Report of the High Level Committee on the Status of Women in India: Volume IV
The Government of India set up the High Level Committee on the Status of Women in India in 2013. Its mandate was to examine the social, economic, health and political status of women in the country since 1989 and evolve policies based on women’s needs. The Committee submitted its report (in four volumes) in 2015.
The report assesses the status of women in India in “all aspects of their lives”, including age, class, caste, religion, ethnicity, region and ability. It recommends measures for women’s ‘holistic empowerment’, evaluates the impact of existing policies and legislative changes, and identifies gaps in their implementation. The Committee says that while there has been progress in women’s education and their participation in local governance, the status of most women is not equal to that of men, especially women from marginalised sections of society.
Volume IV of the report (chapters 15-18) looks at women’s relationship with the environment; their representation in media and journalism; women-centric programmes and schemes; and government institutions dedicated to women’s issues. It also contains an epilogue, which summarises all the volumes of the Committee’s report (see volume I, volume II and volume III of the report).
While environmental resources (including land, water, air and forests) sustain many livelihoods, men and women use them in different ways – and are also impacted by environmental degradation differently. They respond to it based on their societal roles, and the report says policies must reflect these gender differences to ensure environmental protection and gender justice.
The report says that women’s lives are tied more closely to natural resources than the lives of men. Women also have more farm-based tasks than men and provide their households with water, food, fuel and fodder for which they have to walk longer distances due to scarcer resources. This is rarely acknowledged in planning for natural resource management or women’s rights.
Climate change affects women more than men. They work in large numbers in India’s secondary sector and export markets, and the manufacturing of artisanal products, textiles, garments, and food processing, which are heavily dependent on natural resources, employ a large workforce of unorganised women workers.
According to a 141-country study by the UNDP of natural disasters from 1981 to 2002, women, girls and young boys are 14 times more likely to die than men, especially in places where the socio-economic status of women is low.
Historically, Indian women have been at the forefront of struggles for land, forests and fishing rights. Some of the struggles for forests include the Chipko Movement, the Appiko Movement and Save Silent Valley, while the Narmada Bachao Andolan was against the dam projects that would displace thousands.
After analysing key natural resource-related policies, the Committee found that gender equality is not a priority in planning. In fact, the Ministry of Women and Child Development has been excluded from the steering committees of the National Action Plan on Climate Change and all the State Climate Change Action Plans.
There is no national policy promoting women’s equal ownership and use of natural resources. However, various Five-Year Plans recommended involving women in managing water, agriculture, livestock, fisheries and forests through institutions such as the Agriculture Technology Management Agency (ATMA) Board, watershed committees, forest committees and irrigation water users’ associations at the village and district levels.
The report recommends that gender concerns and women’s participation should be the central focus of all environmental conservation efforts and that women should have greater control over resources.
As per a 2006 report by the Media Study Group, a Delhi-based think tank, women constituted 17 per cent of 315 key decision-makers surveyed in 37 national newspapers and TV channels in English and Hindi. There were no women among the few decision-makers from the Other Backward Classes in these organisations.
According to an article for UNESCO by journalist Ammu Joseph, only 10 per cent of All India Radio’s employees in 2012 (in news and non-news positions) were women. In the same year, only a quarter of NDTV’s ‘corporate leaders’ in the channel’s board were women. Women constituted five of the nine key personnel and anchors listed on NDTV 24x7’s website.
A 2004 survey by the Press Institute of India and the National Commission for Women on the status of women journalists found that 22.7 per cent of respondents had faced sexual harassment in the workplace.
While the government has initiated many women-centric schemes for economic development, education and health, these schemes have faced various issues, including resource allocation, outreach, monitoring, and evaluation.
Focus and Factoids by Shreya Bose.
The High Level Committee on Status of Women in India
The Committee’s chairperson was Dr. Pam Rajput, and its members were Dr. Simrit Kaur, Dr. Razia A.R. Patel, Dr. Mridul Eapen, Manira Pinto, Kavitha Kuruganti, Bindu Ananth, Rita Sarin and Dr. Ravi Verma.
Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India, New Delhi