India has said there is need to improve the significantly lower participation of women in the workforce in the country's urban areas, stressing that considerable challenges still remain to women's effective empowerment across the world.
"It is estimated that nearly 120 million Indian women, 80 per cent of the total female workers, are employed in the rural sector. This is around 30 per cent of the total number of workers in rural areas," India's Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Tanmaya Lal said here.
Addressing the ongoing session of the UN Commission on Status of Women yesterday, Lal said "the women worker participation rate in India's urban areas is significantly lower and needs improvement.
"Several important measures are being implemented to increase the participation of women in the workforce," he said.
He said while there is much wider recognition and implementation of women's rights across the world, considerable challenges to their effective empowerment still remain.
Lal underscored that India remains committed at the highest level to empowering women for achieving sustainable development.
He cited Prime Minister Narendra Modi s message that the multi-tasking skills of women are their strength.
Lal added the Prime Minister has stressed that progress of humanity is incomplete without the empowerment of women and that the issue is no longer women development but 'Women-led Development'.
Lal told the session that India has been led by women Heads of State and Government, from Indira Gandhi to Pratibha Patil.
While several women have served as Chief Ministers of states in the country, Sumitra Mahajan is the current Speaker of the lower house of Parliament.
He said a large number of women in India are active as political leaders and workers at the grassroots level.
"This has been enabled by the reservation of seats for women between one-third to half of total seats in local government down to village level. This translates into one million women actively participating in decision making," he said.
He also highlighted the prominent role played by Indian women scientists in satellite design and launch, adding that India was the first county to deploy an all women Formed Police Unit for UN peacekeeping operations a few years back.
Lal told the session that last week, the Indian Parliament passed a landmark legislation that extends maternity leave from 12 to 26 weeks for both commissioning and adopting mothers, significantly higher than the minimum duration of 14 weeks prescribed by the International Labour Organisation.
In 2013, the Indian Parliament adopted an Act that provides protection against sexual harassment of women at workplace and for the prevention and redressal of such complaints.
He outlined several measures taken by the Indian government for women empowerment and gender equality, including online digital marketing platform called e-Haat' for women entrepreneurs, the biometric-based unique identity system 'Aadhar' and the 'Beti Bachao Beti Padhao' campaign that focuses on empowering the girl child through education.