Conclave on improving women’s economic participation in Andhra Pradesh

I’m excited to have led the efforts to organize a conclave on improving economic participation of women in Andhra Pradesh, co-hosted by the Planning Department, Government of Andhra Pradesh and National Foundation for India. The conclave was aimed at identifying strategies to enable a larger share of women to participate in gainful economic activities and take up leadership roles in politics. This theme is closely related to Sustainable Development Goal 5 – Gender Equality, and interconnected with most of the other SDGs.

Andhra Pradesh realizes the economic imperative of higher female participation rate in the economy – more women participating in economic activities translates to higher GDP and growth. Low women workforce participation rate, gender wage gap, and less percentage of women owning proprietary establishments are some of the symptoms or outcomes of the underlying issues for which the conclave seeks to identify solutions. When it comes to political participation, Andhra Pradesh has a long way to go in gender parity in leadership roles.

This conclave was the first in a series of external engagements to gather ideas to accelerate the journey of Andhra Pradesh towards achieving SDGs – most of them by 2022, and the remaining by 2030. There will be more events through which the government will seek expert opinion and fresh perspectives on the key challenges it faces.

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Ms Shahazadi Shaik (Senior Manager, Brandix Apparel City) speaking at the conclave, flanked by (from left to right) Ms Shreya VS (M.A. Development Studies, TISS Hyderabad), Ms Revathy Ashok (Co-founder-Strategy Garage, CEO and Managing Trustee-B.PAC), and Ms Medha Uniyal (Programme Director (Vocational Training)-Pratham Education Foundation)

We had ~15 speakers from the private sector, CSOs, academia, research organisations and governments. We had ~20 students attending from public policy/ development studies courses from across the country.

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Prof. Pam Rajput delivering the presidential address
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Mr Arun Kumar IAS and Mr Sanjay Gupta IFS outlining the initiatives and vision of the Government of Andhra Pradesh on higher female economic participation

Prof. Pam Rajput (Dean Social Sciences – Panjab University, Member – NITI Aayog Working Group on Gender, Former Chair – High-Level Committee on Status of Women, Government of India) delivered the presidential address. Mr Arun Kumar IAS (Secretary, Women Development and Child Welfare Department) and Mr Sanjay Gupta IFS (Secretary, Planning Department) spoke about the vision of the state in terms of gender parity in the workforce.

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I was honoured to get the opportunity to speak about the initiatives of the state government in adopting and implementing the SDG framework. At the Planning Department, we constantly try to improve our SDG monitoring and reporting system so that the leadership is fully informed where the state stands today and which areas need attention.

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We were joined by students from public policy/ development studies courses from all across India. Six of them presented their work on themes related to women workforce participation. Fresh and young perspectives matter, always.

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We are grateful to the participants of the conclave. There were some really good, thought-provoking comments and questions. We hope to invite a bigger group next time.

We are happy to have received numerous action items to improve women’s economic participation in the state. Most of them are centred around the mindset which needs to be developed which sees women as equal economic actors, paving the way for women to go beyond the jobs which are traditionally seen as “suitable for women”, policies against sexual harassment, safety at workplace, skilling, mobility, transparency, work-life balance, and the need for better data, among many others.

After a detailed study of those, we will put together an action plan for the consideration of hon’ble Chief Minister. We will take the agenda forward, as it is undeniable that Andhra Pradesh cannot reach its growth targets and its vision of becoming the best state in the country without productive and gainful participation of women in its workforce.

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