A day after President Pranab Mukherjee and Vice President Hamid Ansari made a strong pitch for women’s quota bill, Prime Minister Narendra Modi skipped a mention of the issue while delivering the valedictory address at the two-day National Convention of Women Legislators in Parliament.
The Women’s Reservation Bill, which provides for a quota of 33 per cent for women in state legislatures and the Lok Sabha, awaits a passage in the Lok Sabha after its adoption by the Rajya Sabha several years ago. PM Modi also did not react to Vice-President Ansari’s suggestion asking political parties to voluntarily increase the nomination of women candidates in elections till the bill was adopted.
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However, speaking at the event, the PM asked women to use modern technology and systematically upgrade their knowledge and understanding of issues to become effective legislators.
The convention was attended by 96 members of both Houses of Parliament and 262 members of state legislatures. Those present, apart from host Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, included former President Pratibha Patil, Bangladesh Jatiyo Samshad Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, Union ministers Sushma Swaraj, Najma Heptulla, Uma Bharati and Maneka Gandhi, Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel and Goa Governor Mridula Sinha.
Stressing on the need to move beyond “women’s development” to “women-led development”, PM said there was need for women leaders to empower themselves technologically.
“You will have to make yourself effective…You will have to present issues with facts and figures…Try to develop your independent image as a public representative. Once the image of your working style and your views is established among people, it will last long. You will see people accepting your ideas once you are thus established,” he said.
He also called upon women leaders to groom female leadership at the grassroots level.
“Politics is a game of competition but when the feeling of jealousy dominates the competition, then you cannot grow… Rather, if you allow others to come up, you will go high,” added the PM.
Citing the the example of Rwanda, where women constitute 65 per cent of their Parliament’s strength, he said as civil war claimed the lives of lakhs of men, the women there came forward and rebuilt the country.
“There is a need to change this mental state about women empowerment. Empowerment is for those who are not empowered. What does the empowerment of those who are already powerful mean? Who are men to empower women?” he said.
At the event, former President Pratibha Patil Patil said the concept of equality of sexes had to be inculcated among male children by their mothers, adding that women should be made financially independent. Women in politics, she argued, were disadvantaged because of “money and muscle power”.