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Women’s economic empowerment is at the heart of India’s G20 agenda. Exploring the potential of gender transformative approaches, this intergovernmental forum of the G20 promises a platform for members to collectively translate ideas into tangible outcomes aimed at achieving substantive and sustained gender equality.

India’s vision is well encapsulated in our Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remark at the G20 Summit in Bali, “global development is not possible without women’s participation.” There is substantial evidence to support that with increased internet and mobile penetration, female entrepreneurship has scaled substantially in India. With an estimated 13.5 million to 15.7 million MSMEs and agribusinesses, India has more women-owned enterprises compared to many other countries. 

According to a McKinsey report, India can add up to 18% to its GDP (approximately $ 770 billion), provided it bridges its gender equality gap by improving female workforce participation in the country. In addition to job creation by private and government sectors, entrepreneurship is a powerful yet largely untapped opportunity for working-aged women in India.  By creating jobs, fuelling innovation and advancing investments in health and education, entrepreneurship among women can help transform India’s journey towards social and economic growth.

For India to achieve SDG 5: Gender Equality, the Indian Government has taken extraordinary measures including Stand-Up India, PM MUDRA Yojana, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, POSHAN Abhiyaan, increasing the scope of entrepreneurship among women. Self-Help Groups have helped boost women’s skills and promote women led entrepreneurs. Financial inclusion schemes, such as the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY), have addressed one of the primary challenges faced by women led businesses—credit gaps and provided access to financial services such as savings accounts, need-based lending, remittances services, insurance, and pensions. Since then, over 460 million bank accounts have been established, with 56 percent being owned by women. Between 2015 and 2022, the average deposit into PMJDY accounts climbed by over three times, from INR 1,279 to INR 3,761. In a similar vein, the Udyam Sakhi portal is effectively disseminating information regarding Government schemes, policies and activities for women entrepreneurs, thus promoting financial inclusion. Around 8.59 lakh women-led MSMEs registered in FY22 (up to March 28, 2022) in comparison to 4.9 lakh registrations in FY21.

India’s leadership is primed to prioritize inclusive growth and development, with women’s representation and empowerment at the center of India's G20 deliberations.  Women20 (W20), the official G20 engagement group, is dedicated to embedding gender considerations into policies and commitments that promote gender parity. The mandate falls in alignment with India's national priorities and Maharashtra’s Aurangabad is set to host the first inception meet of W20 India on February 13-14, 2023. The first Global Partnership for financial inclusion meeting for G20 was recently held in Kolkata and showcased India as a leading example of digital financial inclusion. During the conference, Tribal Affairs’ Minister, Arjun Munda emphasized the shift from women's development to women-led development throughout the world. Highlighting this, he remarked that financial inclusion can be leveraged as a tool to advance financial empowerment and self-reliance for women.

Amplifying the distribution of opportunities, resources, and choices for women, nations have embarked upon the journey to provide these key drivers of development with improved access to basic amenities, focused investments in employment and skill development, and gender inclusive policies. Moving forward, the W20 Engagement group will focus on priority areas that will include Women’s Entrepreneurship, Grassroot Women Leadership, Bridging the Gender Digital Divide, Education & Skill Development, and Climate Change. Additionally, addressing normative constraints faced by women is a core lever essential to catalyze meaningful change. The inclusion of all development actors is a critical driver of India’s G20 presidency. 

With a visionary zeal to enable women and foster change at the grassroots, the W20 is accommodating key stakeholders in the conversation from tribal and rural areas, agriculture, handloom & handicrafts sector, micro & nano enterprises, SHGs, Anganwadis, along with adolescent girls, women living in urban slums and homemakers to ensure intersectional representation.

Thus, India’s G20 presidency is going to play a pivotal role in driving collaboration and giving further impetus to women’s economic empowerment. This will be an opportune time for India to shed light on best practices adopted by countries for gender mainstreaming and act as a game changer in fostering women’s economic growth in India.

Inputs by Ritam Dutta 

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