Union Budget 2024: Gender budgeting in energy schemes is a sure path to equitable, women-led development

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26 January 2024

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Gender budgeting is an essential tool to help dismantle deeply entrenched gender disparities. Energy security and gender budgeting are interrelated, given that energy is the key enabler when it comes to women’s social and economic empowerment 

Countries globally are struggling to meet the world’s rising energy demand and the conversation around energy security is more important than ever. Concurrently, nations are realising how important it is for women to be empowered for society to flourish. According to global research, closing the gender gap in the workforce can boost the global GDP by 26 percent adding $28 trillion to the economy. 


The energy industry must harness the benefits associated with gender diversity and gain from the diverse perspectives and innovations that women bring to the table. Furthermore, the allocation of budgetary resources is a less recognised but important aspect of this equation, directing the course of these interwoven themes.


Big Strides In Gender Inclusivity

The Union Budget is one of the most closely tracked events that aims to promote social justice and equality while encouraging quick and balanced economic growth in the country. Over the past few years, the government has been pushing for higher fund allocations towards schemes that empower women. As a woman in business, I expect Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to push the pedal for accelerating inclusive development.


The 18th G20 Summit, under the Indian Presidency, showcased India’s dedication towards championing gender equality, as was evident in the New Delhi Leaders Declaration 2023. With its single-minded focus on enhancing economic and social empowerment, bridging the gender digital divide, driving gender-inclusive climate action, and securing women’s food security, nutrition, and well-being, India showed the way for prioritising gender inclusivity. Topping this has been the historic Women's Reservation Bill 2023, which was passed in Parliament with a thumping majority.


Ramping up gender budgeting is an important and continuous commitment toward ensuring crucial budgetary decisions reflect a genuine investment in the empowerment of women and girls. It is an essential tool to help dismantle deeply entrenched gender disparities. The previous budget was promising in this regard, with the total allocation for gender budgeting marked at Rs 2.23 lakh crore, 30% higher than the budget estimates of 2021–22 spread across women and child development, rural development, education, health and family welfare, and agriculture and farmers' welfare.


Gender Budgeting Priorities

This year, we hope that both the quality and quantum of budgetary allocation will be enhanced considerably. Some areas where the disbursement is both urgent and justified include:


·       Energy security and gender budgeting are interrelated, given that energy is the key enabler when it comes to women’s social and economic empowerment. Alongside introducing new schemes, strengthening the already existing schemes for women’s welfare in the energy sector will go a long way in ensuring gender equality. Some crucial schemes that could benefit from the fiscal impetus include the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, which provides free LPG connections to those women in need, the Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana (Saubhagya) which provides free electricity connections to poor households, the Kisan Urja Suraksha Evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (KUSUM) which provides financial and technical support for solar pumps and grid-connected solar power plants for farmers; the Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana, which supports women farmers in adopting sustainable agricultural practices; and the Mahila E-Haat, which provides an online platform for women entrepreneurs to sell their products and services which include renewable energy products.

·       Schemes that promote gender equality and women's leadership in existing energy-related initiatives like the National Green Hydrogen Mission, the National Solar Mission, the National Mission on Biodiversity and Human Well-Being, and the NITI Aayog's Women Entrepreneurship Platform can help ensure that the resources allocated towards gender budgeting are utilized effectively. 


·       Increasing the budgetary allocation for the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD). While the MWCD received INR 30,007 crore in 2023–24, an increase of around 18% compared to the revised estimates of 2022–23, it is still only 0.7% of the total expenditure and 0.2% of the GDP in 2023–24. For a country where half the population is women and where women voters will surpass male voters in the next five years, spending 0.2% of the GDP is truly negligible. 


Women And The Energy Sector 

As we await this year’s budget, let's envision a future where women play an integral role in the energy sector, where they are not merely beneficiaries but are active participants, leaders pushing for new outlooks and innovative ideas. I see the Union Budget 2024–25 not only as a powerful tool that can shape policies, strategically allocate resources to programs that promote gender inclusivity in the energy domain, invest in women-specific education and skill-building initiatives as well as provide incentives for female-led business ventures.  


I believe it is also an opportunity for the government to come forth and demonstrate its commitment to achieving energy security and gender equality in India. It’s a chance to walk the talk and make a difference. 


I speak, not as an optimist, but as a realist, when I say that by adopting a gender-responsive approach to energy security, the government can ensure that the fruits of development reach women who have more of a stake in it. It’s a critical step to empower women as agents of change and leaders in the energy sector. As Dr Kalam once said, “Empowering women is a prerequisite for creating a good nation, when women are empowered, society with stability is assured."


Vaishali Nigam Sinha is Co-founder and Chairperson of Sustainability at ReNew. Views are personal, and do not represent the stand of this publication.