Touria Prayag's Blog

L’Express Weekly, 11 November 2011

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on February 28, 2012

From women, with gratitude

The budget is being discussed and the dust is beginning to settle a little. By now, the minister of fi nance’s mail box must be jammed with ‘ thank you’ messages from the private sector. Thank you, dear Xavier, for scrapping the Capital Gains Tax. Might as well, considering the amount of effort put into evading it. Thank you for doing away with the Solidarity Tax. What the heck, it concerned only the 2 500 lucky few ( out of 150 000 tax payers) but thanks any way. In fact, thank you for accepting our suggestions lock, stock and barrel. We’ll try to put the money to good use.

But the liberal philosophy underlying the measures proposed has, as usual, been softened with humaneness, which has attracted approval from the underprivileged too. The budget has, indeed, reached out to those at the very bottom of the social ladder in a very signifi cant way. The targeted measures, if followed with meaningful action, will go a long way towards alleviating poverty and raising many of our compatriots out of the inhumane misery they are in. Provided of course that they are willing to help themselves. Showering money on the poor, or on some self- serving Non- Government Organisations which spend up to 80% of the money received on their own expenses, as everyone must have realized by now, has not made a dent in poverty.

The minister is unlikely, however, to receive any congratulatory notes from the feminist movements. Yet, no budget has been more ‘ feminist’. Allowing companies to use their Corporate Social Responsibility funds to set up crèches to cater for the children of their female employees has to be one of the most signifi cant measures of this budget. And the most feminist too. It goes a long way towards empowering women in the real sense.

We have, for years, been screaming from all the rooftops that empowering women starts with giving them the means to economically stand on their own two feet. We cannot claim to be an egalitarian society for as long as half of our citizens fi nd themselves obliged to either opt out of the workforce or substantially reduce their participation and downscale their hopes for achievement. We have always believed that women have to be supported by workplace crèches, pre- school and afterschool care to give them the opportunity to contribute alongside their male counterparts. And there are some success stories of unsung heroines who have been able to get their families out of poverty and participate fully in the development of the country thanks to similar little measures taken by their companies.

Of course, we are not there yet. The measures announced are still voluntary and only concern women who earn less than Rs. 12 000. We also need to invest in the training of quality child carers, a daunting task still. Yet, the symbolism behind the initiative is powerful.

The message sent is that we have fi nally recognised that for any improvement in the condition of women, suffi cient resources for child care have to be made available. Giving the workplace the incentive to think along those lines is an excellent start. And if only for that, thank you, dear Xavier.


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