Throughout the month of March, I4I will be hosting the latest evidence and perspectives to mark International Women’s Day 2023. Follow this campaign across platforms and join the conversation using #Ideas4Women
UN Women has outlined the theme “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality” for International Women’s Day 2023 (IWD 2023) to spotlight the impact of the digital gender divide on social and economic inequalities. In the recent past, I4I has hosted pieces that explore women’s complex relationship with digital technology and spaces, and its impact on their lives.
What does the term ‘digital’ mean for ALL women? SEWA Bharat’s study asked women microentrepreneurs to submit visual responses to this fundamental question: “digital ka matlab aur istemaal” (the meaning and usage of the term ‘digital’) in their lives. They find that women in rural areas recognise appliances such as refrigerators, tea kettles, washing machines etc. as improving their quality of life by reducing the amount of time and labour spent on unpaid house and care work (Roy 2022). This follows findings from historical data from mid-20th century US, which show increased adoption of labour-saving home appliances as women came forward to fill jobs left vacant by men during the Second World War (Bose, Jain and Walker 2021). However, not all technology is complementary to women’s labour force participation: a 22-30% decline in women’s rural employment in agriculture in India over the past two decades can be attributed to rising farm mechanisation (Afridi, Bishnu and Mahajan 2021).
While India’s labour force has been worryingly de-feminising, does the latest in technological innovations hold the promise of improved outcomes for women’s employment? The Covid-19 pandemic precipitated lasting impact in the way society functions – including the introduction of remote work. Research has found that work from home has been beneficial for both employers and employees (Bloom and Singh 2022), and women in particular can benefit from the flexibility to work remotely which would allow them to accommodate household and childcare duties. Women. however, are less likely to own mobile phones and access the internet, be time-poor and have restricted mobility. In this context, digital labour market platforms have the potential to improve the female labour force participation rates by reducing job search costs (Afridi 2023); but without a robust skilling ecosystem, this potential may remain unrealised and keep women limited to low-skill roles or self-employment.
In the first week of our month-long campaign, articles discuss the government’s recent efforts in the Union Budget 2023-24, like the launch of the Skill India Digital Platform, and its implications for women; and allocations reported under the Gender Budget Statement. The third article this week also shares the latest evidence from developing countries on how access to 3G internet affects women’s employment outcomes.
Has Budget 2023-24 been successful in balancing gender priorities?
The gendered employment effects of mobile internet access in developing countries
Pinelopi Goldberg, Gaurav Chiplunkar
Week two will look at the social norms which govern the lives of women and girls from adolescence until marriage – beginning with research on how co-residence with in-laws, especially fathers-in-law, and adherence to norms of filial piety can reduce employment among married women; next are findings from an experiment to get family members to view women's employment more favourably, which empowers women to make more household decisions.
Living with the in-laws: Effect on women's employment in India
The empowerment effects of women’s employment
Madeline McKelway, Julia Redstone
Next, we present anecdotal and qualitative evidence on how gendered time-use patterns and restrictions on mobility leave young girls overburdened with domestic work and stuck in longer commutes: reducing the amount of time that they are able to dedicate to their education.
Time poverty for girls: Implications for educational attainment and workforce participation
Anamika Priyadarshini, Wendy W. Cheung, Madhu Joshi, Shubha Bhattacharya
Inching towards college: Exploring gender and mobility in India
Ramya Vijaya, Naureen Bhullar, Ravneet Bains
Week three focuses on how domestic and societal violence shapes women’s life, especially health outcomes. It will start off with a presentation of parliamentary constituency-level data on child marriage, which can be used by electorates to demand an improvement in development outcomes. This is followed by an article which finds that Hindu-Muslim riots lower the age of marriage of women which affects their educational attainment and lowers age at first child. The week concludes with disheartening evidence that women suffering domestic violence are affected physically, in more ways than one. They face a hidden health burden: an increased risk for hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
A data story on female child marriage in India
Shubham Mudgil, Swathi Rao
The effect of domestic violence on cardiovascular risk
In the last week of March, we will feature articles on facets of political empowerment: from women’s engagement with local state actors in rural Bihar to the positive downstream effects of women’s representation in Parliament.
Left behind or left ahead? Implications of male migration on female political engagement
Maternal mortality and women’s political power
Sonia R. Bhalotra, Damian Clarke, Joseph F. Gomes, Atheendar Venkataramani
To round off Women’s Month, we will feature Siwan Anderson’s insights on how to understand ‘female empowerment’, conceptually unbundle its multiple dimensions, and track how these components interact and co-evolve– this clarity is important to guide development and policy initiatives.
- Afridi, F (2023), ‘The promise of technology for women’s employment’, Ideas for India, 19 January.
- Afridi, F, M Bishnu and K Mahajan (2021), ‘Gendering technological change: Evidence from agricultural mechanisation’, Ideas for India, 14 July.
- Bloom, N and N Singh (2022), ‘The future of work from home’, Ideas for India, 29 July.
- Bose, G, T Jain and S Walker (2021), ‘Fruits of liberation? Women’s work participation and adoption of household appliances’, Ideas for India, 28 May.
- Roy, A (2022), ‘Mirroring realities: Digital technology through the eyes of women microentrepreneurs’, Ideas for India, 29 November.