As the adage goes, a woman is the ‘architect of a family, nation and the world’ and hence, the growing conversation about the acute need for gender equality makes imminent sense. Moreover, realisation is mounting that equality is not a women-centric issue, but an economic one, as it’s only in an equal society that organisations and nations will be able to realise their fullest potential and thrive.

So, on Budget Day, it was heartening when the Finance Minister said, “This is a Budget for every woman wanting to stand up and being counted” and then went on to outline a series of measures from tax waivers to incentives planned to encourage women become entrepreneurs.

A McKinsey Global Institutereport points out that improving women’s equality could add $12 trillion to global growth and increasing women’s labour force participation by 10 percentage points could add $700 billion to India’s GDP by 2025. This is a certainty as, across the world, there is ample proof that valuing girls and women is critical to making societies more prosperous.

Also, empowering them economically does lead to reduction of poverty, as women tend to invest more of their earnings in their children and communities. The government is doing its part with progressive programmes such as the Skill India Mission.

Collective action

A definitive amidst this is that only when we act collectively we can make change happen towards creating a truly gender equal world. So, the journey towards an equal and enabled India needs to begin with positive action in every Indian home.

Every Indian family must educate its daughters and prepare them to become capable future professionals or entrepreneurs. Alongside rigid social norms around marriage, work and household duties must change and even the simplest chores must be equitably divided. Above all, safety of women is paramount and, to that end, at a very young age boys must be taught to respect girls.

At one end, while India has a considerable road ahead to match the best in the world with regard to labour-force participation rate, financial and digital inclusion, sex ratio at birth, etc., yet many women have been shattering the glass ceiling and are in leadership positions across sectors. Likewise, an encouraging development was the recent Supreme Court ruling, that granted permanent commission to women officers in military services, similar to their male counterparts, a significant step towards building a gender equal and gender neutral India.

As a member of a pioneering healthcare family, I am well aware that women in India tend to neglect their own health, as they are unaware that good health equals wealth. This is another aspect that needs to change in our nation

It is time to raise a clarion call to accelerate positive change in the way women in India approach their own health and well-being. This is important as regular health screening and understanding of risk factors that lead to non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and stroke could save millions of precious lives and avert avoidable untimely mortalities.

So beginning with International Women’s Day in 2020, let each one of us make the effort to pro-actively care for the health of at least one women in our life and contribute to building a gender equal, healthier and wealthier world.

The writer is Vice-Chairperson, Apollo Hospitals, and Vice-President, Healthcare Federation of India