Social exclusion is still prevalent in today’s India. Exclusion of people based on caste, religion, gender, physical disability, social status and age-old societal prejudices have badly crippled human development in India. An emerging economic superpower with second largest population in the world cannot afford to perform so badly on crucial development parameters.
India, a country of stark contradictions and growing inequalities, has now the third highest number of billionaires according to Forbes list but ranks 130th in the Human Development Index (HDI). Ironically, the government’s social spending is gradually decreasing and subsidies to rich corporate entities have become an increasing trend. The HDI is not something that makes headlines in the country, nor does the low social spending. – Source – Social Exclusion and Inequality in India Report
Although there are many groups of individuals who fall under the socially excluded category, in this blog, we focus on 3 socially excluded groups- Rural Women, People with disability and Transgenders. There are large numbers of individuals in these groups cutting across caste and religion and thus they present social entrepreneurs with a huge scope for creating wide-scale impact.
Our country’s economy and our society in general is severely deprived of valuable contributions of talented and meritorious individuals from the socially excluded groups. By enabling the transition of these groups into the national mainstream, social inclusion can be set into motion thus guaranteeing inclusive growth.
Bringing About Social Inclusion
Social inclusion is defined as the process of improving the terms of participation in society, particularly for people who are disadvantaged, through enhancing opportunities, access to resources, voice and respect for rights. – UN
Left unaddressed, exclusion of disadvantaged groups can also be costly. And the costs—whether social, political, or economic—are likely to be substantial. Social inclusion of disadvantaged community is necessary for various reasons.
I. Empowering Rural Women
According to the World Bank, rural women comprise 43 percent of the agricultural labour force that produces, processes and prepares much of the food available in the world.
Rural women form a large part of the socially excluded classes primarily due to social prejudices. They have been bonded with a belief that they are born only to look after the family, stay in the shadows, not speak, not have an opinion of their own and above all, be an ‘instrument’ of extending the family.
Rural women are denied education, opinion, livelihood opportunities and a chance to be financially independent. Additionally, there is a high prevalence of health problems among rural women owing to poor hygiene and sanitation facilities, and household air pollution caused by burning of firewood.
Examples of rural women who displayed strength, grit, and determination to bring up their families and society are well-known. Women are known to handle finances well, way better than the men in the family, who end up splurging all the money on unhealthy and unethical practices.
Social inclusion in rural women can be brought about by giving them livelihood opportunities, enabling them with financial and operational help to set up their enterprises, and above all, the opportunity to get educated. Shri Mahila Griha Udyog, Mann Deshi Bank, Greenway Grameen Infra, and Datahalli are some of the prominent social enterprises dedicated exclusively towards empowering rural women.
II. Employing Persons with Disabilities
India has roughly 70 million people who fall under the PwD or Persons with Disability category, also one of the largest group of people who are socially excluded in India. Differently abled population in India are viewed as a burden and deemed unfit for almost ‘everything’.
Although the Government has taken steps towards empowering people with disabilities the mindset of people has done more harm than good to PwDs. Being differently abled just means that they possess talents that are highly specific and hence need to be identified.
If a person is visually or hearing impaired, that does not mean that he or she is physically incapable of doing any activity. In one of our previous articles, we wrote about how social entrepreneurs in India are empowering PwDs by providing them livelihood opportunities that focus on their talents and skills and not their disabilities.
III. Empowering Transgender Community
India has a population of more than 5,00,000 transgenders. They are continuously subjected to stigma and social backlash due to long standing social prejudices, making it difficult for them to live a life of a normal productive citizen. Although they form a very insignificant slice of the general population, they represent a historically suppressed and excluded set of people and thus bringing them in the mainstream may have a transformative effect on the problem of social exclusion for other groups. Empowering transgenders by providing livelihood opportunities and entrepreneurial support can go a long way in improving Human Development in India.
Transgenders are an untapped workforce, with a varied set of skills that can fetch them a good living. In our article Transgender Community – An Untapped Entrepreneurial & Economic Talent we have written about how that is been attempted by various organizations. Anandi Anand Gade 2016, an event organized by an NGO Anam Prem at Borivali (West) in Mumbai, focused on transgenders who are trying to make a dignified living through small-scale entrepreneurial ventures.
Kochi’s metro hired 23 members of the transgender community, who have started working behind ticket counters and with housekeeping teams from May this year.The new jobs are an unprecedented initiative in India, where the trans and third gender community is mocked and isolated.
Rashmi CR, spokeswoman for Kochi Metro Rail, said the new appointments were part of a wider initiative to make the trains more inclusive. “We want the metro to be not just a means of transport, but also a livelihood improvement project,” she said.
Social Inclusion is not a project, but a necessary step towards the holistic development of the country. The country is suffering due to lack of openness in thought and restricted view towards people who live a life, different from the ideal and mainstream. While some social organizations and entrepreneurs are opening up to these issues, it is necessary to change our mindset as citizens and help empower these communities for the greater good.