On Thursday, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman shared in the budget 2024 session that the Modi government plans to raise the goal of women beneficiaries in the Lakhpati Didi Scheme from two crores to three crores. She highlighted the impactful role of 83 lakh Self Help Groups, involving nine crore women, in reshaping rural communities. These groups have already helped nearly one crore women achieve the status of lakhpati didis. The announcement was made during the presentation of the interim Budget 2024 for the upcoming fiscal year starting April 1, 2024.
Nirmala Sitharaman Celebrates Women’s Advancements
Sitharaman highlighted the Modi government’s previous schemes for women, praising Indian women’s active engagement in the workforce and STEM courses in budget 2024. Over the past decade, female enrollment in higher education has surged by 28%, with girls and women constituting 43% of STEM course enrolment, marking one of the highest rates globally. The increasing participation of women in the workforce reflects these measures. She emphasized key initiatives, such as making triple talaq illegal, reserving 1/3 of seats for women in Parliament and state assemblies, and attributing over 70% of houses under PM Awas Yojana to women, elevating their dignity, according to the Finance Minister.
Budget 2024 Unleashes Entrepreneurial Potential
Pallavi Singh Marwah, Senior VP of SPPL, stated,
“I applaud the simplified process of securing a 34 crore loan for entrepreneurs. The commitment to equal representation is evident with a 43% women enrollment in STEM courses and the allocation of 1/3 seats in the government. Empowering women economically, especially in setting up businesses, not only leads to job creation for the same gender but also contributes to increased GDP and poverty reduction, benefiting families and communities, as recent studies indicate.
Overcoming challenges as a woman entrepreneur in India is no small feat, and government encouragement will provide a significant boost, especially for those from economically weaker backgrounds. The rise in women entrepreneurship is a pivotal step towards global collaborations, offering India an additional platform to expand networks and access global markets,”
The Finance Minister in budget 2024 also announced the government’s commitment to encouraging cervical cancer vaccinations for girls between the ages of 9 to 14, emphasizing prevention.
HPV Vaccine Trials and Ayushman Bharat Scheme Expansion
Trials for HPV vaccines, crucial for cervical cancer prevention, faced a setback earlier, marred by controversy in 2010 when some girls reportedly died on live TV after receiving an HPV vaccine. Cervical cancer globally ranks as the fourth most frequent cancer in women, trailing behind breast, lung, and colorectal cancer.
In a significant move, the government has expanded healthcare coverage under the Ayushman Bharat scheme to include all ASHA workers. The Finance Minister announced, “The health cover under the Ayushman Bharat scheme will now encompass all ASHA and Anganwadi workers and helpers.”
Boosting Women’s Economic Empowerment and Savings in Budget Initiatives
In the previous budget, Sitharaman highlighted the economic empowerment of women, envisioning the transformation of Self-Help Groups (SHGs) into viable income-generating producer organizations and sustainable women enterprises. The budget provided assistance for the supply of raw materials and improvement in design, quality, branding, and marketing of their products, enabling them to scale up operations for larger consumer markets, similar to start-ups growing into unicorns.
Sitharaman 2023 Budget introduced a ‘Mahila Samman Saving Certificate’ with a fixed interest rate of 7.5% for two years. This certificate allowed deposits in the name of a woman or a girl child, with a maximum deposit amount of Rs 2 lakh and a partial withdrawal facility.
Sitharaman emphasized in her interim Budget 2024 speech, “We need to focus on – Garib, Mahilayen, Yuva, and Annadata; Their needs and aspirations are our highest priorities.” With the female labour force participation rate reaching 24% in Q2FY24, addressing key concerns faced by women in the workforce is anticipated.