Source: The Assam Tribune Relevance: GS-III (Indian Economy); GS -V (Assam Economy)


Women empowerment is crucial for regional development and aligns with sustainable development goals. Under India’s G20 Presidency, emphasis on women-led development has grown. The Assam government’s recent budget of Rs 2.9 lakh crore underscores priorities like self-reliance, sustainable growth, and women empowerment.

Past Initiatives:

  • Assam has focused on various facets of women empowerment in recent years, including education, entrepreneurship, and addressing social issues like child marriage and witch- hunting.

  • The enactment of the Assam Witch hunting (Prevention, Prohibition, and Protection) Act in 2018 marked a significant step in addressing this societal menace. The Act makes witch-hunting a punishable offense with imprisonment up to 7 years and a fine under section 201/182 of the IPC.

  • Additionally, the Act allows the trial of a witch-hunting offense under IPC section 302 (murder). To achieve the objectives of the Act, the Assam Police under the then DGP launched ‘Project Prahari’ to bridge the gap between the police force and citizenry and sensitize them about the evils of witch-hunting.

  • Micro-finance schemes have been instrumental in providing assistance to impoverished women borrowers, while schemes like Orunodoi have extended financial support to women.

  • The ‘Arundhati’ scheme, which was launched in fiscal 2019-20, offers 1 tola (10 grams) of gold to a bride, for marriages taking place under the Special Marriage Act, 1954.

New Initiatives in Budget 2024-25:

  • The 2024-25 budget introduces several novel schemes aimed at furthering women empowerment.

  • The Assam Mukhya Montri Nijut Moina Abhiyan seeks to enhance the girl child’s enrollment ratio and curb child marriage by providing financial incentives for education.

  • Similarly, the Mukhya Montri Mahila Udyamita Abhijaan: Lakhpoti Baideo Schemeaims to foster women-led entrepreneurship in rural areas.

Continuation and Expansion of Existing Schemes:

  • The Orunodoi program is expanding to cover Divyangjan and transgenders, enhancing its inclusivity.

  • The Arundhati scheme continues to provide gold to brides under certain conditions, supporting women's empowerment and financial autonomy.

Support for Girls' Education:

  • The Assam government's Mukhya Mantri Nijut Moina (MMNM) scheme allocates 240 crore for financial grants to girls' education, targeting 10 lakh girls from higher secondary to post-graduation with incentives to encourage continued education.

  • Incentives include Rs 10,000 for Class 11, Rs 12,500 for first-year college students, and Rs 15,000 for postgraduate students, with conditions of studying in government schools and remaining unmarried to promote education over child marriage.

Women's Entrepreneurship Fund:

  • The Mukhya Mantri Mahila Udyamita Abhiyaan aims to empower 39 lakh women entrepreneurs, especially in rural areas, with a capital grant of Rs 10,000 each, encouraging them to start businesses.

  • Beneficiaries can access a bank loan of at least Rs 25,000 after utilizing the initial grant wisely, promoting financial independence and economic participation among women.

Orunodoi Scheme Expansion:

  • The Orunodoi scheme now extends to an additional 2.5 lakh beneficiaries, offering Rs 1,250 monthly to women's accounts and integrating with essential services for a total outreach of over 30 lakh households, aiming to support economically vulnerable women.

Micro Finance Loan Waiver Scheme:

  • A new phase of the microfinance loan waiver scheme with a Rs 550 crore budget aims to relieve poor women borrowers with non-performing accounts before March 31, 2021, by waiving loans between Rs 25,000 to Rs 50,000, reducing financial strain and fostering economic stability among women.

Benefits in advancing women's empowerment:

Girls' Education Support:

  • Incentives for education and conditions like staying single encourage girls to seek higher education, boosting their skills and empowerment.

  • Education bolsters women's decision-making, job opportunities, independence, and challenges gender norms.

Women's Entrepreneurship Fund:

  • Financial aid and capital access help female entrepreneurs start and grow businesses, promoting independence.

  • Entrepreneurship grants women financial control, decision-making power, and community economic contributions.

Orunodoi Scheme Expansion:

  • Increasing financial aid to more families, especially marginalized ones, improves economic stability.

  • Regular support helps women cover basic needs, invest in family education and health, and enhance decision-making roles.

Microfinance Loan Waiver:

  • Cancelling loans for struggling women borrowers lightens debt loads, offering a new start and better financial health.

  • This relief allows women to engage more in income-generating efforts and asset-building, aiding their empowerment.

Challenges and Implementation:

Effective Implementation:

  • Ensuring the success of women's empowerment schemes is crucial despite budget commitments.

  • Bureaucratic obstacles, resource shortages, and stakeholder discoordination could impede implementation.

Last-Mile Delivery:

  • Critical to make sure initiatives reach those intended, especially in grassroots communities.

  • Logistical issues, remote access challenges, and insufficient outreach could limit scheme effectiveness.

Ongoing Challenges:

  • Despite advances, difficulties remain, especially in tea garden areas and among marginalized groups.

  •  Socio-economic gaps, infrastructural deficiencies, and historical oversight hinder empowerment efforts.

Way Ahead

Strengthening Implementation:

  • Boost coordination among government bodies, NGOs, and local groups to smooth out implementation and tackle bureaucratic issues.

  • Set up systems to monitor and evaluate progress, identify issues, and make timely adjustments.

Enhancing Outreach:

  • Launch campaigns to inform about empowerment programs in remote and disadvantaged areas.

  •  Upgrade infrastructure and connections to improve women's access to education, healthcare, and jobs in neglected regions.

Capacity Building:

  • Offer training for officials, workers, and community leaders to improve program management and gender awareness.

  • Provide women with entrepreneurship, financial literacy, and vocational training to enhance their capabilities.

Community Engagement:

  • Encourage community involvement and ownership in planning, executing, and evaluating empowerment projects.

  • Establish forums for women to express concerns, exchange ideas, and engage in local and institutional decision-making.

Overcoming Barriers:

  • Challenge entrenched gender biases and practices through advocacy and legal changes.

  •  Implement comprehensive strategies to address root causes of poverty and exclusion, focusing on marginalized groups.

Funding and Resources:

  • Guarantee sufficient budget and resources for women's programs, aiming for long-lasting effects.

  • Seek innovative funding methods and partnerships to expand resources and extend successful efforts.

Assam's goal to become one of the leading five states relies heavily on women's engagement in the economy. In Assam, where women often face disadvantages due to their educational and financial conditions, these programs are crucial for their independence. Nonetheless, the success of these efforts and overcoming current obstacles are essential to achieve this vision and promote inclusive development in Assam.

Advait IAS