Budget 2022: Encourage Entrepreneurship Among Women In Rural Areas

More support is needed for women-led businesses and stronger educational opportunities, so that women have the skills to start their own companies or career paths.
Budget 2022: Encourage Entrepreneurship Among Women In Rural Areas

India is hopeful that Omicron will not be a dampening factor this year following last year’s Covid-19 slump. Hyperlocal demand has risen multi-fold, mainly due to the rise of women entrepreneurs as they have taken over from men who lost their jobs or were laid off, giving them more opportunity in terms of leadership roles at home, while also providing economic stability for families.  

Kirana stores and vegetable vending are two highly women-oriented niches that have remained shut all of last year. In contrast, there has been a multi-layered growth in the form of ‘rural start-ups’. For example, making and selling cloth masks. These business setups originated after the pandemic struck, but with the pandemic’s ebbing, these businesses will likely innovate to produce other kinds of cloth. 

The banking correspondent sector has seen growth in multiple states in India, with the entry of ‘Bank Sakhis’, women banking correspondents. The prime reason cited by women for taking up the role of banking correspondents is education of their children and saving for the future. It has been seen that women mostly do not carry zero balance accounts and consider it safe to transact digitally. 

Last year, the Indian government allocated Rs 28,600 crore for programmes that were aimed at upskilling women. The Finance Minister spoke of her plan to elevate India’s growth trajectory from “doing well enough” into Dhanya Lakshmi — the position it should be in! There was a social focus with multiple schemes related specifically to female beneficiaries, such as Nirbhaya Fund and sanitation/water budget too. All these allocations combined made sure that big strides could be taken on this front. 

The expectation this year will be on par with last year’s. There needs to be more support for women-led businesses and stronger educational opportunities, so that women have the skills they need in order start their own companies or career paths outside of traditional women dominated fields like education/healthcare etc.  

It is also important we get girls into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) subjects early on because these related jobs tend to drive economic growth over time, which also means fewer people requiring social services.  

With this background, some recommendations for this years’ Budget would be: 

The Budget should accommodate skilling for women, keeping in mind that the scope has now shifted to technology-based jobs. 
Women are paid 10% lesser than their male counterparts. Matching salaries has to be a reform as do inclusive policies and other benefits. 
The need for financial empowerment is vital in India where women are still in minority and struggle to make decisions independently. Without access, capital or knowledge about finances, it's hard for anyone, especially for this large part of the population that has fewer options available than men. 
Financial literacy goes hand-in-hand with opening up opportunities (such as buying property) so women can protect themselves from risk. The ability to understand various types of loans helps those who don't qualify to get started on investing their money.  

The National Skill Development Policy has worked to provide skills training and development of entrepreneurial skills that cause a mind-set shift. Stand-Up India scheme has sanctioned loans of over Rs 21,000 crore to women, as of April 2021. 

The government's stand-up loan programme helps people who are looking for money without any security or collateral, by giving them an option in how they want their funds used. One option is to use towards education costs such as learning new job skills through certification programmes.  

In 2022, the Budget needs to up its game by investing in mentoring and financing. Opening of incubation centres where networking opportunities are made available will create an ecosystem for women, from inception through maturity stages. 

The Author is co-founder and CEO, FIA (Financial Inclusion Advisory).

DISCLAIMER: Views expressed are the author’s own, and Outlook Money does not necessarily subscribe to them. Outlook Money shall not be responsible for any damage caused to any person/organisation directly or indirectly. 

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