Despite material progress in Asia, gender-based violence against women is highly prevalent in the continent, a research by International Development Research Center’s (IDRC’s) partners showed.
The research further points to falling business and employment opportunities for women in some sectors despite increasing numbers of women with higher education in many countries.
“Research has shown that gender equality and women’s rights are issues that are far from being realised,” Dr Anindya Chatterjee, IDRC’s Regional Director for Asia, said.
IDRC had worked with ‘WeConnect International’ in connecting women entrepreneurs to business opportunities through creation of a database. While connecting women to business, the project had brought to surface the challenges they faced in a society where traditionally men have led business.
Two recent projects supported by IDRC – a series on sexual violence and the other on the state of women in conflict-ridden areas titled Garrisoned Minds, showed that women continued to be victims of sexual violence.
Research studies on sexual violence in the South Asian region by Zubaan, supported by IDRC, showed that inadequate measures exist for the protection of women from sexual violence while the present legal and social systems often lend protection to perpetrators.
The research involved work by over 50 scholars in South Asia. Analysis showed that in recent years there has been much progress at the international level in recognizing sexual violence as a weapon of war, an instrument of torture, and a crime against humanity.
“These volumes attempt to examine the gaps in law, medical practice, state willingness and social sanction that work against the interests of justice for victims and survivors of sexual violence,” Navsharan Singh, Senior Programme Specialist, IDRC, said.
The project research resulted in publication of six books, while the research evidence contributed to reforming the laws on rape (Criminal Law Amendment Act 2013); expanding the definition of rape; research led to standard operating procedures and medical protocols in forensic examinations of survivors of sexual violence.
Entrepreneurship for women is fraughted with challenges. Kamla Pai, a woman entrepreneur who runs a factory in Karnataka state, expressed her concern, “Men don't take women seriously- whether they are my factory workers or suppliers. They need to respect women.”
The challenges for women including setting up operations in an environment where women are typically not seen as entrepreneurs, dealing with logistical issues, scouting around for buyers, getting their way around raw material supplies, and, eventually, selling their products.
“These are typically male domains and it takes time and efforts for women to claim this space,” Dr Chatterjee said.
The entrepreneurs’ database, developed by ‘We Connect’, an international agency that connects women-owned businesses to buyers around the world, has around 600 women from India on the list.
“We can already see the results of this initiative – more than 4,000 persons are employed by these 600 women who have done business worth USD 127 million, which is impressive,” said Arjan de Haan, Program Leader, Employment and Growth, IDRC.