Kerala has been encouraging gender-sensitive policies and schemes in recent years and is dedicated to empowering women in all spheres of life. This is evident in the fact that the state’s gender budget share has risen significantly in the last six years, increasing from 11.5 per cent in 2017-18 to 20.9 per cent in 2022-23.
On Tuesday, Kerala Health Minister Veena George highlighted this growth and pointed out the deep roots that this progress has in the state’s enabling and empowering society during the G20 EMPOWER (Empowerment and Progression of Women’s Economic Representation) meeting in Kerala.
George described the historical context for the state’s advancements in women’s roles starting from the late 19th century as well as the various social and political changes that led to a more equitable and inclusive society. She also explained the role of the state-run Kudumbashree programme, which has been helping to improve women’s economic opportunities in Kerala since its launch in 1998.
Apart from promoting entrepreneurship, Veena George also talked about the other initiatives taken by the Kerala government, which aim to address issues of wages, safety, occupational health and insurance for different occupational groups.
Dr Sangita Reddy, Chair of G20 EMPOWER and Joint Managing Director of Apollo Hospitals Enterprises, also spoke on the occasion and highlighted the important role played by countries closing the gender gap in achieving economic growth. From her own experience of working at Apollo Hospitals, she shared that 56 per cent of the workforce there is female and there is equal representation of men and women on the board.
Reddy emphasised the need for a shift in perspective and the importance of G20 EMPOWER in making progress for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. She also pointed out the Forum’s prediction that it would take 150 years for women to achieve equal participation of women in the workforce, and expressed the need to focus on creating role models and enabling access to opportunities.
Dr MI Sahadulla, Chair of FICCI KESC and Chairman & MD KIMS Hospitals, shared that Kerala has been working towards empowering women by promoting about 135,000 entrepreneurs in the past year, with 20 per cent of them being women. He also expressed the need for further progress in this area to reach the international benchmark of 50 per cent equality.
The G20 EMPOWER meeting plans to address the gap of economic opportunities faced by working-age women, and this article is just a glimpse at the progress that has been made and is yet to be made.
Apollo Hospitals Enterprises, mentioned in the article, is a leading healthcare provider in India, with one of the largest networks of hospitals, primary care and diagnostic clinics. Founded in 1983, they provide state-of-the-art medical services and are driven by their mission to make healthcare better and more accessible to as many people as possible.
Veena George, the Health Minister of Kerala and a speaker at the G20 EMPOWER meeting, is a politician and member of the Kerala INC. She is the second female Minister in the state in 20 years, and currently holds the brief for Health, Social Justice, Scheduled Caste & Scheduled Tribe Development and Women & Child Development. Additionally, she is also the Chairman of the State Social Justice Board. Through her work, Veena George has been striving for the progress and empowerment of women in Kerala.