‘Empowering women is smart economics’

‘Achieving women’s economic empowerment through social protection programmes essential’
Representational Photo
Representational PhotoFile/ GK

With an aim to reach out to the weaker sections of the society and empower women in economic endeavours, the Jammu and Kashmir government has launched a series of schemes to benefit the start-ups, especially women entrepreneurs.

“Empowering women socially and economically is our prime mission,” Mission Director, Jammu and Kashmir Mission Youth, DrShahid Iqbal Choudhary said. He said that Jammu and Kashmir Mission Youth has also notified the ambitious Tejaswini Scheme for implementation across Jammu and Kashmir.

He said that the Mission Youth has set a target to cover 2000 women entrepreneurs under the scheme during the current financial year. A budgetary component of Rs. 12 crore has been earmarked by Mission Youth on account of government subsidy for the scheme for the current financial year. The scheme has the distinction of being the first of its kind under which repayment of financial assistance will be interest free. It has been specifically modeled to ensure that businesses set up by these young women turn into viable and flourishing enterprises.

According to officials, the scheme launched by Lieutenant Governor, Manoj Sinha, in June, 2021 is a start-up funding programme for adolescents and young women of Jammu and Kashmir making them empowered and self-dependent through their own business ventures.

The broad aim of the scheme is to provide financial assistance to the young women of 18 to 35 years of age for setting up gainful self-employment ventures, suited to their skills, training, aptitude and local conditions. Under the scheme, female entrepreneurs shall be facilitated to avail financial assistance under Mudra from J&K Bank to the extent of Rs 5.00 lakh. Mission Youth, J&K shall provide an amount of Rs. 50,000 or 10% of project cost as subsidy. Besides, the interest component of the loan shall also be sponsored by Mission Youth as a special incentive and repayment of loan will technically be interest free for the young female entrepreneurs who apply for assistance under the scheme.

The scheme intends to provide assistance to all eligible young women who are domiciles of J&K and have a qualification of matriculation and above. It will also cater to enterprises where women entrepreneurs hold not less than 50% of financial holding besides providing assistance to set up women centric businesses and micro start-ups. In view of low participation of women in various entrepreneurial and livelihood generation activities, Mission Youth has conceptualized this scheme for young women of J&K to uplift the status of women in the society.

Similarly, the Jammu & Kashmir State Rural Livelihoods Mission (UMEED) is also running several schemes which are women oriented. “UMEED - a centrally sponsored scheme, gives new lease of life to rural women amidst the pandemic,” Managing Director, Jammu & Kashmir State Rural Livelihoods Mission, Dr. SehrishAsgar said.

“Women entrepreneurs are transforming and challenging traditional understandings of professional success in the current times,” adding “Scores of women entrepreneurs in the self-help group from various districts across J&K are scripting a success story in the fight against COVID in rural areas.”

Jammu & Kashmir State Rural Livelihoods Mission has a mandate to reach out to 66% of rural population across the erstwhile 125 blocks. Link them to sustainable livelihood opportunities and nurture them till they come out of poverty and enjoy a decent quality of life.

Officials said that the programme is under implementation in 96 blocks across 20 districts. So far 405226 poor women have been brought within the fold of SHGs; whereas 4185 Village Organizations (VOs) and 442 Cluster Level federations have been formed. 46720 SHGs have been formed and uploaded on MIS. The members have contributed Rs. 135.98 crores as their own internal savings. Bank accounts have been opened for all the SHGs i.e. 100% bank accounts opened.

‘Breaking Barriers’

Not long ago women faced tremendous barriers as they sought opportunities that would set them on an equal footing with men. Going back a mere quarter century, inequality between women and men was widely apparent—in university classrooms, in the workplace, and even in homes. Since then, the lives of women and girls around the world have improved dramatically in many respects. In most countries—rich and developing—they are going to school more, living longer, getting better jobs, and acquiring legal rights and protections.

According to the World Bank’s 2012 World Development Report: Gender Equality and Development, closing these gender gaps matters for development and policymaking. Greater gender equality can enhance economic productivity, improve development outcomes for the next generation, and make institutions and policies more representative. The report says that many gender disparities remain even as countries develop, which calls for sustained and focused public action. Corrective policies will yield substantial development payoffs if they focus on persistent gender inequalities that matter most for welfare. To be effective, these measures must target the root causes of inequality without ignoring the domestic political economy.

According to development practitioners and experts, the safety net programmes around the world have proven positive impacts for gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.

“Achieving gender equality and women’s economic empowerment through social protection programmes is essential not only as a right but also as gateway to realizing broader long-term development goals including education, health, and other social and economic strategies for the women, households, and community at large,” founder, Ehsaas, a Srinagar based policy group and development practitioner, Ezabir Ali, said.

“But interestingly we have seen a large base of support now coming from the family and support to the working women and to those who are out to become self-reliant and a burden on their families. This trend should be encouraged,” she said, adding “we run a progamme called Samanbal which is purely a safe social space for women to share their issues and concerns and lot of women who had come out with their issues have come out of these and moved ahead positively.”

Business Lead at Groxery, Farah Zaidi, said “Our Society largely seems to be reluctant to accept women as heads. There is man’s-planning even in the response to mails for business deals. Within the team also women face not being easily accepted to order or direct,” she said. “When I go to different enterprises for Business to Business deals, they generally want a man to discuss and sign, though not all respond the same way. Some are very open and friendly. Such government run schemes would at least put things at the right perspective.”

“Being the business lead I sometimes take care of the marketing campaigns, while negotiations people quote much higher rates for promotions and don't give space to negotiate and it's also the other way around which means they trickle down to cheapest possible prices when they have to get something from us.” She said that support of the family to women was vital in her pursuits. “The support of my family, especially my partner is the most important thing which works for every woman who wishes to lead.”

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