Why we must make our smart cities gender sensitive


Women can’t work beyond 10 pm in Maharashtra in retail sector whereas there are no such restrictions in the Sikkim, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamilnadu.

As the Government of India released the list of another new set of Smart Cities a few days back, a new report on the working conditions for women in various Indian cities brought a new dimension to the much publicized Smart city.

The central question is in this context is are the smart cities really sensitive to the gender concerns and gender parity in terms of working conditions?

The report brought about by the influential American think tank Centre for Strategic and International Studies ranks various Indian cities based on four important criteria: number of women workers in the state, incentive provided to the women entrepreneurs, responsiveness of the judicial system to crime against working women and legal restrictions on working hours for women etc.

In a surprise outcome based on these above-mentioned criteria, the state Sikkim has topped the list in providing enabling working conditions for women followed by Puducherry, and Karnataka.

Looking at the lack of restrictions on women’s working hours, Sikkim, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have removed restrictions on working hours for women which have been one of the major steps towards real and pragmatic gender empowerment in India.

In these four states, there have been no restrictions altogether for working hours for women in retail, information technology, and factories.

In this coveted category, Maharashtra lagged behind as it is yet to remove all restrictions with respect to the working conditions for women.

For example, women can’t work beyond 10 pm in Maharashtra in retail sector whereas there are no such restrictions in the Sikkim, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

Recently in 2016 the International Labour Organisation published an extremely relevant report entitled ‘Women at work, Trends 2016’ focusing on the situation in various countries across the globe with respect to the working conditions for women.

The report claims that work participations still stand out to the prime criteria for gender equality.

As per the report, in the last two decades (from 1995-2015) the global women labour participation rate decreased to 49.6 percent from 52.4 percent.

In addition to this, the ILO calculates that the chances of participation in labour market for women remain 27 percent lower compared to the male counterparts all over the world.

The ILO report terms the difference in labour participation rates among males and females as ‘gender gaps’. What is significant for discussion here is its relevance for the discourse on development. It can be said that the higher the ‘gender gaps’ the lesser will be the development level.

In order to correct the ‘gender gaps,’ the ILO has initiated ‘women at work centenary initiative’ which intends to contribute to 2030 Agenda for sustainable development.

Looking at India the women workforce participation rate, it stands at an abysmally low of 24 percent which is one of the lowest in the world.

Moreover, the working conditions for women in the Indian capital Delhi, which is known for its employment opportunities, have been extremely pathetic.

The lack of speedy disposal of crimes against women has also made Delhi one of the lowest ranked place for providing a conducive environment for working women.

Moreover, the ‘Gender Gaps’ in India has been quite very high due to the presence of multiple socio-economic factors.

As the Government of India has initiated the Smart Cities in a big way and the top 20 Smart cities have been identified as ‘light house’, the need of the hour is to make them not only gender sensitive and inclusive; but they must provide ‘zero- restrictions’ towards working conditions for women.

The meaning and objectives of the Smart Cities will be more effective if the top 20 Smart Cities take concrete legal and administrative steps towards making them truly gender inclusive.

The author analyses policies and can be reached at prusethsujit@gmail.com


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