Rajiv Gandhi had a farsighted vision and he considered that the women are the main soul of the society. Political empowerment of the women was always the main focus for Rajiv Gandhi and he put in all his sincere efforts to implement 33% reservation for women in Panchayats. Following his footsteps, the UPA Government at the centre increased the percentage of women in panchayats from 33% to 50%. Today, lakhs of women across the country have actively been taking part in Panchayati Raj administration. Women in good numbers have now been contributing at various levels like education, art, industry, banking, science, administration and politics. When women are reaching new milestones with their commendable performance at different walks of life, there are also shameful incidents of child marriage, female foeticide, dowry-related atrocities, domestic and sexual violence.
I am happy to underline that the UPA Government at the Centre implemented various schemes, policies and laws to ensure the safety of women and for their empowerment. We brought in the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act , 2013 to ensure stringent punishment for those who indulge in sexual crimes against women. UPA also has passed the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 to protect women’s right to equality, life and liberty. We also brought in a law to ensure women equal share in property. Further, the bill to ensure women reservation in Parliament and Assemblies has already been introduced. The wages of Anganwadi workers have been doubled. Enough provisions are there to protect the interests of the women in the Food Security Bill, recently passed in the Lok Sabha. While ensuring legal entitlement for the subsidized food grains through the PDS, the Bill in addition, also has the clause to provide a financial assistance of Rs. 6000 to the pregnant women. The responsibility to run the PDS shops will be entrusted with the Self Help Group for women. Through the National Rural Ajeevika Mission, women are now can avail loans at lower rates with the help of Self Help Groups and thus to make them self reliant.
Further the adolescent girls are being benefitted by the SABLA scheme, implemented to enable self-development and their empowerment, to improve their health and nutrition status and also to provide skill development training. The girls who successfully come out after the training will be the main activists of this Ahimsa Messenger programme and the Anganwadi workers will have the role of coaches.
We know that making laws and policies is not enough; but we also have to implement them at the grass-root levels. The most fundamental issue is that the mindset and old thoughts of our society have to be changed. In this modern society, we must be ready to ensure equal rights for women; it is our responsibility and a challenge. What we want now is a social revolution to demolish all the walls of discrimination amongst women.
I want to tell my sisters assembled here that the first step in this direction should start from us and that too from our homes. We all know that parents are the best teachers as far as children are concerned.
In a family the right that a male child has should be given to a girl child too. Like every boy, each girl child also has the right to get proper education, training, job and also to secure a respectable position in the society. Girls also must have the feeling of safety, self-reliance and confidence. I earnestly hope that this Ahimsa Messenger programme will have a great role make this mission possible.
I take this opportunity to congratulate Smt Krishna Tirath and her colleagues and staff for launching this prestigious scheme. I also thank the huge gathering of girls and Anganwadi workers who are assembled here in this wonderful function.
Let us take a pledge today that we will, together, work hand-in-hand, to put an end to the atrocities and violence against women. Let us all work together to ensure empowerment, development and respect to all our sisters.