In gender index, challenges for NDA

In gender index, challenges for NDA

Much is being written about the state performances based on the comparisons between 2015-16 and 2017-18 iterations of the health index of the Niti Aayog. The scoring for the health index is done using 23 indicators with different weightages. Key health outcomes are measured by five indicators and contribute to about 46% of the score. Intermediate health outcomes with five indicators contribute to 23% of the score. Governance and data integrity contribute three indicators and account for 12% of the score. Key inputs and process indicators have 10 indicators and contribute to 18.5% of the score.

As pointed out by Dr Sundararaman, Joint National Convenor, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, and former Executive Director, National Health Systems Resource Centre, the choice of indicators for the index is not merely a technical matter, it is in fact a political issue. Why are indicators like public expenditure on health as a percentage of state gross domestic product, or the extent of impoverishment due to catastrophic health expenditures, not part of this index?

Another index that is important for women’s health advocates in India is the Global Sustainable Development Goals Gender Index which was launched earlier in June in Vancouver during the Women Deliver Conference, attended by over 8,000 advocates, policymakers and media. The findings of the SDG Gender Index for India — which ranks the country at 95 among 129 countries and towards the bottom in the Asia Pacific region — highlight that much remains to be done in the area of gender justice in India.

The 2019 SDG Gender Index is a comprehensive index on gender equality aligned explicitly to the SDGs. The index is shaped by collaboration across 10 core partner organizations and national partners in Colombia, El Salvador, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Senegal, and Tanzania – and dialogue with other stakeholders worldwide. The 2019 Index includes 51 indicators across 14 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and covers 129 countries across the world.

India scores poorly in comparison to many other countries in Asia and the Pacific region, ranking 17 out of the 23 countries and falling behind countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, China and even Sri Lanka. It does, however, outperform its South Asian neighbours Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan. In comparison to other BRICS countries also India performs poorly on the Gender Equality goal, SDG 5. Not all countries’ scores on the index correlate with national income — some countries perform better than would be expected based on their GDP per capita, and others underperform. And India notably is among those that underperform in comparison to its GDP and economic growth rates.

The SDG Gender Index could complement the SDG Index released by the Niti Aayog in December 2018. The Niti Aayog index assessed the performance of states and UTs across 13 of the 17 identified SDGs, assigning a score ranging between 0 and 100 to each of them in the index. Kerala, Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu were at the top with scores of 69, 68 and 66 respectively. The Niti Aayog index categorises states into Achievers, Front Runners, Performers and Aspirants. It would be useful to adapt and integrate aspects of the SDG Gender Index into the Niti Aayog Index. Providing a state-level analysis by aligning the two indices would provide the information to understand how the states are delivering on the SDGs for girls and women.

Although the index highlights relatively better scores on indicators such as ‘extent to which laws afford women and men equal and secure access to land use, control and ownership’ and ‘percentage of female students enrolled in primary education who are over-age’, indicators on malnutrition, anaemia in women and girls (53% women 15-49 years are anaemic (NFHS-4, 2015-16)) and low BMIs (41.9% of girls 15-19 years have BMI<18.5 (NFHS-4, 2015-16)) indicate that nutritional status of women and girls is a serious problem.

Some of India’s lowest scores in the index are:

5d: Proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments, with women making up just 11.8% of Parliament in 2018. This has marginally increased in 2019 to 14% with 78 out of 542 seats going to women.

17a: Social expenditure as a percentage of GDP (for all types of social assistance programmes).

17c: Extent to which a national budget is broken down by factors such as gender, age, income, or region (score).

Thus, the recent general election results and distribution of ministerial portfolios are being viewed with some hope by gender justice advocates. With Nirmala Sitharaman as the finance minister, a section of the women’s rights community is hoping that Sitharaman’s efforts with gender-budgeting when she was the National Commission for Women chairperson will translate into more open and inclusive budgeting processes, ensuring higher budgetary allocations for social assistance and health programmes.

(The writer is co-founder of SAHAJ Vadodara and a Joint National Convenor of the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan)