In a transformative move towards inclusivity and empowerment, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman highlighted the significant role of women in the Interim Budget 2024. Underlining the government’s commitment to women’s progress, she emphasized entrepreneurship, ease of living, and the dignity that has been increasingly bestowed upon women over the last decade.
Educational Empowerment and Workforce Participation
During her budget speech, Sitharaman acknowledged the strides made in women’s education, particularly in STEM courses. Female enrollment in higher education has surged by 28% in the last 10 years, with women constituting 43% of enrollment in STEM courses, a rate among the highest globally. This educational empowerment is translating into increased participation of women in the workforce.
The Finance Minister also applauded previous initiatives such as making triple talaq illegal, reserving one-third of seats for women in Parliament and state assemblies, and allocating over 70% of houses under PM Awas Yojana to women, contributing significantly to enhancing their dignity.
Economic Empowerment: Loans and Self-Help Groups
One of the key announcements focused on economic empowerment through financial inclusion. Sitharaman revealed that under the PM Mudra Yojana, a substantial 43 crore loans amounting to ₹22.5 lakh crore have been granted. Notably, within the last decade, 30 crore Mudra Yojana loans have been specifically provided to women.
Additionally, the government has recognized the pivotal role of self-help groups (SHGs) in rural areas. Currently, there are eighty-three lakh SHGs comprising nine crore women, playing a crucial role in improving socio-economic conditions. These SHGs have empowered nearly one crore women financially, earning them the title of “Lakhpati Didi” or millionaire sisters. Inspired by this success, the government has increased the target for Lakhpati Didi from 2 crore to 3 crore.
In a bid to prioritize women’s health, Sitharaman announced the government’s plan to encourage cervical cancer vaccinations for girls aged nine to fourteen. Furthermore, healthcare coverage under the Ayushman Bharat scheme will be extended to all ASHA and anganwadi workers, ensuring broader health protection.
Four Key Categories: A Holistic Approach
FM Sitharaman reiterated the government’s holistic approach by addressing four key categories: the impoverished, women, youth, and farmers, referred to as “garib, mahila, yuva, annadata” respectively. This comprehensive strategy aims to uplift and empower every section of society, ensuring that the benefits of economic development are shared inclusively.
In conclusion, Budget 2024 stands as a testament to the government’s commitment to empowering women across educational, economic, and healthcare domains. As these initiatives unfold, they are poised to bring about a positive transformation in the lives of millions of women, fostering a more inclusive and progressive society.