Women in decision Making by

Dr. Vibhuti Patel, DIRECTOR, P.G.S. R. Prof. & HOD, University Department of Economics, SNDT Women’s University, Smt. Nathibai Thakersey Road,Chuchgate, Mumbai-400020 Phone-26770227®, 22031879 Ext. 243(O) Mobile-9321040048 E mail: vibhuti.np@gmail.com (Presented at Refresher Course on Women’s Studies organized by Academic Staff College of University of Gauhati, Guwahati, Assam on 1-7-06) Factors Affecting Decision-making by Women Poverty, lack of access to basic resources, lack of access to political party lists, low salaries, and discrimination in the workplace are considered as root causes of women's under-representation in economic and political decision-making. If women have to be concerned with survival, there is little time left for assuming positions of leadership and economic power. Recognition of women’s unpaid work and the need for sharing of family and household responsibilities, along with training in non-traditional skills, are key factors to help explain why so few women worldwide have actual decision-making power in the households, community and economy. Role of Voluntary Organizations, Self-help Groups Women's participation in preventive diplomacy and negotiations at the peace table were considered to be essential to achieving peace and development and for diverting military expenditures for peaceful purposes. It was suggested that decision-making processes, involving both women and men, including in situations of intrastate conflict, could help to create a more peaceful approach. The importance of creating national machineries, inter-ministerial bodies, national committees and women's bureaus to ensure women's equal participation in all aspects of decision-making, with adequate levels of staffing and funding, and located at the center of political power, was cited as critical. In addition, the mainstreaming of gender issues in institutions was noted as another means to promote the advancement of women in decision-making. The need for effective monitoring mechanisms was emphasized, with time-bound targets and measurable indicators to evaluate progress. In keeping women in power, greater harmonization between professional work and family responsibilities for both men and women was considered essential. Greater sharing of parental and household responsibilities between women and men was deemed to be paramount. Recognition of women's unpaid work, need for flexible working hours and sharing of family responsibilities with men, and the need for women to participate in decision-making at the household level, were also cited.


The importance of education and training to enable women to have greater control over their lives was emphasized. Training women candidates in the conduct of electoral campaigns and fund raising had proved to be important for effecting the election of women to public office. Once in office, women often need training in parliamentary procedures and budgetary matters. Leadership training was considered essential for women at all levels. The revision of education curricula and textbooks remains an important means of eliminating gender-based stereotypes. Attitudinal change was considered to be especially important at the earliest stages of life when boys and girls have not yet internalized sex stereotypes. The role of the media in perpetuating sex stereotypes and the need to ensure a positive view of women and portrayal of girls in non-traditional roles [were] noted. Continued stereotyping of women and their negative portrayal as sex objects on television and in films undermines the struggle for women's equality. The value of stimulating public debate on the diverse roles of women, particularly in public life and in the family was emphasized. Despite the growing presence of professional women in the media, decisions about editorial content and production issues are still largely controlled by men. An urgent need was identified for case studies on "women making a difference" and for the creation of a database to monitor women's participation in government, corporations, political parties, trade unions, international organizations and the military. Women need to seek greater partnership with men to build coalitions and strengthen alliances to advocate for -women's political empowerment and representation. Women leaders and older women and men represent a valuable resource for mentoring young women as future leaders. National and regional women's parliamentary caucuses should also include women from the private sector and the civil service. International organizations, governments, non-governmental organizations and women parliamentarians should join efforts to support the development of women leaders through training, so as to facilitate their entry into the political arena. An enabling environment should be established for women's full participation and equal representation in power and decisionmaking. Review of Legislation for Women’s Entitlements, Protection of Property Rights and Social Security. In 1994, the 73rd and 74th Constitutonal Amenadments brought 10 lakh women as elected representatives in the local self government bodies due to reservation of seats for women in the village councils, tehsil councils and district councils as well as municipal councils and corporations. Eleven years of governance has made them confident to deal with public economics, area development agenda and gender audit of budgets. Quotas and targets in jobs, legislatures and political parties are suggested as necessary to accelerate the equal representation of women in all areas of governance. Looking at the controversial nature of quotas, it should be seen only as a temporary solution. Those who oppose affirmative action by the state in favour of women believe that women should still enter into power-structures strictly on the basis of competition, laissez faire in the labour, factor and product markets.


To put forward women’s economic agenda, their leaders need to have agenda setting power. Electoral reform, specifically in the adoption of proportional representation in place of plurality systems, is a possible means for increasing the percentage of women in parliaments. The bill on 33 % reservation of seats in the parliament has already been introduced. For past two decades, the issue has remained extremely controversial. Those who support the bill suggest that there should be no less than 30-40% and no more than 60-70% of either sex in decision-making positions. Women Empowerment Policy, 2001 of Government of India can be effective only when its principles and programmes get translated into a plan of action. *For implementation of the plan, there has to be an efficient resource management by elected representatives and motivated civil servants, sincere financial commitments for women’s schemes & programmes and consistent monitoring by women’s bodies within the state apparatus and civil society. Schemes for Safety-net for Women. The tenth five year plan has demanded that each and every ministry of the state and union governments are bound to channelise 30% of funds/benefits from development sector to Women. Recommendations for Employment A policy for women's employment has to include strategies for challenging the sexual division of labour and gender ideology inside as well as outside the workplace. Policies for access- include access to employment, education, training, credit etc. 1. Policies to improve the quality of employment, including her position in the household. 2. Policies to preserve employment and to protect material and human resources and assets. A. Proper Implementation of Laws, Schemes1 1. The existing labour legislation, i.e. the Industrial Disputes Act, the Factories Act, the E.S.I.S. Act and the Minimum Wages Act, should not be withdrawn but strengthened to cover all workers.2. 2. Some mechanism is required to evaluate the value of work under ERA. 3. Minimum wages need to be strictly implemented with ward level committees of workers. 4. Employment Guarantee Scheme-The central and state government has to ensure macro policies that will absorb workers in labour intensive units and occupations. The Employment Guarantee Scheme needs to be expanded and improved for urban workers. The focus of such employment schemes can be on building infrastructure, slum development and housing. The National Renewal Fund should be extended to cover the unorganised sector and a substantial part should go into the retraining of workers.3 B. Law Reform4

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Bajpai Asha, Women’s Rights at workplace, TISS, 1997. Nandita Shah & Nandita Gandhi, Aakshara aksharacentre@vsnl.com Maithreyi Krishnaraj Bajpai Asha

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i. Maternity Benefit for ALL working Mothers irrespective of the number of employees. Crèches should be provided for children of all workers and not merely women workers irrespective of the number of employees. There could be a common fund for each industry. ii. Family Leave: The minimum paid maternity leave period to be applicable to ALL working mothers irrespective of the necessary length of continuous service or the number of employees, irrespective whether married or un married and whether the child is natural born or adopted. Birth or adoptive fathers of a new child entitled to paid paternity leave on the birth or adoption of a child Employees to have a right to take time off to care for children, disabled or sick dependants. The options available include: unpaid leave with automatic re-entry to an equivalent post in terms of grade, type of work etc., Part time working, Temporary re-arrangement of working pattern, Flexitime Request Right available to working parents with young children (below 5 years of age or employees who have to care for disabled or sick dependants. The request can cover: the employee will have a right to return to work following availing of any of the above leave. The staff member must undertake in writing to return to work. No employee will suffer a detriment, be unfairly dismissed or be discriminated against for a reason connected, with pregnancy, childbirth, maternity, paternity, adoption, dependant care leave or the right to request flexible working, or time off to take care for a dependant. There shall be no loss of seniority, sick leave entitlements and incremental progression.5 iii. The Sexual Harassment Of Women At The Workplace (Prevention And Redressal) Bill, 2004. The Bill provides for the prevention and redressal of sexual harassment of women at workplaces, or arising during and out of the course of their employment and matters connected thereto, in keeping with the principles of equality, freedom, life and liberty as enshrined in the Constitution of India and as upheld by the Supreme Court in Vishakha vs. State of Rajashthan [1997(7) SCC.323] and as reflected in the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) which has been ratified by the Government of India. Scenario in the post- Vishakha guidelines period: Sophia Centre for Women’s Studies and Development study shows that awareness and implementation of the Supreme Court’s guidelines is very low and there is need to spread awareness on the same. Study of Samhita (Kolkata) throwing light on the processual dimensions of Bhanvari Devi Case has alarmed the state and civil society of the enormity and gravity of the menace called SHW.6 Recently The Times Foundation organized a workshop for the corporate world on SHW. Testimonies of several participants of the workshop revealed that SHW is prevalent even in the companies where the victims are highly educated and have considerable economic leverage. Similar views have been expressed in the business journals. (Business Today, 1-9-2002) To address Sexual harassment in the informal and small-scale industries, free trade zones, special economic zones, the labour departments may be directed to set up complaints committees and give them publicity or it could be made mandatory for every industrial estate and export zone to have its governing body set up a grievance cell for complaints.


Bajpai Asha, Recommendations given to the UGC Standing Committee for University and College Teachers SCWSD & ICHRL: Sexual Harassment at Workplace, Working Paper Series, 1:1, Sophia Centre for Women’sStudies and Development, 2003.


This will require co-operation between women’s groups, official bodies, trade unions and employers. Women’s groups can play an active role in disseminating information about sexual harassment and redressal procedures in industrial zones and estates. They can also raise the issue of the definition of skills and equal pay for comparable work so as to tackle gender inequality at the workplace. The Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention) Act must be enacted by the nation states to provide a remedy within the criminal justice system. This is to provide for prevention of sexual harassment of women and women employees that is work related.7 iv. Legal Protection for Informal Sector Legal protection has to be given to the informal sector worker in the form of regular employment, notice period, compensatory pay or some form of unemployment insurance. It has been a longstanding demand of the representatives of the informal sector workers, trade unions and NGOs (Non Governmental Organisations) that workers should be registered as daily or piece rated workers with an identity card. This single act would provide information on the number of irregular workers and access to them for welfare measures. Social welfare for the informal sector workers can be implemented by levying a cess on employers in industrial estates. Social services can be dispensed to the workers through existing government infrastructure and tripartite boards.8 C. Needs of Women Workers in the Informal Sector: Recognition as workers, Supplementary development programs, Vocational training for skill up gradation, Provision for maternity benefit and post natal medical facilities, Protection against domestic violence and sexual harassment, Family benefits, Medical reimbursements, Retirement benefits (old age pension), Insurance schemes and policies, Compulsory savings schemes, Micro finance schemes and interest free loans, Legal guidance and awareness9 D. Emphasis on Education and Skills A clear emphasis needs to be given to education, type of education of poor and especially of women. Women’s access to employment is limited (amongst other reasons) because of lack of education and skills. The central and state government has a free education policy for girls but there is no follow up on the number of dropouts. Girls usually drop out from the high school. Special attention and incentives should be given to girls and parents for them to return to school. E.Capacity Building and Training Extra allocations of funds will be necessary for tying up the training institutions with job placement organisations or industries. Trainings for jobs have to be combined with additional inputs around building other life-skills towards critical awareness about women’s status, improvement in negotiating skills and programs around building and maintaining women’s assets including savings.

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Bajpai Asha, Sexual Harassment – An Organizational Challenge, Management Review, ibid 9 Stree Mukti Sanghatana, 2004.


F. Social Audits International consumer and workers groups have attempted social audits at the firm level to ensure workers’ rights. They have to be made mandatory not only for export firms but for all production units. G. Self Help Group Movement Self Help Groups are organisations of women from the downtrodden section of the society that empower the women to be self reliant through capacity and confidence building and by making micro-credit available and accessible to women. The SHG movement has taught women the value of saving and the strength of working as a group. Some of the problems faced by the movement are10: • Weak groups being formed. Delay in gradation of groups by banks • Subsidy seekers have ruined the programme. • Implementation by raw NGOs – need for their training. Regarding bank credit to `defaulters’ • Insensitivity of bankers • Delays in release of money by District Rural Development Authorities Group activity does not take place All members may not take up economic activities Recommendations for strengthening the SHGs: 11 • Groups should be only formed by NGOs or Women Development Corporations with the requisite knowledge and ethos of SHG development and micro-credit movement. • Once an NGO is selected, the nurturing grants should be released every quarter to it, after reviewing training milestones, group savings and internal lending data and not on the basis of bank gradation. NGOs should receive nurturing grants for at least five years, during which they should support the group. • A state level agency should be appointed to train NGOs and also be permitted to appoint their own NGOs to implement the programme in addition to implementation through its field workers. • SHG groups are not broken up by the banks insistence to drop the member who is a defaulter or whose family member is a defaulter of the bank. • Along with initiatives improving the programme delivery mechanism, bankers need to be trained and sensitised every three months, because of the high turnover of bankers in rural areas and the ignorance of bankers coming from urban postings to the needs of rural areas. • NGO releases should not be made contingent to the group taking up economic activities. NGOs should be evaluated in the basis of group capacity building and training.
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Rupa Mistry (2004), MAVIM, Mumbai. ibid


• This SHG movement is now at the crossroads and is poised for expansion and the problems need to be addressed immediately. H. Property and Land Rights There is much gender bias in our property laws. Everything appears equal on paper and that is where it ends. Recommendations • Testamentary powers that deny the daughters their property rights should be restricted • Allow daughters full right of residence in the parental dwelling houses. • Women must be given ‘the right to residence’ hence putting private household property in the joint names of partners. A care however has to be taken that wherever women have property in their name, men did not appropriate under the pretext of property being in joint name.12 A woman on being abused in her matrimonial home has little choice but to continue to endure it. Her natal household is usually unwilling to have her back for fear of the social stigma attached to single women. These and other considerations restrict a women’s reliance on her parents’ households in times of potentially dangerous marital relations. Bill on Matrimonial property has been drafted that needs to be passed. The matrimonial property bill will give her rights I. Budget Auditing and Planning The Budget is an important tool in the hands of state for affirmative action for improvement of gender relations through reduction of gender gap in the development process. It can help to reduce economic inequalities, between men and women as well as between the rich and the poor. Hence, the budgetary policies need to keep into considerations the gender dynamics operating in the economy and in the civil society. There is a need to highlight participatory approaches to pro-poor budgeting, green budgeting, local and global implications of pro-poor and pro-women budgeting, alternative macro scenarios emerging out of alternative budgets and inter-linkages between gender-sensitive budgeting and women’s empowerment. Serious examining of budgets calls for greater transparency at the level of international economics to local processes of empowerment. 13 Women’s Component Plan to assure at least 30% of funds/benefits from all development sectors flow to women. The Component Plan approach should be executed with a mandated approach of convergence of services at all levels of governance, through inter-sectoral committees of all Ministries/Departments at the Centre and the States with specific responsibility given to the local self government bodies and Municipalities to administer at the grassroots level Social Structure and Social Security of Women - Entitlements, Access to Control Over Economic Resources, Ensuring Economic Independence and Risk Coverage. Affirmative Action for social security by the state, employers and SHGs need to consider the following points: Vibhuti Patel, WDC, Mumbai University E mail- vibhuti@vsnl.net Patel, Vibhuti (2003) “Gender Audit of Budgets”, Working Paper, Department of Economics, Mumbai University. E mail- vibhuti@vsnl.net



• Women can be empowered by providing economic rights at workplace, through the SHG movement and through giving property rights and land reforms to ensure land rights to women. • Women in order to empower themselves must be familiar with banking operations like opening and managing their own accounts. Women should be issued bills in their names.14 • Women with income below taxable limit should be exempted from paying stamp duties. Tax benefits should be extended to women who were only earners in a household. This would be a part of affirmative action for women15. • No aspect of economic life is gender neutral. Therefore, every ministry at the Centre and State levels must have a women’s division and it should be involved in all decision-making processes like planning, budgeting, implementing and monitoring. Women and child development department must be separated. This would help break the stereotype that women alone were responsible for children. And above all, there is a need to provide training and capacity building workshops for decision-makers in the government structures, village councils, parliamentarians and audio-visual media16 Power of Decision-Making at Household Levels, Class and Community Level Women’s self organization only can ensure power of decision-making at the household , Class and Community Levels. During 1970s and 1980s, the women's movement highlighted marginalisation of women from the economy. The efforts of women activists were directed in agitation and propaganda for women's rights, street fighting against escalating violence against assertive women and team building to counter sexual harassment at work place. In the 1990, the women's movement is demanding its legitimate place within the mainstream with its own agenda of empowerment of women with partnership with men (Martha Nussbaum and Jonathan Glover, 1995). It has been able to identify its allies in all sections of society. Its horizontal and vertical networking has created congenial atmosphere to execute development agenda with the help of effective use of information technology, communication channels, modern managerial practices and efficient law and order machinery. The most difficult areas have been providing educational opportunities for the poverty groups, low -cost housing, environmental and occupational safety and human rights concerns. Development thinkers and workers need safety nets to operate without pressure from the local bullies and vested interests. Bullies of each and every communities are increasingly taking advantage of development workers/teachers/ academicians because they are non-hierarchical in their functioning and also because they are not commercial minded in their day-to-day affairs. When individual women activists sense threat/pressure in advance, they do change their accommodation and jobs. This is another form of sati. The state, political parties and beneficiaries of women's groups too have duty to ensure democratic and multicultural atmosphere within which the women activists can take judicious and gender-just decisions about allocation of developmental resources and development funding for construction Anantram, Sharayu and Vibhuti Patel (2004) “Report of Round Table on Women Empowerment Policy”, Urdhva Mula, Sophia Centre for Women’s Studies and Development, Mumbai, Vol.2, No. 2, pp.103-139. 15 ibid 16 ibid


of schools, community centres, sports-clubs, libraries and reading rooms, low cost hospitals and low cost housing for the poverty groups leading settled life. Economic Status of women and its Effect on work Participation Rate, Income Level, Health and Education in Developing Countries and India. Important issues for Global and local level Advocacy: a. Strengthening of Food Security and Right to Food Top down and bottom up initiatives to stop malnutrition and starvation deaths created by stabilisation programmes resulting into withdrawal of state from food security commitments. b. Public Health issues must be highlighted thro’ a national network, People’s Health Assembly. The Nation States should follow the UN mandate of 5 % of the GDP for budgetary allocation on the public health. c. No to dumping of unsafe contraceptives for coloured and poor women. d. Ban sex-selective abortions of female foetuses in South Asia and China. e. State Support for Women’s Education not only at the primary school level but also at the secondary and high school level. Forum for Child Care has demanded that one room of the school should be converted into crèche so that girls who have to look after their younger siblings can also join the schools. More budgetary allocation and actual funding for girls’ education. f. Free Legal Aid and People’s Court: Justice and Peace Commission, a network of community organisations working in Mumbai provides free legal aid to poor women to deal with marital disputes, divorce, maintenance, custody of children, alimony, property, right to stay in the parental or matrimonial homes. g. Housing Rights are the most important. The NGOs have demanded that in al1 housing societies and state supported housing schemes, 10 % houses should be reserved for female-headed households. h. Sanitation, Public toilets: There is an urgent need to take up the issues of urban sanitation in terms of higher budgetary provision from the state and municipal funding. i. Safety nets for women in the subsistence sector of the economy in terms of loans, infrastructure, storage and transport and state subsidy and support price for agriculture, animal husbandry, dairy development, horticulture and floriculture. j. Environmental Issues: Natural resources, being humankind’s common heritage, must be preserved for the use of actual and future generation with the perspective each human being has an access to water, air, energy, etc. according to her or his needs. Commercialisation and privatisation of these resources must be stopped. Biological diversity (flora, fauna, forests, ecosystems) must be preserved and indigenous women’s collective wisdom must be recognised, respected and valued. k. Occupational Health- Women scavengers and recycling workers under extremely hazardous circumstances. They should be given masks, hand gloves, gum- boots and free and quality medical care. l. Crèches: the state, employers and trade unions should provide more day care centres for the children of working mothers in the community and near the workplace. m. Implementation of Labour standards: Erosion of labour standards as a result of globalisation should be fought tooth and nail. Let the nation states compete to give better wages and work-conditions to the workers.


n. Global Code Against Commodification of Women’s Body as a spare-part for sale, pornography and obscene portrayal of Women in Media: Universal standards for decent portrayal of women in media must be evolved. g. Community Oriented Media: Social action groups need to interact closely with the mainstream media, and also generate their alternate media to highlight women’s rights to dignified life. Let us be realistic and accept the fact that Globalisation is a Fate accompli. Then let us make concerted efforts so that globalisation has a human face. This can happen only through the global solidarity and sisterhood of the toiling women all over the globe. We have to think globally and act locally to make all decision-making bodies accept that women’s rights to survive are the human rights. Role of Kinship in Allocation of Domestic and Social Resources Kinship networks play predominant role in determining age, gender, location-based division of rights and responsibilities, autonomy and control, restrictions and liberties allocated to women. Hence, to change the mindset of communities become a major task to enhance decision-making power of women through investments in social infrastructures such as education, skill development, public health and sanitation, environmental and occupational safety.