UNDP Chief Meets Indian Women Who Have Broken the Glass Ceiling

New Delhi, 14 March 2012: UNDP Administrator Helen Clark met a group of Indian women activists, local leaders and social entrepreneurs here today. The main message that emerged from the discussions was that women could become a force to transform society provided they are politically and economically empowered. While women must challenge long entrenched patriarchal systems to fight for space and voice in the public sphere and in their private lives it is equally important that they are able to earn a living and feed themselves and their children.

Highlights

  • UNDP Administrator Helen Clark interacted with a group of Indian women activists, local leaders and social entrepreneurs on the first day of her visit to India in 2012
  • During her interaction, Miss Clark reinforced the message that women could become a force to transform society provided they are politically and economically empowered
  • Miss Clark also commended the new sense of power that women in government at the local level have gained over the years

“In India many women have served at the national level in the highest offices, and there are nearly one million elected women representatives in local self government. Over the years women in government at the local level have gained a new sense of power. These gains have to be protected and used effectively to make a meaningful difference in the lives of all women and provide space for leadership among women to emerge at different levels”, said Helen Clark during her interaction with women leaders.

India has a rich history of women in positions of power in the economic and political spheres at all levels. Paradoxically a majority of women continue to face several barriers like food insecurity, anemia, lack of assets, and access to secondary and higher levels of education. Most women work in the informal sector which accounts for over 92% of the workforce. They face insecure work conditions, lack social protection and access to financial services. Women in India continue to face exclusion in the social, economic and political domains.

Speaking about her aspirations Kurunji Ulaka, a tribal women from Odisha, said, “Women are capable of bringing about lasting change to improve their lives and that of their community. We constitute half the population and therefore, need to have equal importance and status.”

Usha Devi, one of 35,000 women trained in financial management, enterprise development as part of a UNDP-IKEA Foundation initiative in Uttar Pradesh spoke of the need for women to go beyond micro-credit and self help groups to set up businesses that eliminate the middle man and forge direct market linkages. Today as the manger of the dairy producers association she is leading 12,000 women entrepreneurs. “This is the result of women’s collective thinking and power”, she proudly pointed out.

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