*Shri Indevar Pandey, Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development gives welcome address
Agra has hit the headlines not due to the Taj Mahal,but it is hosting the G20 EMPOWER Inception Meeting on 11th and 12th February 2023 at the Taj Convention Hotel.
The Summit is providing an opportunity to develop a roadmap, policies and for mobilising common strengths towards promoting equality and women-led development.
G20 EMPOWER endeavours to be the most inclusive and action-driven alliance among businesses and governments to accelerate women’s leadership and empowerment across G20 countries.
The three focus areas under India’s G20 Presidency are to be: “Women's Entrepreneurship: A win-win for Equity and Economy”, “Partnership for promoting women's leadership at all levels including at grassroots” and “Education, the key to women’s empowerment and equal workforce participation”.
The G20 EMPOWER inception meeting began with a grand welcome that the G20 delegates received from the vibrant city of Agra. The whole city celebrated with flags in their hands and with cultural performances en route from the airport to the meeting venue.
Day 1 of the event began with an early Yoga session facilitated by the Ministry of AYUSH with the goal of spreading the benefits of yoga for enhancing physical and emotional well-being.
This was followed by a Power Breakfast with women leaders in unconventional roles highlighting their inspirational stories in overcoming the challenges they have faced. The delegates were addressed by Ms. Chhavi Rajawat, India’s first MBA Sarpanch from Rajasthan, followed by Ms. Chiquita Gulati, a food entrepreneur. The session provided a flavour of the grit of some of the most enterprising women leaders from India through first-hand experience sharing.
Shri Indevar Pandey, Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development, subsequently gave his welcome address, stating that in the 21st century, global growth will come from the countries of the South, with India having the potential to demonstrate the leadership of the Global South by showcasing women's leadership and innovation.
Shri Pandey highlighted several women-centric initiatives taken by India, such as gender budgeting in 27 out of the 36 States and UTs, as well as the Unified Payments Interface (UPI), which has been one of the great innovations of the century bringing women and men into the fold of digital financial inclusion.
The Minister of Women & Child Development and Minority Affairs, Smt. Smriti Zubin Irani, in her Keynote Address stated that “If you want to get your future right, if you want to be future-ready, make sure that women are the centre of the discourse and that women are at the centre of your decisions”.
She also focused on how India’s G20 Presidency is a watershed moment in history. India is keen to play a key role in finding pragmatic global solutions for the well-being of all, and in doing so manifest the true spirit of 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (or ‘the world is one family’).
She particularly emphasised the scale of India’s SHG story, highlighted the importance of women’s leadership at grassroots levels and efforts for ensuring availability of banking & financial services to every woman. Besides, she also cited the quest for gender justice in India through a gender inclusion fund in the National Education Policy, construction of toilets for every household and introduction of a menstrual hygiene protocol.
In his Special Address, Shri Amitabh Kant, G20 Sherpa focused on how India holds the G20 Presidency at a time the world is facing several challenges such as those of recession, climate change and the need for climate finance, and more. He highlighted Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s vision that India’s G20 Presidency would be inclusive, decisive, outcome-oriented and action-oriented. He indicated that for India to further increase its rate of growth, it would be essential to raise women’s per capita income and put them into positions of leadership.
Shri Kant stressed the various initiatives taken by India which have been driving women’s empowerment, such as the Jan Dhan Yojana, Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana, as well as recent budgetary provisions aiming to scale up SHGs. He stated that the recommendations of the G20 EMPOWER initiative may find a place in the Leaders’ Communique and shall resonate with India’s ambitious outcomes.
The remarks of Dr Sangita Reddy, Chairperson, G20 EMPOWER encapsulated the idea of incorporating the women’s progress agenda through Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Education. Using digital inclusion, G20 EMPOWER will take this to the next level and drive women’s leadership through digital skilling and fluency.
She highlighted two India-led platforms that can drive the global women’s empowerment agenda. First, a platform developed by the Government of India, NASSCOM Foundation and others for digital literacy and future skilling, with a curriculum that would be developed for use in India and the World. Second, a mentorship platform for women that has been developed in partnership with NITI Aayog, which is being launched shortly.
In her concluding remarks, Dr Reddy said ‘The new definition of a billionaire is not someone who makes a billion, but someone who touches a billion lives’.