President, vice-president for more women in legislatures

New Delhi : Stressing the need for appropriate women representation in parliament and state assemblies, President Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday said women’s empowerment was impossible in the absence of their representation in legislative bodies.

“It’s unfortunate (for the country) for not being able to ensure 33 percent representation of women in Parliament,” he said here, while addressing the inaugural function of the two-day national conference of women legislators on ‘Women Legislators: Building Resurgent India’.

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Praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was present on the occasion, for giving due importance to the cause of women and girls, the president said: “I thank prime minister for ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ (save girl child, educate girl child) programme”.

He said that to ensure overall development of the country and society, the country must recognise and encourage ‘stree shakti’ (women’s power) and this could only be possible by giving them their due representation in parliament and state legislatures.

“How can there a be empowerment of women without proper representation,” he asked.

Pointing out that the Indian Constitution provides for equal rights for men and women, the president said the UN has declared the theme of International Women’s Day of 2016 as “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step it up for Gender Equality”.

Observing that the global community has to rededicate itself to gender equality and women’s empowerment, the president said the organisation of the conference is a step in the right direction to carry forward the UN agenda of sustainable development through gender equality.

On the occasion, Vice President Hamid Ansari and Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said women’s representation in parliament and state legislatures has to be corrected as they play a crucial role in society.

Observing that the theme of the conference was “appropriate and timely”, Ansari called upon all political parties to help in ensuring women’s representation as it was in national interest.

“Women must have votes and equal legal status, but the problem does not end there. It only commences at the point where women begin to affect the political deliberations of the nation,” he said, adding that the present situation with regard to their representation is “certainly not very encouraging”.

Mahajan hoped that when women legislators would sit together, they would come out with new provisions and answers to various problems.

She also emphasised the need for ensuring “women-friendly tools” as a large number of women work in the country’s agriculture sector.

The Lok Sabha speaker also thanked renowned lyricist Prasoon Joshi for writing a good song for the conference. She said women could actually be best compared with the river as he did in the song which has been specially composed for the two-day conference.

“A river gives life to many… similarly women, too, are life-givers,” she said.

The prime minister did not speak on the occasion. Among those who attended the conference were women leaders Uma Bharti, Maneka Gandhi, Sheila Dikshit, and Poonam Mahajan.