Bring women-related issues to forefront, Pratibha tells women's representatives

President Pratibha Devisingh Patil said here on Friday that women should be actively drawn into the planning and development process, especially at the grassroots level in the rural areas.

“The 1.2 million women representatives in the elected bodies in villages and towns should focus on bringing women-related issues to the forefront for their progress and overall improvement in the standards of living, besides opening more avenues of employment and productive work in the rural areas,” the President said while addressing the Women's Day celebrations at Prashanti Nilayam.

Significant day

Ms. Patil was here to participate in the 85th birthday celebrations of Sri Satya Sai Baba. Governors E.S.L. Narasimhan (Andhra Pradesh) and Shivraj Patil (Punjab) and State Minister for Information and Public Relations J. Geetha Reddy were present.

In her 10-minute address, the President remarked that the day was significant as it was the birth anniversary of Indira Gandhi, a brave person and the only woman Prime Minister India had.

Acknowledging that women had reached high positions, she referred to the constraints and difficulties they faced. “Efforts to empower women through education, awareness and opportunities should continue,” she said.

Right to education

On education as a tool of empowerment, Ms. Patil said the right to free and compulsory education and the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan should ensure that every child between six and 14 years received education.

She said: “Educated women can be the voices in the fight against social evils like female foeticide, child marriage, dowry, addictions, discrimination and biases.”

Stressing the need for giving full attention to the health sector, the President said access to and affordability of healthcare should be accomplished. “A sustained approach is required towards developing a strong health infrastructure by involving the government, private sector, voluntary organisations,” she observed.

Partnerships crucial

The President said diversification of the rural economy hinged on the changes in agriculture and the emerging opportunities in the non-farm sector. She backed linkages between the corporate world and the farm sector. Partnerships could also be evolved for marketing, research, micro-credit and skill building of men and women, among others, she added.

Chetana Raju, member, Sri Satya Sai Easwaramma Women's Welfare Trust and Mallika Srinivasan, vice-chairperson, Tractors and Farm Equipment (TAFE), spoke.

Dr. Hema Reddy, practising paediatrician in the U.S., proposed a vote of thanks.