INDIA: Breaking the Glass Ceiling

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India has a rich history of women in positions of power, yet the country ranks 129 out of 146 countries on the Gender Inequality Index, and women in India face barriers at all levels in areas such as food insecurity and education.

To confront the social, economic and political challenges faced by women in India, a group of female activists, local leaders and entrepreneurs in New Delhi met with Helen Clark, chief of the United Nations Development Programme on Wednesday.

“Over the years women in government at the local level have gained a new sense of power,” Clark said. “These gains have to be protected and used effectively to make a meaningful difference in the lives of all women, and provide space for leadership among women to emerge at different levels.”

Usha Devi is one of 35,000 women trained in financial management and enterprise development as part of a UNDP-IKEA Foundation initiative in the state of Uttar Pradesh. She spoke of the need for women to go beyond micro-credit and self-help groups to set up businesses that eliminate the middle man and forge direct market linkages.

Today, as the manager of the dairy producers association, Devi is leading 12,000 female entrepreneurs. “This is the result of women’s collective thinking and power,” she proudly pointed out.

Women are capable of bringing about lasting change to improve their lives and that of their community,” said Kurunji Ulaka, a tribal woman from the state of Odisha. “We constitute half the population and therefore need to have equal importance and status.”

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