In South Asia, about 25 percent of all women work outside the home compared to just 4 percent about twenty years ago. Women, noticeably, suffer from two sets of discriminations:

1. Pre-market discrimination: that is, lack of access to factors such as education, training, experience and so on, which develop capital; and

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2. Market discrimination, i.e., differential wages for similar work.

The programmes for women envisaged under successive Five Year Plans since 1951 have evolved gradually (and perhaps logically) from concentrating on the welfare approach, through education and finally to the development approach for women.

Efforts from the Eighth Five Year Plan were aimed at removing gender disparity in allocation of resources for development sectorally and spatially.

Union Budgets since 2002-03 started discussing even gender budgeting as an advancement of the earlier approach. The Third All India Census of SSIs (2001-02) identifies three different roles for women in the SSI sector. They are in the categories of owners, managers and workers.

With regard to ownership, an SSI or SSSBE managed by one or more women entrepreneurs in proprietary concerns, or in which she/they individually or jointly have a share capital of not less than 51 percent as partners/shareholders/ Directors of Private Limited Company/Members of Cooperative society is called a “Woman Enterprise”.

The total number of women enterprises in the whole of SSI sector was estimated to be 10.63 lakhs or 10.1 1 percent. The number of enterprises actually managed by women was 9.95 lakhs.

About 13 percent of women were in the registered SSI sector and the remaining 87 percent were in the unregistered sector. With regard to enterprises managed by women, 11.5 percent were in the registered sector and 88.5 percent in the unregistered SSI sector.

The share of the units managed by women in terms of employment was 7.1 4 percent. The employment generated per lakh of rupees of investment in the units managed by women was 2.49 persons. Market value of fixed assets of units managed by women was around Rs. 7138.79 crores while the original value of plant and machinery was Rs. 2254.40 crores. They employed nearly 18 lakh persons producing a gross output of Rs. 9764.16 crores. Contribution to exports was of the order of Rs. 336.86 crores constituting 2.37 percent to the total SSI contribution to exports. The total number of female employees in the SSI sector is estimated at 33.17 lakhs.

About 57.62 percent of the employees were employed in the SSI units located in the States of Tamilnadu, Karnataka, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. Women enterprises produce a variety of products ranging from chemicals and plastics, engineering, pharmaceuticals, textiles, and electronics.

The scheme to set up Women’s Development Corporations in all the States and Union Territories was formulated in 1985-86, to improve women’s status in society as a part of the process initiated under the International Women’s Decade.

Eleven of these States have set up these corporations: Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Kerala, Tamilnadu and Orissa. The States that got bifurcated from UP and MP had also set up these corporations.

Some of these corporations conducted Entrepreneurship Awareness and Development Programmes exclusively for women.

A few non-Governmental organizations like the RUDISET, Association of Women Entrepreneurs of Karnataka (AWAKE), Canara Bank’s Centre for Women Entrepreneurship also took up residential programmes. Counseling centres were also set up.

Micro enterprise development through self-help groups phenomenally stepped up the role of women as entrepreneurs. Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Tamilnadu together share a little over 64 percent of group formation, thrift collection and credit access. Several entrepreneurs have turned as owner entrepreneurs by taking up alternate livelihood programmes.

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