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May the force be with you

Paul Noronha | Updated on March 08, 2019 Published on March 08, 2019

Marking International Women’s Day with a toast to Mumbai’s toiling workers

India has seen a dip in the share of women in the workforce, according to a recent report by the National Sample Survey Office. The labour force participation rate (LFPR) of women was 31.2 per cent in 2004-05, but fell to 23.3 per cent in 2018. The demand for equality in workplaces has, however, grown, with a spurt in the number of women applying for positions in fields traditionally seen as male bastions. The official theme for this year’s Women’s Day — celebrated across the world on March 8 — was ‘Balance for Better’, a shoutout for breaking gender stereotypes. In Mumbai, women have for long sought to break the mould. Many have opted for jobs usually held by men and are steering autorickshaws as well as trains. “I found dignity in driving a rickshaw and became financially independent,” says Kajal, a 23-year-old high school graduate from Virar, Maharashtra. “It’s for you to not hold back in this cluttered world,” stresses 24-year-old Sneha Jadhav, a train pilot at the Reliance Mumbai Metro. An electrical engineer by profession, Jadhav manoeuvres Mumbai’s bustling women force every day as she works her eight-hour shift. Women from low-income families strongly feel the importance of establishing their identities and support their families by taking up jobs in small-scale industries or the unorganised sector. They are rolling out papads, making pottery or working as labourers. “My son has started his own business of making gloves and I like to help him,” emphasises Sulochana Borkar, a 75-year-old Dharavi resident.

As we encourage a world free of gender biases, it’s necessary to educate and spread awareness about the issues women face while braving their way through crowded local trains, buses and metros without equal transit facilities for women commuters. The Indian workforce needs to fight the growing disparity in the dismal LFPR, ranked 11th from the bottom among 131 countries, by giving women equal opportunities and added advantages.

Published on March 08, 2019