New Delhi: The world marks March 8 as International Women’s Day to celebrate women and their achievements in their respective fields and in the family. Apart from this, the day is also marked as a reminder of equity among all the genders in the world. The year 2023 aims to get the world talking about DigitALL: innovation and technology for gender equality. According to the United Nations, this year’s theme is aligned with the priority theme for the upcoming 67th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW-67), “Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.”
Speaking about the empowerment of women in the digital world, the NDTV-Dettol Banega Swasth India team spoke to Dr. Sangita Reddy, Joint Managing Director at Apollo Hospitals Group. Dr. Reddy gave insights on how women are leading the way in the 21st century and the interventions needed to sustain the progress.
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NDTV: Technology and innovation play an important role in bringing about a change in healthcare. What potential do you see in leveraging technology in a holistic manner to move towards a healthier India?
Dr. Sangita Reddy: When we talk about leveraging technology for healthcare, we look at multiple layers and not just one. First, I would look at it from the aspect of prevention, asking if we can identify high-risk populations and reach out to them faster. The second is the power of ‘Telemedicine’, which we as the organisation started more than 20 years ago, but today I think there are many such platforms that have changed the healthcare game, such as the government portal ‘e-Sanjeevani’, the mobile applications developed by private players that connect citizens to doctors from any part of India or the world. The third aspect is about processing data, because healthcare is all about information and data, and I think if we can use that data well, use artificial intelligence (AI), and bring more accurate diagnosis.
Another very important factor is leveraging the collective knowledge of the ecosystem to build smarter models. Many years ago, I said that the three Bs would change healthcare: biology, because the day the genome was deciphered, that was the day we began to find new cures, methodologies, and causative factors for problems. Next is bytes, the processing capacity. This refers to a series of X-ray images that have improved in a variety of ways.The earlier CT scans were of 32 SLICE, but now we have gone all the way to 640 SLICE. The third is bandwidth, which seems to have increased due to telemedicine.
NDTV: How can we empower women and accelerate their progress to maintain the shift from women development to women-led development?
Dr. Sangita Reddy: Women Entrepreneurship is one of India’s G20 focus areas, and I’d like to applaud our Prime Minister Narendra Modi for using the powerful phrase ‘women led development’. This also conveys the message that women are not simply passive recipients of the country’s or the world’s development, but are at the helm of it. As the chair of G20 Empower, and our country has established three broad pillars of empowerment:
- Education and future jobs: India’s STEM foundation is a prime example. Its efforts are dedicated to popularising Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in India.
- Empowerment at all levels: We see women at the helm, for example, we are seeing women as the heads of panchayats. We need to see more women in positions of leadership because leadership fosters respect in society, which leads to economic power.We need to understand that when a woman’s economic power increases, the whole family benefits from it.
- Entrepreneurship: This will bring in leverage for equity as well as for the entire economy. Providing business skills training is a basic step towards empowering women towards entrepreneurship, but to truly achieve transformative change, we need to let them take a leap of faith and believe in them.
For the sustenance of these three pillars, digitalisation is the solution. Digital initiatives are required in each of these levels. We need to make women digitally fluent.
NDTV: How can we focus on getting more girls and women into STEM ( Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)?
Dr. Sangita Reddy: If you look at the number of engineers in our country, 43 per cent of them are women, as opposed to 34 per cent in the United States. But the important thing to note is that even though 43 per cent graduate, only 27 per cent of them are in the workforce. So, we need to assess what is happening from the time they graduate to the time they get into the workforce and address the concerns. Policy changes also play a huge role in helping women take an equal place with their counterparts, and paternity leave is one such example. I have also seen several enlightened business leaders and large corporations that understand the importance of equity and diversity in the workforce and in the boardroom, and I believe these organisations will be the most progressive and profitable. The day corporations, society wake up to the power of this is when we are going to see women on an equal platform more often.
NDTV: What are your thoughts on developing a space for women where they have the opportunity to showcase their potential?
Dr. Sangita Reddy: When I was heading the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), we started a campaign called ‘The Greater 50’ that addressed this matter. It is a platform to create an ecosystem to empower women and celebrate their achievements. By ‘The Greater 50’, I meant that the impact of women in work is actually the greater 50 per cent of the world’s impact. When it comes to mentorship, women have the capability, but they will not put their hands up. So we created one mentorship network. For example, I have a young professional in Gurgaon who is helping a lady in Kakinada sell Kalamkari sarees. There are many such examples. We have received tremendous support from NITI Aayog to scale up the mentorship and networking program. Another important factor is that women must support women to move forward, but I would also like to add one plush:
He for She. We equally need men to help women move forward for the sake of the world.
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NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.