According to Hindu religious texts, Goddess Lakshmi symbolises wealth and prosperity. Today, women are achieving and excelling in their respective fields. They are truly emerging as reflections of Goddess Lakshmi.
According to a report titled ‘Issue 7: Women Empowerment’ of the United Nations Population Fund, “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to take part in the government of his/her country. The empowerment and autonomy of women and the improvement of women’s social, economic and political status is essential for the achievement of both transparent and accountable government and administration and sustainable development in all areas of life.”
The report adds that achieving equal participation of women and men in decision-making will provide a balance that more accurately reflects the composition of society and is needed to strengthen democracy. While there are huge shout-outs on an issue like women empowerment, the situation in India seems grim. The need of the hour is an egalitarian society without gender biases. Undoubtedly, a self-employed woman contributes to her family’s finances and the country’s GDP. The Economic Survey 2017-18 addresses the deep societal meta-preference in favour of sons and empowering all sections of women remains a critical challenge for the Indian economy.
According to a McKinsey study, Indian women have contributed around 17% of the national GDP for the fiscal year 2016-17, which is less than half the global average of 37%. Advancing women’s equality can add $12 trillion to global growth by 2025 and India can increase its GDP by 16% if it achieves gender parity in its labour force.
Women are increasingly achieving economic independence. Less financial dependence on their male counterparts is making them a significant part of the economy. Women entrepreneurs like Indra Nooyi, the CFO and President of PepsiCo., has helped the company to garner as much as 30 billion dollars in the last couple of years. Vandana Luthra, the founder VLCC, has been awarded the Padma Shri in 2013 for her contribution. In 2015, she was listed as the 33rd most powerful woman in business in India by Fortune India. Naina Lal Kidwai is currently the Country Head and the General Manager of the HSBC Group in India and was conferred the Padma Shri for her contributions to the fields of trade and industry. Arundhati Bhattacharya is the Chair-Managing director of State Bank of India. In 2016, Forbes listed her as the 25th most powerful woman in the world. For her contributions to SBI, the BW Businessworld Best Banks’ Survey conferred on her the ‘Lifetime Achievement’ award in banking. Shikha Sharma is the Managing Director & CEO of Axis Bank. Under her leadership, Axis Bank has received many awards notably, ‘Bank of the Year in India’ for the year 2014 by The Banker Magazine, Financial Times. The Bank was conferred the Certificate of Recognition for excellence in Corporate Governance by the Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI), for the year 2015. As an acknowledgement of her efforts, Harvard Business School published a case study on Managing Change at Axis Bank in 2013. Chanda Kochhar is the current MD & CEO of ICICI Bank, and has enabled the bank to bag several awards under her leadership. Ekta Kapoor, a famous name in the Indian television has single-handedly founded and made Balaji Telefilms, which is a household name today. Currently, she is among the top 10 women entrepreneurs of India.
However, the Economic Survey states that out of 17, there are 10 indicators where India has to catch up with other countries. For instance, the employment of women in the workforce declined from 36% employed in 2005-06 to 24% in 2015-16. It can be seen that while the number of educated women has gone up, the number of employed women has gone down significantly.
The Survey does not point out the rationale for such a skewed education to employment ratio, but it would be interesting to examine this. Almost 66% of women take up “unpaid work”, despite increased education levels. There was an increase in the number of women who earn equal to or more than their husbands from 21.2% in 2005-06 to 42.8% in 2015-16, which resulted in a rise of the number of women in non-manual jobs from 18.9% to 28.2%.
Rural women too are out casting their societal stigma and are stepping towards sustainable livelihood like cottage industries, and small entrepreneurial efforts owned and managed by women. The story of Pabiben Rabari has become famous in Gujarat. Pabiben is the real brand ambassadors and represent the colourful Kutch who has struggled in her childhood and got famed in her younger age. She dared to start one of the first women artisan enterprises ‘Pabiben.com.’
Pabiben was born in Kukadsar village of Mundra Taluka in Kutch. She could not attend school, as she helped her mother, a young widow to raise her sisters. BE spoke to Pabiben Rabari to know more about her struggles and how she has turned into a successful entrepreneur in Gujarat.
Q.How did you start Pabiben.com?
A. My name is Pabiben Rabari and my website’s name is pabiben.com. I had learnt the famed embroidery of my community, but before I could complete my own dowry, the elder council of the community banned its use thinking it to be the main reason leading to late marriages. We were not allowed to spend too much time on it. As professional embroidery was allowed, I joined the women group in 1998. I mastered this art with enthusiasm, Meanwhile, a group of Dhebaria women searched for a way to solve their design problem: how to remain decorative without breaking the community rules. We invented a new art form: machine application of readymade elements, which we called “Hari Jari.” First time in the dhebaria community, I used vibrant combination of trims and ribbons and later it is known as “ Pabi Jari .I made a sample of shopping Bag, It became an instant hit, and was christened the “Pabi Bag !” Pabi Bag has been introduced to the contemporary market. Later my design has been shown in Hollywood and Bollywood films, and enjoys popularity all over the world !
After I started making pabi bags, I thought it would be of no use if I am not able to involve other women artisan from my community. With help of rabari women, I can develop many designs. I was looking for vibrant brand name as
vibrant as my bags. For 3 months we thought different names but all names hidden Artisan Identity, who actually should get credit. Months passed by when we finally realised that it should be named by my name so that people get inquisitive about what pabiben.com is all about. My brand name is so simple but I wanted to give message that a rural woman reach global level with help of technology and creativity. We have immediately started website and Facebook page as well. Gradually, people started taking an interest in the website and Facebook page, and now I am happy that due to the technology, I have reached to the global market. Now any one can easily identify my products and they tell it is pabiben’s bags.
Q.What are the type of products you make?
A. I specialise in making bags. I started making one bag- which was known as the Pabi bag. Today, I make more than 70 types of products including bags, clutches, pouches, Cushions, Runners, Shawls, Stoles and Few Garments. The first bag I made is the Pabi bag. Dhebaria Shopping Bag, Rabari shopping Bags, Happy Hands Clutch, Rabari Raas Clutch, Vibrant Clutch, Kutch Clutch and Coin Purse are among the most popular items made by me.
These bags are made by most of the women in my village. After completing their household chores and teaching their children, they come and contribute their time in making bags. There are 50-60 women who come and work with me. While some work for 2-3 hours, many work for 5-6 hours. They earn a monthly remuneration starting from Rs.5000 to Rs.12,000 depending upon their hours spend on work.
Q. What is your advice for women?
A. I feel each and every women of our country has got special blessings from the God. Women should try and use their potential for creating things worthwhile for them as well as society. I believe a woman has the ability to see and learn things quickly. She shouldn’t let go off the chance and get involved into anything productive.
Q. What according to you is woman empowerment?
A.I feel it is not only a man who can contribute to society, but a woman to have the competence to work with the same pace as a man does. I got a huge support from my family, especially my husband. He had insisted me to start a business of my own and engage other women of my community as well. He did not only support me, but also aided in empowering other women of the village as well. I think women empowerment is “Be capable to think and to choose, Use maximum creativity in our work, Check the potentiality in ourselves, to have a dream and fulfill, Get a self-respect and recognition ”