Educated Indian women first to collect fruits of growth

11:15, March 08, 2010      

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by Hemlata Aithani

Twenty-five-old Moakala Longchar, who works for a news agency in the national capital New Delhi, moved out from Dimapur in the northeastern state of Nagaland bordering Myanmar to pursue higher education and better job prospects.

"I did my secondary and higher studies in Bangalore. Later, I came to New Delhi to find work in media. Since Delhi is the hub of news and media centres, I thought it would be the best place to look for work and get exposure. Obviously, I would not have grown professionally and achieved so much if I had stayed back home," said Longchar.

Longchar is one of millions of young Indian women who are struggling to catch up with the fast economic growth this country has been experiencing over the past decade.

Now, urban middle-class women have joined the ranks of those elites. With professional degrees in hand, these highly educated women are ambitious, financially independent, aware of their rights and know how to take charge of their life.

The economic growth of the country has gradually created various job opportunities for women. However, the development has mainly taken place in cities.

Doris Dey, 27, is a successful freelance writer and a creative director in India's film city of Mumbai. She chose New Delhi to pursue her graduation before moving on to Mumbai to find her dream work in TV production houses.

"Studying in Delhi can give you exposure. You can take part in extracurricular activities. You can study and work at the same time and by the time you graduate you already have a lot of work experience. I got a job instantly after my graduation," recalled Dey.

The educated, financially independent and upwardly mobile women are just one side of the coin. Its flip side is still a stark contrast.

Marginalized rural and unskilled urban women, who make up an overwhelming majority of Indian women, continue to live on the fringes.

Roopmati, a daily wage earner, gets 150 rupees (three U.S. dollars) a day by carrying mortar and bricks on her head at construction sites.

After a hard day at work she cooks meal for her family, tends to household chores, looks after her four children without any assistance from her husband, who just watches TV and smokes tobacco.

The money both of them earn is mostly spent on raising the family. She never went to school but hopes her children get basic education.

In big Indian cities, millions of rural women earn subsistence wages as construction workers, maids, laundry workers and deliverers.

Indian female literacy rate is 54.16 percent against 75 percent male literacy rate, according to a 2001 census. Only 46 percent of rural women are literate, according to optimistic estimates.

According to National Literacy Mission of India, the main reasons for low literacy level of women are "gender based inequality, social discrimination and economic exploitation, occupation of girl child in domestic chores, low enrollment of girls in schools and low retention rate and high dropout rate."

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, addressing a woman's conference in Delhi on Saturday, said participation of girls in schools has improved over the last few years but their retention in schools continues to be a matter of concern.

Unlike urban women, rural women mostly have little say in decision making and have no financial control in families.

Government has launched many programs to educate, empower and enhance women's health and social status in the country to help them become equal partners with men.

This year's theme for International Women's Day "Equal rights, equal opportunity: Progress for all" stresses the need to do more for women's equality.

Source: Xinhua
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