Special Correspondent

It says the paper has confined itself to stereotyped understating of women's role

Thiruvananthapuram: The All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) has expressed concern at the neglect of gender issues in the Draft Approach Paper to the Eleventh Five Year Plan.

Addressing a press conference here on Sunday, AIDWA general secretary Sudha Sundararaman, AIDWA State general secretary K.K. Shylaja and president M.C. Josephine said the Approach Paper, instead of finding ways to reduce gender inequality, had confined itself to stereotyped understating of women's role. She said the approach paper was silent on food security, which was the most crucial issue for women's survival. Various women's organisations, headed by AIDWA, in their joint representation to the Planning Commission, had demanded the strengthening and universalisation of the Public Distribution System.

Ms. Sundararaman said that the measures proposed in the Approach Paper would affect women's employment adversely. The proposal for "labour intensive mass manufacturing with more flexible labour laws" was, in fact, a euphemism for unprotected cheap labour force, of which women will be the largest segment. She said the approach paper had failed to address the crucial issue of agrarian crisis, which had devastated the lives of farmers and driven them to suicide. Peasant women had been adversely affected and many were being forced to migrate in search of livelihood, where they undersold their labour in desperation and also become victims of sexual exploitation.

More allocations needed

She said the fundamental right to education, health and well being needed strengthening with increased allocations and effective implementation of the ICDS and other important schemes.

The Approach Paper had not paid attention to an important point made in the Planning Commission's mid-term appraisal of the Tenth Plan regarding gender disaggregation and women's component of the expenditure incurred by various Ministries on different schemes and projects.

The objective was not to compartmentalise gender, but to incorporate it into all sectors and in addition, have a special component for women.

She said the Planning commission would have to look more seriously at the implementation of gender-based allocation of resources.

AIDWA also highlighted the need for hostels, crèches, shelter homes for women in distress and homes for senior citizens, and resource allocations for such programmes. The Approach Paper had also ignored women's health needs, especially of those who cannot afford costly private services, and the needs of children.

There was also a need to review the work and contribution of self-help groups and their requirements such as training and upgrading skills, besides ensuring support in credit inputs and better marketing of their products.

The AIDWA leader also expressed concern at the price rise. The hike in petrol and diesel prices alone cannot be faulted for the current price rise.

The price rise was not automatic.

She attributed the price rise to the decision of the previous NDA Government to dilute the list of essential commodities. While it was 70 in 1989, the NDA Government had reduced it to 15 in the name of free trade and commerce.

This had led to reckless profiteering. Similarly, the decision to remove movement restriction of essential commodities had also led to speculative trading, with the buyer and seller emerging as a cartel, leading to hoarding and price rise.

The AIDWA has decided to hold a joint dharna in association with other women's organisations in support of its demand for 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament. The dharna will be held from August 2 to 4.

Regarding the Sabarimala issue, the AIDWA said it was against all forms of gender discrimination. It demanded a larger social reform movement to prevent discrimination against women in the name of tradition and custom.

The organisation will take out a jatha in all states in November to highlight the need for social reform.