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“It
took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not
going to be silent.” —Madeleine Albright

Gender
economics is an interdisciplinary branch that deals with a gendered approach to
diverse fields. The need to have a distinct branch of economics dedicated to
gender imbalances itself emphasises the all-pervasive nature of this problem in
our society. Since time immemorial, our social structure has been negatively
skewed against women. They have had to constantly bear the brunt of widespread inequality,
gruesome violence and inexplicable suffering. Female foeticide, differential
wage rate offered to men and women, and honour killing signify merely the tip
of the iceberg.

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Countries
across the world are facing the daunting task of attempting to narrow the
widening gap between the two genders. Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development
Goals of 2030 Agenda adopted by UN General Assembly explicitly focuses on
establishing “Gender Equality”.  World
Bank and UN Women had conducted a data analysis in 2017 to measure poverty
among women in 89 countries. The results depicted that in the age bracket of
(20-35) years, women were more likely to be poor than men. The “#MeToo” social
media campaign that went viral in 2017 narrated yet another predicament that
women have to face – ubiquitous sexual harassment. Such forms of gross human
rights violation highlight the harsh realities embedded in our society.

In India,
too, the status of women has denigrated over the decades. Only 23% of eligible
Indian women are part of the workforce. Crime records in India are proof that
violence on women has been on an unprecedented rise compared to previous years.
According to a World Bank report, the maternal mortality rate in India is a
miserable 175 deaths for 1 lakh live births annually. Yet another World Bank
report observed a 10% gender gap in opening bank accounts under the Central government’s
flagship financial inclusion scheme “Jan-Dhan Yojana”. Another incident that
brought the nation to shame was the severe protests by the tribal groups in
Nagaland in 2017 against the 33% reservation quota in civic polls in the state.

Despite
these obstacles, women from various walks of life have overcome the hardships
and triumphed. The recent Supreme Court judgement on abolishing the archaic
practice of talaq-e-biddat has been a
legal and moral victory for Muslim women in India. A recent announcement by
Delhi High Court cleared the path for inducting women in Territorial Army from
2018. Yet another judgement by Delhi High Court eliminated the need for
providing the father’s name in Indian passports, hailed as a historic move for
single mothers. 2016 was a landmark year for the Tamil Nadu Assembly which
passed two bills to enhance women reservation from 33% to 50% in all local
bodies (rural and urban) in the state. The excellent performance by the Indian
Women’s cricket team added yet another proud moment for the nation. The women in
the naval sector have recently undertaken a Herculean task to circumnavigate
the entire globe — a task which entails an all-women crew in INSV Tarini. The
bravery and integrity displayed by DIG(Prisons) Roopa, who revealed facts about
the preferential treatment given to a famous politician in prison, won hearts throughout
the country. The Maternity Benefit (Amendment)Bill, 2016 was a bold attempt by
the government to protect the rights of women in the formal sector. The 69th
Republic Day, 2018 also witnessed a salute-worthy showcase of stunts by all-women
BSF bikers for the first time in India.

Even outside
India, women empowerment was undoubtedly palpable. The induction of equal
number of men and women in Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet in
2015 was a major step towards elimination gender imbalances. Permitting women
to drive vehicles was a monumental step taken by Saudi Arabia. NASA’s astronaut
Peggy Whitson made headlines in 2017 when she became the only person to have
clocked more than 650 days in space, breaking all previous records.

Despite all
these extraordinary achievements, one must never forget that this is just the
beginning. Instead of being complacent, every country in the world must take steadfast
steps to empower women so that they can break away from all the shackles and can
stand up for themselves. Fortunately, the perception towards women is now
slowly changing and the gender balance is now tilting towards the centre. A new
sun is on the horizon…

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