Finally, an Action Plan for Women's Empowerment

Finally, an Action Plan for Women’s Empowerment

Finally, an Indian politician is talking some sense about violence against women in India. And not just any politician, but our very own Prime Minister, who used his Independence Day speech and his first major address to discuss the issue at length.

Narendra-Modi-Independence-Day

It wasn’t just a bunch of gyaan, either. Breaking ties with the way other politicians have spoken about gender inequality in the past, Modi’s Independence Day speech asserted that the challenges women face cannot be solved by legal infrastructure alone, but must be accompanied by a cultural shift. He issued a call to action for families, citizens, and corporations to play a role in creating a more women-friendly society.

One by one, Modi listed some tangible actions items that we can all take to promote the status of women in India. For example, to stop rape culture, he tells parents that they need to speak to their sons, and hold them accountable for their friends and whereabouts.

I want to ask parents when your daughter turns 10 or 12 years old, you ask, ‘Where are you going? When will you return?’ Do the parents dare to ask their sons, ‘Where are you going? Why are you going? Who are your friends?’ After all, the rapist is also someone’s son. If only parents decide to put as many restrictions on their sons as they do on their own daughters.

Also, conscious that India’s sex ratio has hit its lowest since Independence (927 girls per 1000 boys), Modi appealed to doctors and parents to see the value of women in families.

Who is creating this imbalance? Not God. I appeal to the doctors not to kill the girl child in the mother’s womb. I request the parents not to kill daughters because they want a son. Don’t kill daughters in the womb, it is a blot on 21st century India. I have seen families where one daughter serves parents more than five sons.

Moreover, Modi celebrated women not just as homemakers but as nation builders. He praised their performance in the recent Commonwealth Games—noting that out of 64 medal winners, 29 were women. Modi concluded by recognizing that women are key to building the kind of 21st century country that India wants to become.

Finally, our Prime Minister called for local MPs and corporates to prioritize building toilets in communities and schools to create safer, more dignified conditions for all citizens, especially women.

Has it ever pained us that our mothers and sisters have to defecate in open?…The poor womenfolk of the village wait for the night; until darkness descends, they can’t go out to defecate. What bodily torture they must be feeling, how many diseases that act might engender….I want to make a beginning today itself and that is—all schools in the country should have toilets with separate toilets for girls. Only then our daughters will not be compelled to leave schools midway. Our parliamentarians utilizing MPLAD fund are there. I appeal to them to spend it for constructing toilets in schools for a year. The government should utilise its budget on providing toilets. I call upon the corporate sector also to give priority to the provision of toilets in schools with your expenditure under Corporate Social Responsibility. This target should be finished within one year with the help of state governments, and on the next 15th August, we should be in a firm position to announce that there is no school in India without separate toilets for boys and girls.

Only time will tell if Modi’s rhetoric will translate into a tangible and long-term commitment to women’s empowerment. But together with his financial inclusion plan, we really dig the action-oriented approach he’s taking on this issue. And we want you to work with us to get behind Modi’s words and co-architect a better nation.

So, which of these actions will you imbibe starting today? Will you hold men in your family as accountable to their whererabouts as women? Will you urge your company to focus their CSR efforts on toilets in schools? Will you talk to all the parents you know about the value of a daughter? Each one of us, after all, is critical to making progress in our society, day by day, small action by small action.

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