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Reuters/Danish Siddiqui
A mother in parliament.
WOMAN-TO-WOMAN TALK

This budget, mothers have high hopes from India’s female finance minister

By Ananya Bhattacharya

Indian mothers are most worried about education getting expensive.

Over eight in ten of them hope for a reduction in school fees from finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s first budget on July 05, according to a recent survey of over 1,300 mothers across India conducted by Momspresso, a user-generated content platform for mothers. About 37% of the respondents were working mothers and the rest were homemakers.

“If fees go on increasing I will not be able to give them education in an English-medium school, and will be forced to send them to a local school,” Seema Ghosh, a single mother of two young daughters who works as a cook at five households, told Moneycontrol.

Although India has been increasing its education spending over the years, the 2.7% of GDP it allocates to the sector does not stack up impressively compared to the rest of the world. The government think-tank Niti Aayog believes the Narendra Modi government should be spending 6% of its GDP on education by 2022.

 

Jobs were also a point of contention. Over 80% of respondents in Momspresso’s survey crave more job options for new mothers.

Women anyway face the worst at all steps of the corporate ladder: They comprise 42% of new graduates, but only 24% of entry-level professionals. At the senior level, they hold just 20% of the roles and at the CEO or managing director level, a mere 7%. Pregnancy worsens their plight. Expectant mothers are often fired, despite this being illegal. Returning to work after delivery is a struggle of its own.

Other hurdles include a lack of breastfeeding spaces, day-care options, and better public toilets.

The mothers surveyed wanted more open schools, sports facilities, and cheaper vaccines for children.

Why 2019’s different

Times are changing, as the 2019 election has shown us—women voters turned up in bigger numbers than ever.

They became more aware as social media—particularly groups on WhatsApp–encouraged political discourse and participation. Schemes like Jan-Dhan Mudra (aimed at extending micro-finance to small businesses) and Ujjwala (providing women access to clean source of energy for cooking) apparently drew them out like never before. The election commission employed all-female staff and even offered day care to make women voters more comfortable at the polling booths.

Sitharaman’s appointment as India’s first female full-time finance minister itself is an indication. From a reduction in prices of household items to promotion of skills-training and entrepreneurship among women to lower taxes on cosmetic products, women have their hopes pinned on her to bring about change for them.