Making a strong pitch for the Women’s Reservation Bill, Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday said her party would press the BJP-led NDA government to pass it in the Lok Sabha.
Inaugurating the 16th anniversary celebrations of ‘Kudumbashree’, the state government sponsored women self-help group, here, Gandhi said the Congress was determined to fulfil the commitment for women in the country.
Stating that the previous UPA government initiated various schemes for the empowerment of women and initiated new laws for the protection of women and children, she said, “My only regret is that we could not pass the Women’s Reservation Bill (that provides for 33 per cent reservation of seats for women in Parliament and state Assemblies) in Parliament, even though it was introduced in Rajya Sabha.”
“But, we are determined that we will continue to press the new government to use its majority in the Lok Sabha to fulfil this commitment for the women in the country,” she said.
Representation of women in panchayats in several states was 40 to 50 per cent, she pointed out.
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Gandhi expressed concern over increase in violence against women in the country. “This is a nationwide phenomena. But, I am glad that Kerala is doing something to check it with its schemes like ‘Nirbhaya’ launched early this year.”
Focusing on importance of local bodies in the empowerment of women, she said both women self-help groups and local bodies have a vital role to play for the development of women and should work together. Kerala was the only state where these institutions work in great coordination, she added.
Along with government schemes for the empowerment of women, what was more needed was a movement for social change in the situation of women, she said.
In this regard, she mentioned the social movement launched by Sree Narayana Guru, renowned social reformer, centuries ago in the state.
She lauded the Kudumbashree schemes and said the project was one that could be replicated by other states as their poverty eradication programme and for women empowerment.
The programme launched in 1998 as a community network has now more than four million members across the state. Its aim was to eradicate absolute poverty and empower women by engaging them in different fields.
It started with waste picking, but later on expanded to different sectors and now planned to venture into Community Colleges and Community Radio service.