Men should play equal role in women empowerment: Prez

Chandigarh: Citing the example of Rajaram Mohan Roy, President Pratibha Devisingh Patil on Thursday called upon men to be equal partners in the empowerment of women and cautioned against the negative impact of social evils like female foeticide.

"Today, there are fewer women in India than men and if this trend continues it would have a negative impact on society. Punjab and Haryana are already bearing the implications.

"Women, particularly those already empowered, can be an effective voice for articulating women-related causes, including the fight against social evils like female foeticide, child marriage, dowry, as well as against the discrimination and biases that exist in society against women," the President said.

"Women have been elected to the office of the President, the Prime Minister and the Speaker of the Lok Sabha. At the grassroots level, there are over a million elected women representatives in local bodies in villages and towns. Women are taking leadership roles, and it will change the face of the country for the better," she said.

Patil was delivering her address on the occasion of the Dr V N Tewari memorial oration at the Punjab University here.

Punjab Governor Shivraj Patil his Haryana counterpart Jagannath Pahadia, Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Union Minister and Chandigarh MP Pawan Kumar Bansal, Congress MP from Ludhiana Manish Tewari, in whose late father`s memory the event was held, and Tewari`s mother Amrit Tewari were among those present on the occasion.

Patil further said the agenda should cover making work places safe for women, by having fast track implementation of stringent laws against sexual harassment and to address issues like dowry and domestic violence.

"Secure women make for a secure nation. I am proud that there have been instances, where young girls and women have demonstrated courage to stand up and fight against evils and discrimination. These women require support and assistance," she said.

The President also said that gender equality is not an agenda of women versus men.

"Rather, men should be partners in the empowerment of women. History has many examples where men have been at the forefront in fighting for women`s causes," she said and cited examples of Raja Ram Mohan Roy, who was known for his efforts to abolish the practice of Sati.

Patil said Swami Dayanand Saraswati promoted education for girls and women while Jyotirao Phule is known for his efforts to educate women of the lower castes, as well as the masses.

"He, after specially educating his wife for that purpose, opened a school for girls in India in August 1848, one of the first girls` schools in India.

"I am sure that through such a collaborative approach, the foundations of a society, in which men and women work together shoulder to shoulder, with a feeling of respect, can be laid. The Panchayati Raj Act providing for 33 per cent reservation for women was an important step," she said.

Quoting India`s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, the President said, "You can tell the status of a nation by looking at the status of its women".

Patil further said, "I believe that women`s empowerment will bring many overall benefits. It will make women confident and secure. It will equip them to make choices, to take informed decisions, and to determine the course of their life.

There may be difficulties and struggles but efforts must continue."

The President, who was speaking on the topic `Women as drivers of a rising India` said the nation-building process of free India began soon after it attained independence.

She also said that the women`s entry into new areas, such as an all women battalions in the Central Reserve Police Force are becoming "the drivers of change".

"All this will bring a silent revolution in the status of women in our country," she said, adding through their enterprising spirit, their professions and careers, the Self Help Group movement and such other activities, they are getting economically empowered.

"The Self-Help movement has been particularly successful in enabling women to create economically sustainable models of growth. This movement needs further encouragement, and I am glad that the Government seeks to strengthen this movement, including through the establishment of a development fund for women`s SHGs. Women`s organizations are important platforms for building a collective voice, for taking action to address issues relating to them, as well as to society," she said.

Earlier, the President began her speech by saying that Dr V N Tewari, a former Rajya Sabha member, was a multi-faceted personality who, as an educator and as a researcher, contributed immensely to the field of education.

"He was a writer and a poet, winning acclaim for his creative writing, and for which he was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1982. As a Parliamentarian, he demonstrated political wisdom and humanism. His life of promise was cut short on April 3, 1984 when he was assassinated by terrorists," she said.

The Panjab University hosts an annual lecture in honour of his memory.

In his address, Punjab Governor and Chandigarh Administrator, Shivraj Patil said women in the society still do not get the status they deserve.

He said there can be no better empowerment to than to give women the opportunity to educate themselves.