In a landmark address presenting the 'Vote of Account', Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman delivered an extensive overview of the strides made in women's empowerment over the past decade. Let's delve into the multifaceted aspects of this empowering narrative.
Education: A Gateway to Empowerment
Sitharaman lauded the substantial increase in female enrollment in higher education, with a particular emphasis on STEM courses. Over the past decade, women's enrollment in STEM fields has surged, comprising 43% of total enrollment, a figure that stands out globally. This surge not only reflects a shift in societal norms but also underscores the growing participation of women in traditionally male-dominated domains.
Workforce Participation: Breaking Barriers
The Finance Minister acknowledged and commended the active participation of Indian women in the workforce. Legislative measures such as the prohibition of triple talaq and the reservation of one-third of seats for women in Parliament and state assemblies have played a pivotal role in fostering an environment conducive to women's participation in decision-making processes. Furthermore, initiatives aimed at enhancing job opportunities and ensuring workplace safety have contributed to the increasing presence of women in various sectors of the economy.
Financial Inclusion: Fostering Entrepreneurship
Under flagship schemes like the PM Mudra Yojana, significant strides have been made in extending financial assistance to women entrepreneurs. Sitharaman revealed that over 30 crore Mudra Yojana loans have been specifically disbursed to women over the past decade, amounting to ₹22.5 lakh crore. This influx of capital has not only empowered women economically but has also served as a catalyst for entrepreneurial ventures, thereby driving economic growth and fostering innovation.
Health Initiatives: Prioritizing Women's Well-being
In a significant move towards preventive healthcare, the government announced plans to promote cervical cancer vaccinations for girls aged nine to fourteen. This proactive approach to women's health underscores the government's commitment to ensuring comprehensive healthcare services and safeguarding the well-being of women across all age groups.
Rural Empowerment: The Rise of 'Lakhpati Didi'
The Finance Minister highlighted the instrumental role played by self-help groups (SHGs) in empowering rural women. With eighty-three lakh SHGs comprising nine crore women, these grassroots organizations have emerged as agents of socio-economic transformation. Nearly one crore women have achieved financial independence through their involvement in SHGs, earning them the title of "Lakhpati Didi" or millionaire sisters. Encouraged by this success, the government has set an ambitious target of empowering three crore women through SHGs, thereby amplifying their impact on rural development.
Key Focus Areas: Empowering the Marginalized
FM Sitharaman reiterated the government's commitment to addressing the needs of the impoverished, women, youth, and farmers, often referred to as "garib, mahila, yuva, annadata" respectively. By prioritizing these key focus areas, the government aims to foster inclusive growth and create opportunities for all segments of society.
In her comprehensive budget speech, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman painted a vivid picture of India's transformative journey towards women's empowerment. From education to entrepreneurship, healthcare to rural development, the government's unwavering commitment to advancing the status of women reflects a vision for an inclusive and prosperous India, where every individual has the opportunity to thrive and contribute to the nation's progress.
Watch the full budget speech by FM Nirmala Sitharaman here!
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