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FICCI FLO Hyderabad Interactive Session with Venkaiah Naidu at Taj Deccan

Many women all over the world have proved themselves as dynamic, vibrant, sincere and perfect in many fields. Their efforts and role in shaping a nation's development have proved that women are in no way inferior to anyone. They are efficient and perseverant enough to face all odds, challenges and obstacles.

Recently, new age India had its first-three women fighter pilots of the country and are set to script a new history when they will fly military jets. Chief Ministers of three states are managed by Women. With the elevation of Nirmala Sitharaman from Minister of State to a Union minister, Prime Ministers cabinet has six women ministers, including two in the powerful -Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). Today's modern and educated women have shed away their inhibitions and fears. They are actively participating in the personal and professional sphere and rightly so.

On one hand, they are perfect homemakers and on the other, they have been successful in the roles of professionals, academicians' bureaucrats and politicians. The modern Indian women have honed their skills and have jumped into a battlefield of life fighting against social restrictions, emotional ties, religious boundaries and cultural clutches.

Arundhati Bhattacharya, Sushma Swaraj, Indra Nooyi, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Chitra Ramakrishna, Shikha Sharma, Chanda Kochhar, Vinita Bali, Kumud Shriniwasan, Naina Lai Kidwai, Nisaba Godrej are some of the women who are contributing in their unique way in economic journey of India as CEO's or heads of various organisations and financial institutions.

A woman, whether she is a young girl, a home-maker, or a CEO, has immense promise and potential within her. Tapping into this huge untapped resource and creating a paradigm shift from 'I can't' to 'I can' is the essence of building a New India. An India where women can freely live their lives with a sense of self respect, self-worth and dignity, enjoying social and economic equality.

Recently, the first ever global survey on women's empowerment, targeting today's millennial women was launched by 4GGL - (For Girls Global Leadership), a non-profit and a social change movement for empowering women.

One of the critical questions asked in the survey was on what young women want most in this world- and guess what the answer was- the most pressing and important issue topping the list of these millennial women was for the end of violence against girls and women. Education and higher needs of life came only after this.

Another very important question in the survey was to those young women of modern India, who were empowered and became agents of change. They were asked - "how did this happen?" 46% of them replied "self-awareness," a process of "knowing who they are." Empowerment is not just about being smart enough, tough enough or brave enough to push our boundaries. It's a matter of knowing our own capabilities and limitations and working on them.

"There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women." said Kofi Annan, 7th UN Secretary General.

It is heartening to note that India has jumped a massive 30 places to 100 in the World Bank's ease of doing business rankings this year, driven by reforms in access to credit,power supplies and protection of minority investors. Our own honourable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, wants the country in the top 50 on the ut along with this is the other shocking news: India has slipped 21 places on the World Economic Forum's (WEF) Global’Gender Gap index to 108 (out of a total of 144 countries), behind neighbors China and Bangladesh, primarily due to less participation of women in the economy and low wages. You all will agree with me, if we have to achieve a New India in 2022, then we also have to take responsibility to improve our rankings on Global Gender Gap

Given all the current issues, let's consider, what I think, are some of the key drivers / tools that will help us accelerate towards a NEW AGE India and and a better Global Gender Gap Index:

  1. Education: Educational achievements of a woman can have ripple effects for the family and across generations. In rural India most of the girls drop out of schools due to the unavailability of separate toilets for them. The recently launched 'Swachh Bharat Mission' focusing on improving sanitation facilities in schools and every rural household by 2019, can prove to be very significant in bringing down the rate of girls dropping out of school.
  2. Role of Information Technology: It has empowered women by enhancing their skills, knowledge and income. Flexi timings and work at home with internet has enabled the more women to join the labour force. It's potential to sweep across political, geographical, economic and social barriers have helped women build a new identity.
  3. Replacing 'Patriarchy' with Parity: A strong patriarchate society with deep- rooted socio-cultural values continues to affect women's empowerment. The need of the hour is an egalitarian society with Pay Parity and Gender Parity, where there is no place for superiority and women enjoy equal respect, opportunity and dignity.
  4. Justice for women: Justice delayed is justice denied. Efforts should be made to restructure the legal process to deliver fair and in- time justice to the victims of heinous crimes like rapes, acid attacks, sexual harassment, trafficking and domestic violence. The idea of fast-track courts, devised to impart speedy justice to the victims of rapes and other crimes against women, is a good initiative taken by the judiciary and the Government of India.
  5. Equip women for self-defence: Training programs in self-defence and safety of women at work should be rolled out to help woman take care of their safety and not fall victims to crime.
  6. Sustained efforts by the government and NGOs to empower start-ups and women entrepreneurs through skill development programs and subsidised loans. In fact we at FICCI Flo are doing our bit in this direction (if you wish you can mention briefly what you are doing)

If we eliminated the gender gap, if women matched men in terms of work - not only participating in the labor force at the same rate, but also working as many hours and in the same sectors - global GDP could increase by an estimated $28 trillion, or 26%, by 2025. That is like adding another United States and China to the world economy. Should I say more on how important it is to manage the Gender Gap and empowering women.

"Empowering women is key to building a future we want"- said Amartya Sen, Nobel Prize Laureate in Economics.

And to achieve the status of a New India by 2022, we in India need to transform its colossal women force into an effective human resource and this is possible only through closing the Gender Gap.

With these thoughts, let me now take the honour of introducing our chief guest of the day, the Vice President of India, Shri Venkaiah Naidu. As a prominent Bhartiya Janata Party leader, he brings with him a great experience and a political career full of achievements. In some of his key roles, he has served as National President, BJP (Union Minister of Rural Development, and Union Minister for Urban Development, Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation and Parliamentary Affairs.

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