India has been at the forefront of advancing women-led development and promoting gender equality. With its multi-pronged approach, India has been implementing a range of initiatives to promote women's leadership, entrepreneurship, education, and skill development. An active participant in global forums, India has been advocating for the inclusion of gender considerations in policymaking and creating a world of equity and dignity for all women. This article explores India's role in advancing gender equality through the various initiatives and policies that the country has implemented to empower women and promote women-led development.

Firmly committed to gender equality, India has signed several UN Conventions, including the Convention on Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Beijing Platform for Action, and the Convention on Rights of the Child, among others. 

The Indian government has been spearheading efforts to challenge mindsets and promote gender equality, with measures aimed at improving women’s health, education, and economic opportunities across the country. In recent years, the Indian government has taken significant steps towards normalizing menstrual health, breaking the silence and stigma that have long shrouded the topic. In 2020, during his Independence Day speech, the Hon’ble Prime Minister highlighted the importance of menstrual hygiene and health, emphasizing that menstruation is a natural biological process that should not be a source of shame or embarrassment. This speech marked a turning point in India's approach to menstrual health, as it helped to raise awareness and break down the taboos surrounding this crucial issue. Government initiatives like Swachh Bharat Mission and Grameen and Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana have improved sanitation and provided clean cooking fuel, respectively, benefiting women and girls. Stand-Up India, POSHAN Abhiyaan, and PM Mudra Yojana have contributed to increasing the scope of women’s entrepreneurship. Additionally, self-help groups have played an integral role in enhancing women’s skills and promoting women entrepreneurs. In 2022, the Ministry of Women and Child Development announced the implementation of Mission Poshan 2.0, Mission Shakti, and Mission Vatsalya to address the challenges of malnutrition in children, adolescent girls, pregnant women, and lactating mothers.

With a visionary zeal to enable women and foster change, India has been putting ceaseless efforts in initiatives like ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ and ‘Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana’ that have not only challenged mindsets but have also immensely improved the female literacy rate in the country, which has increased from 55.1 per cent in 2005-2006 to 68.4 per cent in 2015-2016, leapfrogging to 71.5 per cent in 2019-2021.

India has also made significant progress in the realm of women’s rights at the global level. In September 2020, India was elected a member of the prestigious UN Commission on the Status of Women, securing the second highest votes. India also appointed its first woman President of the Council during its Presidency of the UN Security Council in December 2022.

India has been persistently placing women’s issues at the forefront of G20 discussions. Women’s economic empowerment is at the heart of India’s G20 agenda. The Women20 (W20) engagement group, under India’s presidency, focuses on actualizing the vision of ‘Women-Led Development’ to create a world of equality and equity where every woman lives with dignity and gets the opportunity to thrive. The primary aim of this group is to ensure that gender considerations are mainstreamed into G20 discussions and translated into policies and commitments that foster gender equality.

India’s latest G20 leadership not only provides it with an unprecedented opportunity to shape the global narrative but also presents itself as a leader on the front of global change, facilitating development that is sustainable and inclusive. India has made enormous strides in promoting gender equality, and it is committed to continuing its efforts to empower women and foster a more equitable world.

This blog has been authored by Akanksha Khullar.

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