According to the Global Gender Gap Index 2021, India ranks 140 out of 156 countries in the world when it comes to inequality between genders. No, thats not a global ranking one can boast about, especially in an era where almost every nation has realised that not tapping into the potential women have can be immensely detrimental. But this gender gap in India isnt just about women lagging behind in one or two areas.The National Family Health Survey of 2019-2021 (NFHS-5) reveals that this gender inequality is based on multiple factors across numerous areas. Whether its about workforce participation, getting paid regular salaries or accessing digital devices and the internet, the gap between men and women in the country is still pretty considerable. Plus, the digital gender divide in India is also exacerbated by the rural-urban dividewhich is a factor that really matters now, because the COVID-19 pandemic has marked a definite shift towards a digital economy. If women are unable to join this digital economy, can the gender gap be bridged at all?The answer might be a simple no, but the way forward is complicated. Women, womens rights activists and the policymakers are indeed joining forces to create compelling narratives around women empowerment. The digital economy has also made it possible for women on various platforms like Her Circle to create a common bond of sisterhood that stands united in its fight for justice, equality and progress. Women role models in the country are proving every day through their stories that women, as a category, are self-sufficient, dignified, hard-working and capable of achieving any goals they set out to.And yet, we can all do with allies from time to time. Indian women can definitely go the distance, but your support regarding a number of socio-cultural and economic issues that hold us back would be amazing too. After all, gender equality can not only benefit women but also the entire population. Here are a few issues women in India would like you to have as allies about.Gender PolicingSimply put, gender policing is the act of enforcing or imposing gender roles based on perceived or stereotypical notions. This can range from dressing girls in pink and giving them feminine toys to play with, to prescribing appropriate clothing, behaviours and life paths to adult women. While people from all genders experience policing, patriarchy has made conditions extremely stifling for women. So, the gender policing women experience not only includes censoring what we wear, say or do, but also puts limitations on us that ultimately cripple our mental health, physical health, professional health, and especially financial health. Worse still, the bullying we receive when not conforming to these gender norms can be very damaging, whether they come in the form of body shaming, constant comments on our relationships, and blanket judgements on our workplace behaviours.Gender policing for women in societies like ours are so all-pervasive that the ultimate fact is that most women are policed throughout their lives, and sometimes arent even aware they are going through it. Similarly, you might not be aware that the comment you just made or the judgement you just passed is gender policing. Taking stock of your own behaviour, lessening the burden of policing on yourself, and reducing the impact of policing on women is definitely one of the simplest things you can do.Child Marriage DowryThese might be two different issues, but they relate to one thingthe way we perceive marriage as a society, and how much of the impact falls on women. The United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) suggests that every year, at least 1.5 million girls under 18 get married in Indiawhich makes our country home to the largest number of child brides in the world. The current government is now trying to raise the age of marriage for women to 21 years, the same as men, with the hopes that this will reduce child marriages. This in turn will help increase womens access to education and job opportunities.But experts believe that tackling child marriage requires grassroots-level initiatives rather than policies enforced from the top-down. Raising this awareness within your family and community is something you can definitely do. Another thing you can do with little or no effort is to also explain to your family, friends and community circles that taking dowry will not benefit you or women at all. A dowry is a one-time payment extorted from the brides family, and can be extremely taxing on her familynot to mention the immense trauma women go through when facing dowry violence.The fact is, taking dowry is not only a harmful tradition, but also quite useless in wealth creation. Instead, if you educate a woman, empower her and enable her to work for a living, she will willingly and happily create wealth for the family. Explaining this simple logic is definitely something you can do, and it can help reduce a huge burden on women and their families. Further, reducing this burden can also help reduce other issues like female infanticide.Digital LiteracyThe world has not only gone through an immense digital revolution in the last two decades or so, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most jobs have now shifted online. For women to be at par with the rest of the world in this regard is through digital literacy and increased digital access. However, the NFHS-5 data shows that compared to 62 per cent of Indian men, only 42 per cent of Indian women have ever used the internet. In urban India, the gender gap is lower56 per cent women vs 73 per cent men. In rural India, the difference is more markedonly 34 per cent women compared to 55 per cent men.This gap clearly shows that unless women are able to catch up with the men, there simply wont be any gender equality beyond on paper (if at all) in India. Digital literacy and access is an area where women need active, constant and dedicated support. And you can provide it based on your own merits and access. Can you volunteer to provide digital literacy to women? Can you at least provide access to digital devices for women in your immediate family and community circles? Yes, and theres more you can do if you help out the organisations across the country that are already working to bridge the digital gender divide.Unpaid WorkWhether they are homemakers or full-time workers in offices and institutions across the nation, one fact remainsthe bulk of a womans time is spent on work that doesnt pay. UN Women says that women carry out at least two and a half times more unpaid household and care work than men. As a result, they have less time to engage in paid labour, or work longer hours, combining paid and unpaid labour. Womens unpaid work subsidises the cost of care that sustains families, supports economies and often fills in for the lack of social services. Yet, it is rarely recognised as work.UN Women also notes that in countries like India, farming is quickly becoming another area where womens unpaid labour is immensely exploited. The UN agency calculates that this unpaid care, farming and domestic work done by women is valued at 10-39 per cent of the GDP of most developing nations. If redeployed in critical areas of our economy, just imagine how much more beneficial it could be for the economy? Instead, we have held back women by not paying them for all the labour they put in on the domestic front.But as experts across the world are still grappling with the idea of a token notional income for homemakers, what can you do to support women who engage in such informal and unpaid labour? Take charge, of course. The easiest way to contribute here is to take accountability for your own needs instead of depending on that maternal figure at home for every little thing. Thats the very grassroots-level action you can take and promote within your own family, apart from spreading more awareness on the issue, of course.Sexual Abuse ViolenceExperts have explained time and again how sexual abuse and violence impacts women and the economy at the same time. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) explains, for example, that sexual abuse and violence against women and girls can have immense long-term disabling effects on physical, mental and other parameters of health. This includes financial health as well because, firstly, the mental stress a woman goes through definitely affects her productivity and performance at work, and secondly, because getting medical treatment, legal recourses and justice, and mental health support all can be financially draining.The worst part is that perpetrators as well as people in general do not recognise how a crime that appears to be so simple or normal can have such a vast impact on women. Its quite similar with to domestic abuse and marital rapewhich is now being rightly considered as something that needs to be demarcated as a criminal offence under the Indian Penal Codecan both get normalised in a patriarchal society where women are just taken for granted as being low in the power structure. Because lets not mistake the fact that sexual abuse and violence against women are all about exerting power on women and marginalised communitiesand hence the generations of abuse and trauma experienced by Dalit and tribal women in India.The lines can seem even more blurred now when digital devices and social media have both made sliding into DMs as everyday as eve-teasing on the streets. But the fact remains that encroaching someones space, even cyberspace, and attacking their bodily dignity, safety or wellbeing is a crime, and one that will inevitably affect a woman. Consentthat too every timeis a must and should not be taken for granted at any point. Spreading this simple understanding through your own virtual and real presence is something you can definitely do. Take consent from women and raise awareness about how its important that everyone take this under consideration.