Business Standard - - POLITICS & PUBLIC AFFAIRS -

Whathas changed for In­dia’s women be­tween 2005 and 2015 ? The Na­tional Fam­i­lyHealth Sur­vey(NFHS) has some an­swers. Some things haven’tchanged, or have changed on­ly­marginally. Women con­tinue to face do­mes­tic vi­o­lence but­the fig­ure has come down slight­lyfrom 37 per centto 31 per cent. So the coun­try­has to live with the sham­ing fact­tha­tone in three In­dian women gets bat­tered at home atone or the other time in her life (the age group be­ing 15 to 49). The good news is fi­nan­cial in­clu­sion. The pro­por­tion of women who have a bank or sav­ings ac­count that they use ranges from a high of 83 per cent in Goa to 26 per cent in Bi­har. But from just around 15 per cent women hav­ing a bank ac­count in 2005-06, this num­ber has grown dra­mat­i­cally to 53 per cent in 2015-16. More­over, these are ac­counts that women them­selves use – sug­gest­ing some au­ton­omy in fi­nan­cial de­ci­sion­mak­ing.

Mo­bile phones were not in ex­ten­sive use in 2005-’06 and their use was not recorded in NFHS III. But the lat­est NFHS sug­gests around 45 per cent women use mo­bile phones and their num­ber is grow­ing. A deeper dive into the data is equally in­ter­est­ing. Among women who have a mo­bile phone, 66 per cent say that they can read text mes­sages. Own­er­ship of a mo­bile phone that women them­selves use in­creases with age, from 25 per cent among women aged 15-19 to 56 per cent among women aged 25-29, but then it de­creases for older women. The some­what puz­zling fact emerg­ing from the NFHS data is that the abil­ity to read text mes­sages de­clines with age: From 88 per cent among women age 15-19 to 48 per cent among women age 40-49. Own­er­ship of a mo­bile phone that women them­selves use varies from a low of 29 per cent in Mad­hya Pradesh and 31 per cent in Ch­hat­tis­garh to a high of 80-81 per cent in Sikkim, Goa, and Ker­ala.

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