable progress, yet disparities remain. While primary education enrollment for girls has improved, drop-out rates increase significantly at the secondary and higher education levels. Socio-economic factors, early marriage, and cultural norms often hinder girls from pursuing further education.

Health and Survival

Health and survival indices in India show mixed results. On the one hand, maternal health has seen improvements, with reduced mortality rates. On the other hand, issues such as malnutrition and limited access to healthcare services, particularly in rural areas, continue to disproportionately affect women.

Political Empowerment

India’s performance in political empowerment of women remains one of the lowest globally. Although there are notable female leaders in politics, the overall representation of women in parliament and other political positions is minimal. Legislative measures like reservations for women in local governance have been implemented, but more robust policies are needed to enhance their representation at higher levels.

Socio-Cultural Factors Influencing Gender Equality

Several socio-cultural factors deeply influence gender equality in India. Traditional gender roles and societal norms often restrict women’s opportunities and freedoms. Additionally, gender-based violence remains a pervasive issue, further exacerbating gender disparities.

Traditional Gender Roles

In many parts of India, traditional gender roles dictate the division of labor and responsibilities, often relegating women to domestic duties. This limits their opportunities for education and employment. Efforts to challenge and change these norms are crucial for achieving gender equality.

Gender-Based Violence

Gender-based violence, including domestic violence, sexual harassment, and dowry-related violence, remains a significant barrier to gender equality in India. Legal frameworks and support systems are in place, but effective implementation and societal change are necessary to address these issues comprehensively.

Government Initiatives and Policy Measures

The Indian government has implemented various initiatives and policies aimed at reducing the gender gap. Programs like Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (Save the Daughter, Educate the Daughter) focus on improving the status of girls and women through education and empowerment. However, the effectiveness of these programs often varies due to implementation challenges and socio-cultural resistance.

Beti Bachao Beti Padhao

Launched in 2015, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao aims to address the declining child sex ratio and promote education and empowerment of girls. The program has had some success in raising awareness and improving educational outcomes for girls, but it requires sustained efforts and broader societal support to achieve long-term impact.

Women’s Economic Empowerment Programs

Various schemes have been introduced to promote women’s economic empowerment, including skill development programs, financial inclusion initiatives, and support for women entrepreneurs. While these programs have benefited many women, challenges such as access to credit, market opportunities, and social barriers persist.

Legislative Measures

Legislative measures, including the reservation of seats for women in local governance (Panchayati Raj institutions), have aimed to increase women’s political participation. However, there is a need for similar measures at the state and national levels to ensure broader representation of women in politics.

Civil Society and NGO Contributions

Civil society organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) play a crucial role in promoting gender equality in India. They work on various fronts, including education, health, legal aid, and advocacy, to support women’s rights and empower them.

Educational Programs

NGOs run numerous educational programs aimed at improving literacy rates and educational attainment for girls. These programs often include scholarships, mentorship, and community engagement to encourage families to prioritize girls’ education.

Health Initiatives

Health-focused NGOs work to improve maternal and child health, provide reproductive health services, and raise awareness about health rights. They also address issues like malnutrition and access to clean water, which disproportionately affect women and girls.

Legal Aid and Advocacy

Many NGOs provide legal aid to women facing violence and discrimination. They also engage in advocacy efforts to influence policy changes and ensure the implementation of laws protecting women’s rights.

Conclusion

India’s ranking on the Global Gender Gap Index reflects the significant challenges the country faces in achieving gender equality. While progress has been made in areas such as education and health, substantial disparities remain in economic participation, political empowerment, and societal attitudes towards gender roles.

To move forward, a multifaceted approach is required, involving government policies, civil society efforts, and societal change. By addressing the root causes of gender inequality and implementing effective measures, India can strive towards a more equitable future for all its citizens.

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