To mark International Women's Day on 8th March 2018, Plan India jointly with the Delegation of the European Union to India and the Embassy of Finland on behalf of all EU Member States, reaffirmed their strong commitment to promote gender equality and empowerment of women and girls, so that they can learn, lead, decide and thrive.
They pledged to work together, and with the Government of India and civil society partners, to continue to advocate and raise awareness around gender equality, gender parity and equal access to opportunities for women and girls.
India and the EU, the two largest democracies in the world, are natural partners, diverse in cultures but united in a shared commitment to inclusive growth, democracy and human rights. During their last summit in October 2017, the leaders of India and the EU reiterated the importance they attach to human rights cooperation, including gender equality and women empowerment in all spheres of life.
India is currently the fastest growing major economy in the world and a strategic partner for the EU, which is India's first trading partner (with trade in goods and services amounting to well over 80,000 crore rupees).
Activities included a panel discussion on ‘Women and Economic Empowerment’ with Tomasz Kozlowski, Ambassador of the European Union to India, Nina Vaskunlahti, Ambassador of Finland to India, Bhagyashri Dengle, Executive Director, Plan India along with Nisha, a member of Plan India’s Banking on Change project.
The discussion highlighted factors that inhibit women, both in urban and rural areas, from playing a bigger role in the economy. It also brought much needed focus to the most common reasons for the prevalence of gender-based discrimination in various forms, both within families and outside. The panellists also exchanged experiences and lessons learned, both in Europe and in India. Gender-based discrimination, they pointed out, begins before birth and continues through early childhood, adolescence and maturity, in the process excluding millions of girls from access to education and optimal health, besides making them vulnerable to social ills like child marriage and trafficking. Lastly, the panel also touched upon the issues of safety for girls and women, coupled with the fear of sexual harassment at the workplace, which deter a large number of women from seeking employment.
In the ten days leading up to Women's Day, Plan India and the Delegation of European Union, together with the embassies of Finland and the other EU member States have jointly promoted awareness of the issues around gender equality and the need for wage parity through their digital platforms to amplify engagement and reach out to a wider audience. They have been working together on several initiatives including a campaign for the empowerment of girls on the International day of the Girl Child on October 11, 2017, with Indian girls "taking over" the role of Ambassadors for a day.
Plan India has been working to ensure gender equality through programmes like Samanta (wage parity), Saksham (economic empowerment) and Banking on Change (financial literacy and inclusion). The focus of these programmes is to provide financial independence to young women and enable them to transform their lives and break the cycle of poverty for themselves and their families. The long term objective is social transformation through the creation of an environment where girls can realise their full potential.