President Pratibha Patil on Monday said legislative and administrative initiatives to empower women were necessary and important, but not enough. “We also need a fundamental change in our mindsets,” she said at the launch of the National Mission for Socio-Economic Empowerment of Women here to mark International Women's Day.

Her remarks came on a day when some political parties stalled the passing of the long-pending Women's Reservation Bill in the Rajya Sabha.

“We need a new social reform movement, for gender equality and empowerment of our women — a movement that changes society's attitude towards women.”

Ms. Patil said people could draw strength from the Constitution in whose framework the principles of equity, equality, equal rights and equal opportunities were deeply entrenched. Women got voting rights along with men. At the grass roots, there were 1.2 million elected women representatives in local bodies in villages and towns, a representation of about 36 per cent.

To increase the representation of women in local urban bodies and panchayat raj institutions, it was proposed to raise this percentage to 50. The Bill providing for 33 per cent reservation for women in State legislatures and the Lok Sabha had now been taken up in the Rajya Sabha, the President said, just an hour before the House was adjourned for the day without the measure being taken up.

According to Ms. Patil, women's movements at the grass roots could be the most vocal champions of women's empowerment. They constituted essential partners in programmes for the uplift of women and needed support as well as encouragement. “It should be our endeavour to bring all eligible women under the umbrella of self-help groups to facilitate their economic empowerment.”

On the occasion, the President presented the Stree Shakti Awards.

Gargi Parsai adds

I'm confident: Pratibha

President Pratibha Patil has said she was not disappointed that the Women's Reservation Bill was not passed on Monday.

"I am confident it will be passed," she told members of the Indian Women's Press Corps whom she met on International Women's Day at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. She appealed to all political parties to pass the Bill and said "as far as possible, it would be graceful if it is passed by consensus and consultation." She said things were happening for women on the ground, but reservation would facilitate women's empowerment.

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