It was women’s day out during the second round of the “Chai Pe Charcha” programme organised across 500 cities and 15 international locations by the NGO called Citizens for Accountable Governance to deliberate on issues pertaining to “women’s safety and empowerment” on International Women’s Day on Saturday.
Unlike the first edition in which few women were seen at the venues, a number of women came out to participate on Saturday, though their number was still low at many venues in Vadodara.
Women were the focus of the discussion. So, the organisers made it a point to make them sit in the front row at the Alkapuri tea stall in Vadodara. But men did not lose the chance to hog the back seats. At other venues, women were nearly a fourth of men audiences. The programme was kept under close scrutiny of the election officials, with cameramen being deployed to record the event to ensure that Model Code of Conduct is not violated.
“Modi is the only hope for a change in the condition of women in the country, and so we would like to see him become the prime minister this year,” a 55-year-old audience, Savitaben Thakkar, said.
Women asked questions on topics like health facilities, girl-child education, participation of women in sports, economic betterment and women entrepreneurs.
While framing his replies, Modi did not lose the opportunity to showcase the achievements of his government, be it his idea of hiring women forest guards at Gir and decision to contribute gifts worth Rs 70 crore over the years for girls’ education, or his government’s programme like Khel Mahakumbh.
“Every year, I visit villages that have low rate of education and stay there for three days to meet people and get their assurance that they will send their girls to school. We will have to take this on a mission mode,” he said on ways to improve education and literacy rates among girls.
“We have built toilets for women in government schools. Now, more girls are being enrolled,” he added. When asked about ensuring safety of women candidates, Modi took a dig at the Congress-led UPA government, mocking them for the failure of the Nirbhaya Fund, under which Rs 1,000 crore was allocated under two subsequent Budgets. “The Centre earmarked Rs 1,000 crore for women’s safety, but not a single paise has been spent while it has allocated another Rs 1,000 crore under the scheme. The call centre, started under the programme, was closed down due to lack of fund. Such attitude will not help make a difference,” he said.
The second round of the event also saw participation from abroad, including Tokyo, Frankfurt and Washington, with NRI women asking about health care facilities and micro-finance system for women.