In the wake of India’s 77th Independence Day, a fresh perspective emerges on the country’s remarkable transformation, particularly concerning gender equality. Rural India, an area often marred by challenges, is witnessing an inspiring surge of financial empowerment among its women.
Despite India’s economic upswing, the nation stands at 135th out of 146 countries in the Global Gender Gap Report of 2022, spotlighting gender disparities and limited workforce participation by women.
The McKinsey Global Institute‘s study accentuates this concern, suggesting that India’s GDP could see an 18 percent rise by 2025 – a whopping $700 billion – if women received equal work opportunities.
Central to this discourse is the role of Decentralised Renewable Energy (DRE). DRE innovations are bridging the power and mechanisation gap in rural sectors, unleashing a potential market worth $50 billion in the country’s hinterlands. These innovations are doing more than just powering homes; they are sowing seeds of financial autonomy among rural women.
The government is not just a passive observer in this transformation. Initiatives like Rajasthan’s Rajeevika program offers financial incentives for women to invest in DRE appliances.
On the other hand, the JEEViKA program in Bihar has successfully integrated nearly 10 million rural women into self-help groups, laying the foundation for them to access financial services. Moreover, the Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana (PMMY) stands out, providing collateral-free loans to small businesses, of which approximately 70% have found their way to women entrepreneurs.
The outcome? Over 11,862 women-led micro-enterprises, accounting for 37 percent of the total micro-enterprises registered under the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises. However, the path to complete gender equality in rural regions remains fraught with challenges, necessitating unwavering commitment from both the government and the society.
Entrepreneurial Surge: DRE Innovations Pave the Way
The entrepreneurial arena in India is also pivotal in reshaping the fortunes of rural women. By focusing on livelihood activities within their local regions, startups have carved out opportunities for these women to balance both their household and work obligations. A notable example is Resham Sutra. This startup’s solar-powered machinery aids rural textile artisan communities in silk production, enhancing efficiency while ensuring sustainability. Their innovations have thus far bolstered the incomes of over 15,000 rural women.
Another innovative startup, Khethworks, offers solar-powered irrigation systems, transforming the landscape of small-scale farming in India. Their inventions enable year-round cultivation, with women farmers venturing into horticulture and kitchen gardening. As of now, around 1,500 of these micro solar pumps have been operationalized in India.
Despite this forward momentum, challenges persist. Rural communities grapple with unpredictable cash flow, influenced by market dynamics and climatic uncertainties. However, the embrace of DRE solutions is undoubtedly steering rural women towards a more financially stable future.
Their enhanced access to renewable energy is fostering entrepreneurial spirit, skill development, and market linkages. As India marks another year of its independence, it’s pivotal to recognize the immense potential lying within its rural women – waiting to be unlocked, amplified, and celebrated.