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Micro finance bill on the anvil: Manmohan

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ACCESS TO POOR: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh being welcomed by SEWA founder Ela Bhatt at a Policy Conference on home-based workers of South Asia in New Delhi on Thursday.
ACCESS TO POOR: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh being welcomed by SEWA founder Ela Bhatt at a Policy Conference on home-based workers of South Asia in New Delhi on Thursday.

Special Correspondent

``Committed to women's empowerment, a key guiding principle of the CMP''

  • High priority to skill development
  • "Ensure gender equality"

    NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday said the Government was working on a Bill to create a friendly policy environment for micro finance services. It would also ensure greater credit availability for the poor and small enterprises.

    Inaugurating the three-day South Asian Policy Conference on Home-based Workers organised by the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) and United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) here, Dr. Singh said more micro credit must reach the poor and build their capacity to absorb higher credit. "We will try to facilitate varied models of delivering micro finance services to grow faster," he said.

    Development

    "Our Government has been giving high priority to skill development of workers. The approach paper to the Eleventh Plan commits us to increasing funds for vocational training substantially. Next to skills is credit availability. Micro finance has become an important instrument in reaching credit to the poor and to tiny enterprises," he said.

    Pointing out that women's empowerment should be a major objective of social, political and economic policy in the South Asia region as a whole since most home-based workers happen to be women, Dr. Singh said that the women of South Asia had waited long to secure equality in all senses of that term. "They can and should wait no longer. It should be our solemn and common resolve in South Asia to ensure gender equity and equality," he said.

    The Prime Minister said women's empowerment has been a key guiding principle of the National Common Minimum Programme and the Government remained deeply committed to this objective as no civilised society, no modern polity, no developing economy can ignore the aspirations and the rights of women. "The key to the empowerment of all people is education and the assurance of gainful employment. Our challenge is to ensure that the benefits of economic growth and development translate into productive employment for all, including women. We find that women are more likely to be at the lower end of the production ladder. Most of our working women are in fact in the informal economy. Perhaps there is, in our societies, a cultural bias for women to be in home-based work."

    He said child labour was another major area of concern for the home-based workers. Children assisting their families in home-based work learn useful skills and can also make a little extra money. But the concern arises when work becomes the child's main occupation, he said while calling upon the participants to eliminate child labour.

    Referring to the Kathmandu Declaration, he said it highlighted the need for a national policy on home-based workers in each country and asked the SAARC summit to address their problems.

    The Declaration identified certain areas in which the deprivations faced by home-based workers need to be addressed. These include their "invisibility," social protection, skill-building, technology development, marketing skills, credit availability and finally effective organisation and political participation.

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