“You can tell the condition of a nation by looking at the status of its women”- Jawaharlal Nehru.
India is ranking second in the list of most populous countries in the world. The total population of the country is estimated to be 133.92 crores (2017) out of which almost 50% is constituted by women. It’s really impressive to see that almost 133 million of Indians rose above poverty between 1994 and 2012, even then the contribution of women to workforce was very minimal. According to 2012 statistics, only 27% of women were employed or were actually searching for jobs. The gender-based violence is at an alarming stage and also India ranks 120 out of 131 countries with regard to female participation in labor force. The contribution of women towards GDP is even less than half of the global average. In the present scenario most women depend on someone or other for their needs and interest in life but if they are economically empowered, this situation might change. There is a need for change in the present scenario as the gender inequality gap is still too high. Empowerment and equality are something that everyone desires. The literacy rate among women is showing an increasing pattern but they should be empowered economically and should have the freedom to make their own independent decisions. Education can be considered as the pathway to employment and through employment one can be empowered where in the dependence on someone is reduced.
Words like freedom and independence are very subjective in nature. The terms financial independence and financial freedom used in the study is to understand whether women are capable of making independent decisions regarding the way they want to spend the money they earn. The above line graph shows the female labor force participation in India from 1990-2018 and 32.16 is the highest which the country has reached so far and now the rate is 23.60.
Women in all regions are affected by gender inequality and other differences in the society and mainly because of gender differences in law. Globally, only one in two women aged 15 and over has paid employment or benefits, compared to about three in four men. In fact, in 2016, around 700 million fewer women than men of working age were in paid employment, i.e. 1.27 billion women compared to 2 billion men (Chiarini, 2017). At the same time, women do almost three times more unpaid work than men. Many women take up part time jobs and other professions wherein the gender inequality existing lead them to accept relatively low wages with less chances of career development and sometimes poor conditions as well. (UN Secretary General, 2016).Empowerment can be defined as a process that gives more freedom and power to an individual to make independent choices in life. Women in our country do not have an opportunity to enjoy this freedom. There are lot of stereotypes and other issues that confines the freedom of women, the empowerment of women can be made possible by direct investments in education and employment, this will reduce the gender inequality, poverty and lead to inclusive economic growth (DAC Network on Gender Equality, 2011). India is in its phase of development and has set up a value for its name in the global arena. According to the Gender Inequality Index, India ranks 95 out of 129 countries and this is a setback for the country as economic empowerment cannot be achieved without empowering all citizens of a country. Several measures were taken by the state govts. national govt. to support women in the rural area and empower them through self-help groups. World bank has invested over 3 billion $ in the past 15 years to support the state govts. in providing further support to the women in rural areas. (Dixon, 2019)
Achieving empowerment through education is not such an easy process, we can consider education as a staircase for achieving empowerment. School education should help a girl identify her potential and enable her to break the sexual stereotypes existing in the society give her confidence that she’s no different from men in the society. School education should be made more efficient and should provide strong foundations to both male and female children and should provide them visions of a gender free society. The idea of gender free society is embedded in their minds from school itself, as these students become adults they can create huge impacts in the society and make changes in the economic, social and political aspects of gender inequality (Jane L. Parpart, 2002).
There is a need for reform in the education system in India from exam oriented method to more of a developmet oriented method which could include the ideas of developing a society with low gap in gender inequality. The sole concentraetion of empowering women must not focus on only providing educational and employment opportunities for women, initiatives in education and other practices must include men as well without which the overall development of the society and idea of inclusive growth does not work.
Poverty iradication, gender inequality and other issues that women face in the socirety can be solved through investing in economic empowermrnt of women. As mentioned, the contribution of women ofteng goes unnotticed but the fact is that women in the country work as entrepreneurs, employees and also do a lot of unpaid work in the family. Some way or the other women in general keep contributing to the economy. There is strong gneder discrimination existing in the country even in the 21st century, women gets discriminated when they apply for jobs and often end up doing jobs with low wages compared to men. The discrimination in employment pushes women to an insecure position with low salary compared to men. Women with low wages and salaries faces limitations when it comes to asset accumilation and also for processes like application of loans and this reduces their economic participation. This is what happens because of discrimination as they fail to secure jobs that they deserve. The non- working women are usually entitled with bulk household chores that is completely unpaid and as this work doesn’t have a time limit, these women get very little time take part in economic opportunitites that are available for them. (UN WOMEN, n.d.) The household activities of women are something that is not recognised by the society as a work but as a responsibility. Even well educated women might settle up with household activities instead of working because of familial situation or sometimes pressure. In typical Indian families, there is still the practice of men going out for work and women are entrusted with the responsibility of household chores. The years a women spent on education before her marriage and all her other professional skills are left under utilized as she spends most of her time on household activities.
Capability can be defined as “ the freedom of an individual to lead a life he/she wishes to” (Amartya Sen, 1993). Fiancnial capability is the capacity to take part in financial activities, it is a combination of multiple factors like knowledge, skillset , attitude etc. Financial literacy and inclusion are two factors which provides ability and chance or opportunity to take part in the financial market. A financially literate person can make use of his skills and kowledge in in the market and make use of his opportunity of taking part in the financial activities.
Financial literacy is another key concept that should be taken into consideration. Financial literacy can be explained as the knowledge and understanding of using financial instruments. A financially literate person tries to understand the dynamic market and uses his knowledge to make financial decisions. OECD defines finacnial literacy as “ a combination of awareness, skill, knowledge, attitude and behaviour necessary to make sound financial decisions and ultimately achieve individual financial wellbeing” (OECD, 2011).
OECD codncuted a pilot study in 14 countries and developed an instrument to understand the financial literacy of people from various background. Financial knowledge, financial behaviour and attitude are the important elements taken under consideration to analyse financial literacy. Basic knwoldge and awareness about important concepts and investment options available in the market is expected out of a financially literate person. The behaviour of an individual has an impact on the financial wellbeing of the person. In the study conductedm to understand the behavioural aspects of the individuals, questions about thoughts before making a purchase, timely payment of bills etc. were included in the questionnaire.Attitude and preference of the consumers matter a lot when it comes to the financial literacy. The negative attitude of people towards fututre would make them priortise their short – term needs and this affects their saving as they do not have long term financial plannning (Adele Atkinson, 2012).
A combination of financial planning and literacy can be considered as a pre requisite for taking part in financial market activites. However, financial planning at an individual level is something anyone can do efficiently with continuous practice.