Indo-Japan Consultation on Women at Work in India and Changing Social Norms
UN Women, in collaboration with the Embassy of Japan, and FICCI, organized the Indo-Japanese Consultation on Women at Work in India and Changing Social Norms.
The event saw participation from key stakeholders, including dignitaries such as H.E. Mr Suresh Prabhu, Minister of Railways, GoI, H.E. Mr. Kenji Hiramatsu, Ambassador of Japan to India, Ms Keiko Takegawa, Director-General, Gender Equity Bureau, Cabinet Office of Japan, Mr. Amitabh Kant, CEO NITI Aayog, Dr Miwa Kato, Regional Director, UN Women Office for Asia Pacific, and Dr Rebecca Tavares, Representative, UN Women Multi Country Office for India, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka.
The timely consultation places itself in the context of strong Indo-Japanese relations, including the culmination of sixty years since the historic Indo-Japanese Cultural Agreement, with 2017 marked as the year of Japan-India Friendly Exchanges, by Prime Minister Modi and the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. 2015 also witnessed the formalization of the India and Japan Vision 2025: Special Strategic and Global Partnership – Working Together for Peace and Prosperity of the Indo-Pacific Region and the World, with a focus on enhancing connectivity and transportation, supporting key infrastructure development, poverty reduction and social sector development.
Women, as key agents to achieve the transformational economic, environmental and social changes required for sustainable development, will be fundamental to this partnership. Women’s economic empowerment is essential to economic growth. McKinsey Global Institute found that if women fully participate in the labour force, 28 trillion dollars of global growth could be unleashed.
At the consultation, H.E. Mr. Suresh Prabhu, Union Minister for Railways in India noted that “If all women in India were to receive just the minimum wage, that itself would boost India’s GDP by 1-2%”, however, stressing that “the justification for women’s empowerment is not just economic- it is an important social and human rights issue.”
His Excellency Mr. Kenji Hiramatsu, Ambassador of Japan to India emphasized gender equality and women’s empowerment as crucial for the accomplishment of a vibrant and growing society. “Gender issues should be incorporated in holistic manner in the development agenda of countries, just as they are addressed holistically in the SDG framework”. He maintained that Japan remains committed to fulfill its social obligations by continuing to contribute for the realization of a “society where women shine” in India. “We are ready to expand cooperation, especially in sanitation, education, and vocational training initiatives”, the Ambassador highlighted.
Dr Miwa Kato, Regional Director, UN Women Office for Asia Pacific, outlined the importance of global frameworks, such as the SDGs, and the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment which recognise women as key agents to achieve transformational economic, social, and environmental change at the country-level. The Sustainable Development Goals, for the first time, provide an overarching global framework to empower women at work, especially through Goal 5: Achieve Gender Equality and Empower all Women and Girls, Goal 8: Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all, Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries, and Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities.
The Indian and Japanese government have reiterated their ongoing commitment to the SDGs and their related targets, especially gender equality, that need to be achieved by 2030.
In India, with a female labor participation rate of only 27%, and a vast number of women in unpaid and informal work, the government is committed to empowering women through large-scale initiatives such as the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (Save the Girl Child, Educate the Girl Child) scheme, the National Skill Development Mission, Make in India, Smart Cities, and the Jan Dhan Yojana for rural women to open bank accounts. Recognizing the strong link between reducing violence against women and women’s economic empowerment, particularly the need to ensure safe public spaces and transportation, the Indo-Japan consultation had the twin objective of:
Exchanging models and good lessons to engender planning for empowering women.
Building concrete interlinkages between women’s economic empowerment and transforming social norms.
Ms. Keiko Takegawa, Director-General, Gender Equity Bureau, Cabinet Office of Japan, highlighted that UN Women remains their strong partner, recieving substantial contribution from the Japanese Government. The Government of Japan, through the leadership of Prime Minister Shinzō Abe has taken up the promotion of gender equality as a priority, particularly the elimination of violence against women.
Ms. Vasvi Bharatram, President, FICCI Ladies Organisation reiterated that “Equal rights for women is also a business and economic imperative- it is fundamental to ensure that their talent and leadership potential is not wasted.”
L-R: Dr Rebecca Tavares, Representative, UN Women Multi Country Office for India, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka; Mr. Amitabh Kant, CEO NITI Aayog; Mr Deepak Premnarayen, UN Women’s Business Sector Advisory Council in India; Executive Chairman and Founder, ICS Group; Dr Miwa Kato, Regional Director, UN Women Office for Asia Pacific; H.E. Mr Suresh Prabhu, Minister of Railways, GoI; H.E. Mr. Kenji Hiramatsu, Ambassador of Japan to India, Ms Keiko Takegawa, Director-General, Gender Equity Bureau, Cabinet Office of Japan; Ms. Vasvi Bharatram, President, FICCI Ladies Organisation