Barely a kilometre from Parliament, the stage for so much acrimony between ruling and Opposition members, over a dozen MPs from across parties assembled Wednesday for a common cause – to fight for women’s rights, safety and equality.
They got together on a platform set up by BJP MP Anurag Thakur and talked about how their constituencies could use his initiative, Honour Our Women (HOW) Foundation. Working since 2014, the foundation has taken up a new initiative, HOW MP Connect.
“Post December 16, 2012, Parliament has passed stringent laws but strict laws will have a impact only we implement them effectively,” Thakur said.
“What are the things we have to do?” said the NCP’s Supriya Sule. Anupriya Patel of the Apna Dal put in, “What needs to change is mindset. What can be done for that?” The Trinamool Congress’s Satabdi Roy was upset about society’s attitude to women while Heena Gavit, first-time BJP MP, wanted to discuss steps to restrict girl child mortality in her constituency, Nandurbar.
The Samajwadi Party’s Neeraj Shekhar and the BJP’s Sanjay Jaiswal agreed MPs have to work towards changing people’s mindset on issues relating to women. Actor-turned-MP Paresh Rawal had a suggestion: “We should engage godmen and sages for advocacy and awareness, because they have a number of followers. Jis desh mein Sita ko shakti aata hain, yeh zaroori hain.”
Support for the cause came also from the Congress’s Rajeev Shukla and Gaurav Gogoi, the LJP’s Chirag Paswan, and Thagur’s party colleagues such as Dushyant Singh, Poonam Madam, Shivkumar Chanabasappa Udasi, Shobha Karandlaje and Jagadambika Pal.
Thakur found their enthusiasm matching that of the young people to whom he had first introduced the idea. “That excitement of the youth in working for a cause aimed at changing the mindset of people inspired me,” Thakur told The Indian Express. “I want the youth to get involved in making a crime-free society for women. I want MPs to rise above party lines and work for causes like eradication of malnutrition.”
The young people with HOW will now work together with the MPs in striving to provide women a platform. It works like this: each MP suggests two volunteers from every assembly constituency within his/her constituency as contact persons for HOW. Through them, HOW conducts self-defence classes, seminars on health, social inclusion, legal advice and economic independence, and holds street plays, exhibitions and debates. “Each MP has to give us just half an hour a month and discuss the activities in schools and colleges in their constituencies,” said Thakur.