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Women in rural India are breaking stereotypes as their incomes rise

A few products and handicrafts made by rural women (Photo: IANS)

Women in rural India are breaking stereotypes as more and more of them are taking on the sceptre as key decision makers. Though until recently most women were primarily engaged in the agriculture and allied sectors only, they are now aggressively looking at entrepreneurial roles with an aim to expand their income levels. According to a report published by the State Bank of India (SBI) overall per capita women deposits has increased by Rs 4,618 in the last five years empowering them with economic independence.

With rising aspiration levels, many women who are not engaged in farming are exploring alternative employment opportunities as well.

And many are extensively using technology for the purpose.

Easier access to credit, technology, more proactive approach by self help groups and other institutions such as non governmental organisations (NGOs) besides multilateral agencies such as World Bank and rapid expansion of the zero interest bank accounts under Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) are some of the reasons that have led to the beginning of a transformation for women in rural India.

The Economic Survey this year pointed out that the Rural Female Labour Force Participation Rate (FLFPR) rate has increased from 19.7 per cent in 2018-19 to 27.7 per cent in 2020-21. Analysts said that the figure has gone up further.

The rapid feminisation of Indian agriculture has actually led to growth in the number of women farmers choosing to become entrepreneurs naturally as well as strategically, Reality+, a sister publication of Exchange4Media noted.

Take the case of Kalapa Jha, a Darbhanga based entrepreneur. Jha, with her sister-in-law Uma Jha decided to launch JhaJi Store, a brand of homemade pickles and chutneys from the Mithilanchal region of Bihar, in October 2020 at a time when the country was grappling with the acute economic contraction amid the Covid 19 wave. The Jha sisters-in-law are not only now the primary breadwinners for their families, they are job creators too.

Unsurprisingly, this has led to an increase in women’s incomes across states. The economic independence has led them to play a more active role taking decisions on spendings. “Invariably these entrepreneurs hire women and though the salaries may not be significant, it allows those who work to earn additional bucks,” an analyst dealing with rural economy told India Narrative.

The SBI report added that though the share of individuals in total deposits declined during the year, the share of women customers in total deposits continued to increase to 20.5 per cent in 2022-23. This has been possible owing to the multiple government-run schemes and programmes aimed at boosting women empowerment. The share of women deposits in overall rural deposits increased in post pandemic period to 30 per cent in 2022-23 from 25 per cent in 2018-19.

More than 55 per cent of total PMJDY beneficiaries are women.

Though the picture varies from state to state, transformation in rural India has begun but for the momentum to pick up, more women must join the nascent trend of economic empowerment in the countryside.

Also read: Flipkart and Amazon on government’s radar to empower rural women