The international conference on “Rural Empowerment and Sustainable Development” held recently at Sree Saraswathi Thyagaraja College, Pollachi, focussed on deliberations relating to empowering rural families, women, and girl children.

The speakers said people at various levels should be inspired to develop an empowered India through sustainable development of rural population.

Inaugurating the conference, Sheela Ramachandran, Vice-Chancellor of Avinashilingam University for Women, said the major challenges faced by rural India, included, lowest levels of agriculture productivity in the world, reduction in share of agricultural GDP, and human development index measuring lesser than that of many developing countries.

Pointing out the key enablers for rural empowerment, she said providing physical, electronic, and knowledge connectivity leading to economic connectivity in villages and digital inclusion of rural India, were some of them.

With regard to women empowerment in rural areas, Ms. Ramachandran said that almost 60 per cent of girls were married before 18 years and out of them nearly 60 per cent bore children before 19 years.

“There is significant contribution of women to agriculture production. In the Himalayas, according to a study done in 2012, a pair of bullock works 1,064 hours while a man works 1,212 hours, and a woman works 3,485 hours on a farm of a hectare in a year,” she added.

The sessions deliberated on gender equality, women literacy, women entrepreneurship, family well being and parenting, violence, crime and discrimination of women, etc. Panel discussions on rural empowerment around the globe and status of women – a historical perspective, were also held.

Experts brought out the status of women in rural India – how they remained a neglected and disadvantaged section of society, dependent on their male counterparts for livelihood. There was a call to create opportunities for rural women by empowering and enabling them to acquire skills necessary for entering various occupations.

The conference was attended by nearly 200 participants from India, Ethiopia, Singapore, Nigeria, Thailand and Bhutan.

A book on ‘Rural Empowerment for Sustainable Development’ comprising 78 selected papers was released by the Sub-Collector of Pollachi Rashmi Siddharth Zaagade during the valediction.

The outcome of the conference is expected to pave way for significant understanding of the need for rural empowerment for sustainable development in a significant way.

It was organised by the Centre for Counselling and Guidance, and the Post-Graduate Department of Social Work, of the college.

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