Express press service
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: It is easier to preach than to practice when it comes to women‘s empowerment. However, two districts in Kerala – Thiruvananthapuram and Idukki – have shown that gender equality is manifested more in deeds than in words. These neighborhoods have the highest female representation among new building owners, the latest data with the government’s Department of Economics and Statistics shows.
An analysis of the department’s five-year ‘annual building statistics’, from 2015-16 to 2019-20, shows that 34.34% of new private buildings in Thiruvananthapuram and 34.08% in Idukki were owned by women. About 80% of new private buildings in the state are residential. Six districts had female representation above 30% compared to a state average of 27.30%.
The lowest representation was in Kottayam, 21.37%, followed by Malappuram, 21.79%. Female ownership has seen tremendous growth in Idukki over the years, rising from 28.86% in 2015-16 to 42.49% in 2019-20. In the case of Thiruvananthapuram, the figure fell from 35.64% to 37.35%. The state average has risen over those five years – from 27.08% in 2015-16 to 29.08% in 2019-20. According to the fifth cycle of the National Family Health Survey, women owning a house and/or land (alone or jointly with others) is 48.3% in the country and 27.3% in Kerala .
However, the annual building statistics do not contain land data. Also, there is no separate category of condominiums. Instead, half of the total condominium figure is added to the male and female categories. Male ownership has always been higher in the state. According to the Building Statistics Report 2019-20, the latest in the series, the ratio of female to male homeowners saw a slight improvement, 1:2.4 from 1:2.7 the previous year. “Nowadays female ownership is mandatory to apply for assistance from government housing programs.
So, this may be an indication of achieving the slight progress in gender equality in building ownership being implemented in our state,” the report states. He referred to the PMAY in which women should be co-owners of property for housing loans to economically weaker sections and lower income group categories. While acknowledging that ownership is a condition conducive to empowerment, experts believe that mere ownership does not indicate empowerment of women.
“Ownership and control are different. We need to know how many of these women owners have real control over the assets. For this, qualitative ethnographic studies are needed,” said J Devika, a professor at the Center for Development Studies. “The growth recorded in Idukki can have different reasons. The added benefits for women owners of some loan programs could be one reason. Also, Idukki is seeing a huge increase in the number of young women joining vocational courses and getting jobs, especially in the context of the agricultural crisis,” she said.