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Difficult Word/ PhraseContextual Sense
Bridge the gap to make the difference between two different things smaller
Fare Perform over a period of time
Benchmark Evaluate relative to some benchmark standard or scale
Parity Equality 
Stagnation Inactivity 
Falter Be weak
Shrink Become smaller 
Anaemic a medical condition in which there are not enough red cells in the blood
Abysmal Very bad
Imperative Of greatest importance
Tokenism A policy of formally complying with efforts to achieve a goal by making small, token gestures
Staggering So surprisingly impressive as to stun or overwhelm

Bridging the gap (to make the difference between two different things smaller): On India’s gender inequality

India needs to help women get greater access to jobs and resources

The struggle to achieve gender equality and bridge the gap between men and women is a long and difficult one. India has got another opportunity to do much better for half of its population with the Global Gender Gap Index for 2022, released by the World Economic Forum on Wednesday, placing it at 135 out of 146 countries. But the new data — India’s ranking in 2021 was 140 out of 156 countries — hardly brings cheer as India has fared (Perform over a period of time) the worst in at least one of the parameters — ‘health and survival’ — in which it took the last spot. The Global Gender Gap Index benchmarks (Evaluate relative to some benchmark standard or scale) the current state and evolution of gender parity (Equality) across four dimensions: economic participation and opportunity; educational attainment; health and survival, and political empowerment. India ranks poorly among its neighbours and is behind Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Bhutan. Only Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan perform worse than India in the region. In 2022, coming on the back of a pandemic, war and economic crises, the global gender gap has been closed by 68.1%, which means at the current rate of progress it will take 132 years to reach full parity. Among all the regions, it will take the longest for South Asia to reach the target — 197 years — “due to a broad stagnation (Inactivity) in gender parity scores … in the region”.

There have been enough numbers from the ground to indicate that India, with a female population of approximately 66 crore, has faltered (Be weak) on the road to gender parity. In the pandemic years, as incomes shrank (Become smaller), women faced hurdles on every front, from food, health, and education for the girl child to jobs. The latest NFHS data (2019-2021) show that 57% of women (15-49 age bracket) are anaemic (a medical condition in which there are not enough red cells in the blood), up from 53% in 2015-16; though 88.7% of married women participate in key household decisions, only 25.4% of women, aged 15-49 years, who worked in the last 12 months (2019-2021), were paid in cash. Women having a bank account or savings account that they themselves use have increased to 78.6%, with schemes such as the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana helping, but women participation in the labour force has shrunk. According to Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) data, in 2016-17 about 15% women were employed or looking for jobs; this metric dipped to 9.2% in 2021-22. The best way to improve India’s abysmal (Very bad) ranking is to do it right by women. For that, it is imperative (Of greatest importance) to increase representation of women in leadership positions at all levels so that women get greater access to jobs and resources. It is up to the Government to move beyond tokenisms (A policy of formally complying with efforts to achieve a goal by making small, token gestures) and help women overcome staggering (So surprisingly impressive as to stun or overwhelm) economic and social barriers.

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