President Ram Nath Kovind (File photo: PTI)
Thiruvananthapuram: Women's proportion in the workforce is nowhere near their potential due to deep-rooted social prejudices and this is a worldwide phenomenon, Indian President Ram Nath Kovind said on Thursday and called for a change in the mindset of the people.
Amidst demands for 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament and state legislative assemblies, the President said that there should be more representation of women in the various legislative bodies in the country.
In his inaugural address at the National Women Legislators Conference held at the Kerala Legislative Assembly here as part of the ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav' celebrations marking the country's 75 years of independence, the President said that from 1857 onwards women have played a "stellar part" in India's freedom struggle and many agitations against the British rule were successful due to their widespread participation.
Referring to the contributions and sacrifices of Rani Lakshmibai, Kasturba Gandhi, Sarojini Naidu and various other women leaders of India's freedom struggle, Kovind said that since India's independence, women have been shattering the glass ceiling in one domain after another.
He also pointed out that when the Constituent Assembly got together to draft a Constitution for the nation, there were 15 women members in it and three of them were from Kerala.
"Their (women) numbers are rising in the traditional male bastions of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Management, collectively known as ‘STEMM'. There must have been more women than men among the Corona Warriors who guarded the nation during those months of the crisis. Such achievements should have been natural for women who constitute about half of the population. That, unfortunately, has not been the case.
"We have to admit that they have suffered from deep-rooted social prejudices. Their proportion in the workforce is nowhere near their potential. In politics too, there should be far more of you contesting and also winning elections. This sad state of affairs is, of course, a worldwide phenomenon. Putting the matter in the global context helps us realise that the challenge before us is to change the mindset – a task that is never easy," he said.
Kovind said that the freedom movement laid a solid foundation for gender equality in India and the country has already come a long way since then as there has been some change in mindset as well as rapid advancement in gender sensitivity -- including towards the third gender and other gender identities.
"Inspired by our ideals and values, we have gone further during these seven decades and have provided for fifty percent reservation for women in local bodies. Calling it ‘women's empowerment' is a misnomer, I think, because women are powerful anyway. Don't we say they are a manifestation of ‘Shakti'?
"If facilitating their better participation in political processes is empowerment in any sense, it is empowerment of the whole society, because you all add quality to governance, you help bring focus on issues that matter," he added.
The event was also attended by Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, State Assembly Speaker M B Rajesh, Leader of Opposition in the state assembly V D Satheesan, several ministers of the Left government and women legislators from across the country.
Khan said it was time for us to "think beyond women development and move towards women-led development".
He said that even after seven decades of Independence, the paradox was that there were still individuals "who cultivate romance of regression" and want to marginalise women by imposing "patriarchal restrictions" on their public appearance and activities.
"...the paradox is that even after seven decades of freedom, there are individuals who cultivate the romance of regression and seek to marginalize women by imposing patriarchal restrictions on their public appearance and participation in public activities.
"Such actions violate the basic constitutional rights as well as the laws designed to protect women. But what is more painful is the silence of otherwise well meaning people who choose to ignore this patently criminal behavior towards women," Khan said
"In conclusion, I would reiterate what our Prime Minister has said recently that it is time for us to think beyond women development, and move towards ‘women-led development'," he said.