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With a population of just over 1 billion, India is the world’s largest democracy. In the past decade, the country has witnessed accelerated economic growth, emerged as a global player with the world’s fourth largest economy in purchasing power parity terms, and made progress on most of the Millennium Development Goals, which have been set by the UN in 2000, to reduce extreme poverty with a deadline of 2015.

However, poverty remains a major challenge. According to the revised official poverty line, 37.2% of the population (about 410 million people) remains poor, making India home to one third of the world’s poor people.
1 Thinking about the main reason for this situation, it cannot be denied, that the continuous disempowerment and subjugation of women and girls, that seems to be inextricably rooted in India’s societal norms, religion, and cultural traditions, stops the country from unfolding its entire potential. Currently women workers with independent incomes constitute only 15% of the labour force, which is a pointer to the immense waste of productive capacities.2 In addition to this, inequalities between girls and boys in access to schooling or adequate health care are most acute among the poor; whether measured in terms of command over productive resources, or in terms of power to influence the development process, poor men tend to have less than do non-poor men — and poor women generally have least of all. These disparities disadvantage women and girls and limit their capacity to participate in and benefit from development. On another level, gender inequalities hinder development. While disparities in basic rights, in schooling, credit, and jobs, or in the ability to participate in public life directly influence women and girls, the full costs of gender inequality ultimately harm the whole society. The message is clear: ignoring gender disparities comes at great cost - to India’s well-being and to the countries’ ability to grow sustainably, to govern effectively and thus to reduce poverty.3

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