At the graduate/postgraduate degree level, most girls opt for arts and science, or nursing and medicine. 
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International Women’s Day was celebrated on March 8, 2024. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in its ‘Gender Social Norms Index’ quantifies biases against women, capturing people’s attitude on women’s roles along four dimensions: political, educational, economic and physical integrity. It is the last two dimensions that men leave for women. Of the eight billion people across the world, 45% are women. Men claim that a woman’s job is to maintain homes, make food, make and care for babies, while men bring home the income. In many ‘developing countries’ across the world, women do not go to schools, but work as farm labourers and housemaids. The educational dimension is thus given a miss.

However, India, dubbed by the western media as a ‘developing nation’, has shown the way ahead with its inclusive policies. Since the last two decades, India has offered free education to all children — poor or rich, rural or urban — all the way to the high school certificate, in all the 28 States and Union Territories. And about 12 crores of these are girls. When we turn to higher education, at the graduate/postgraduate and doctoral degree level, most girls opt for arts and science, or nursing and medicine, while boys go for undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in computer science, biotechnology, and digital technology at the Ph. D level. But at most STEM (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Institutes across the country, only 20% are females. Also, among the faculty members in IITs, CSIR labs, AIIMS, IISERs and IIMs, only 20% are women. We thus need to improve this gender gap.

Happily enough, there are scores of women who have turned entrepreneurs across India today. While many of them are involved in the entertainment business, advertising, film industry and beauty products, quite a few women with science and technology degrees have established biotechnology and drug companies that make useful and profitable products. In addition, many women with MD degrees specialise in ophthalmology (vision care for the needy), neurology, pregnancy-related issues (a child born is a child saved for the future), and other medical disciplines.

Thus, with all the efforts of the government across India, the private and public-spirited women entrepreneurs, India has fast become not a ‘developing country’, but a developed one!

This is true even at the governmental and political level. Statistics tell us that nearly half the world’s people believe that men make better political and business leaders than women. Gender biases are more pronounced in both low and high Human Development Index (HDI) countries. These biases hold across regions, income, level of development and cultures, thus making them a global issue.

Against this background, India (touted as a developing country) has done remarkably better. One example will suffice. The first President of the U.S. George Washington, was sworn in as President in 1789. The U.S. has had 46 Presidents so far. But none of them were women! Here, India has the trump card. Of the 15 Presidents so far, two have been women: Pratibha Patil (2007-2012) and Draupadi Murmu (current President). Even when we look at our immediate neighbours, we have had women heading important offices. Benazir Bhutto was the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Sheikh Hasina is the current Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Bidya Devi Bhandari was the second President of Nepal, and Dolma Gyari was the woman Prime Minister of Tibet between 1991-2011. And several ‘developing countries’ in Latin America have had women Presidents and Prime Ministers.

Let us thus have happy women’s days and years.

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