The inception meet of Women 20 (W20) is just over in Aurangabad, Maharashtra. W20 is a network of delegates and representatives, non-governmental women’s organisations, civil society, female entrepreneurs, businesses, think tanks, and academics across G20 member states. Every year, the G20 and W20, as an engagement group, impute to the G20 leaders a series of actionable policy recommendations aimed at fostering gender equality, equity and economic empowerment and equal participation in the process of development in order to boost gender-inclusive economic growth and development.
This year, however, the entire campaign and agenda attained another level. It is different in nature, objective function and operational details and mechanisms. From the beginning, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has introduced the concept of women-led development. He has given a clear message that women-led development will be a crucial agenda of W20. It’s an ambitious, inclusive and actionable agenda to get included in the communique of W20. Thus, it is a big challenge for the W20 group.
As we all know, the G20 is a forum of the twenty largest economies of the world that meets regularly to discuss the most pressing issues facing the global economy. Together, G20 accounts for more than 80 per cent of the world GDP, 75 per cent of the global trade and 60 per cent of the population of the planet. That itself tells how important is this year’s Presidency.
Background of W20
The history of W20, however, goes back to 2012 when in the Los Cabos Declaration, G20 leaders showed commitment to tackle the barriers to women’s full economic and social participation. In 2015, the Brisbane G20 leader’s declaration brought more to the table. The same year, W20 was created as Women 20 formally as a G20 formal engagement group to promote gender-inclusive economic growth. Gülden Türktan of Turkey, who was elected chair of the W20 in 2015 and chaired the first summit during Turkey’s G20 presidency, praised India’s work in W20 in the inception meeting at Aurangabad.
The W20 as a movement, concept and campaign has advanced over the years. From each nation’s Presidency to the other, the agenda got refined, diversified and integrated. Last year, the Indonesian Presidency did a great job in terms of involving rural women and MSMEs. So, each year there was a different flavour to W20, but the commonality of issues and development of issues over the years made continuity as its very important feature. Health, for example, became a primary concern in the post-COVID-19 world. So did education, skill, digitalisation and climate change. Basic issues like labour force participation, workplace equality, empowerment, social security, education, and nutrition remain ongoing issues.
The vision of the W20 India Presidency is to create a world of equality and equity where every woman lives with dignity. W20 India is clearly aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the goals of the W20 India are inclusive consultation and action leading to a powerful and impactful communique. Also, it is providing inputs for the recommendations for the G20 consultations and negotiations. Advocacy and participation at the grassroots is one of the significant features of the Indian team. W20 India Presidency has adopted a very different strategy, combining collaborative and cooperative action with strong communication with the grassroots stakeholders and later preparing an actionable plan for advocacy and inclusion in the G20 discussions. Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas, in its stage-wise, is a very refined methodology. The inputs are taken and later debated, discussed, and shared. Once the consensus is formulated, they are translated into drafts. Once the drafts receive comments they are developed further. Various taskforce have been created related to women entrepreneurship, gender and digital divide. One very important task force, which is again taking lots of inputs from India’s New Education Policy (NEP), is skill development and education. Climate change is an important goal of the SDGS that also is being covered.
Women, law, and grassroots leadership are the main task forces working with the knowledge partners and international think tanks and global inputs are included before finalising a draft. The stakeholders’ catchment area has certainly been improved in the Indian W20 where women in tribal and rural areas, women with disability, women in agriculture, handicraft and micro and nano entrepreneurship, cooperatives and informal sectors, SHG’s and anganwadis and women living in urban areas have been included along with professional students and homemakers. India has done a remarkable job in terms of improving its spectrum of stakeholders and catchment areas and creating engagement meetings at the grassroots level so that the policy inputs are not isolated but are prepared on the basis of the opinions of the people who matter. It is having continuous engagement with B20, Labour 20, Youth 20 and Think 20, so that the gender components in these engagement groups not only receive what’s happening on the gender platforms but the exchange is also enriching the communique of the W20.
W20 India has adopted a very different strategy, combining collaborative and cooperative action with strong communication with the grassroots stakeholders and later preparing an actionable plan for advocacy and inclusion in the G20 negotiations and discussions agenda
National-level activities are being planned as progress reviews and engagement with various ministries and women’s federations, research and academic institutions and knowledge sharing with other G20 nations. The idea is Vasudhaiva kutumbakam – One world, One family, One future. Unless action is taken now, the dream of equality will never materialise. Government programmes right from Beti Bachao to Sukanya Samriddhi, to Mudra, to startups are helping create an ecosystem where women are not just the centre of development, but the drivers. It’s a complex task to develop or evolve consensus when the world is going through a crisis, forcing nations to take contradictory positions when it comes to both policy and perspective. Thus, the first challenge is to evolve consensus amongst the polarised interest groups to achieve the commonality of agenda for an actionable communique. The second challenge is to present W20 with an inclusive perspective where it has its own voice and creates a space for the South-to-South connectivity and voices of the South.
India has achieved a great deal in terms of gender parity when it comes to digital inclusion, skill development, education, nutrition and governance and of course grassroots leadership which in itself, is a silent revolution of developing grassroots leaders in terms of their capacity building, both in quantity and contribution, has taken place in last few years. Therefore, it is both a challenge and an opportunity to translate the best practices and showcase India’s achievements to the world so that the narrative about Indian women is changed. Vasudhaiva kutumbam naturally talks about the world as a family, but at the same time, the centrality of the institution of family itself is to be underlined. How stable families can lead to economic prosperity, social security, mental health, care, better security and a safe environment which Indian women have created culturally over the years. This is yet to be celebrated to the extent it should have been.
So, as they say in old scriptures, यत्र नार्यस्तु पूज्यंते, रमन्ते तत्र देवता (Yatra Naiyaster Pujyante Ramante Tatra Devtr), the modern version of this is that if a country needs economic and social prosperity with 6 to 7 per cent rate of growth, you have to not only include women, but you have to establish them and institutionalise them in leadership positions. I think India W20 is committed to this goal and doing it efficiently and passionately.
(Thoughts are independent)