First-ever knowledge hub for their excellence launched in Jaipur

The U.N. Women launched the first-ever knowledge hub for elected women representatives living in rural areas of South Asia here on Thursday, promising to provide information to them through audio, video, web and mobile applications with the potential to overcome literacy and geographical barriers and ensuring support to perform their duties.

The U.N. Women functions as a United Nations body for women’s empowerment and gender equality. U.N. Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet unveiled the hub, named the Regional Centre for Excellence, in the presence of more than 200 women leaders from six countries, experts and policy-makers.

The centre is part of a collaborative programme of U.N. Women, Government of India, Government of Norway and civil society groups to train 65,000 elected women representatives of Panchayati Raj institutions in 16 districts of five States in India to become more effective leaders. The five States covered are Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

A day-long leadership summit titled “Dialogue for change: Women in politics, policies and livelihoods”, was also organised on the occasion. Rajasthan Governor Margaret Alva delivered the valedictory address in the evening, while the workshop was attended among others by Odisha Panchayati Raj Minister Kalpataru Das, Norwegian Ambassador to India Eivind Homme and K. Ratna Prabha of the National Mission for Empowerment of Women.

Ms. Bachelet, who served as President of Chile from 2006 to 2010, said while several countries have introduced gender responsive budgeting, South Asia needs a “paradigm shift” to a more holistic approach to livelihoods and women’s empowerment.The U.N. Women lays emphasis on training and enhancing the capacities of women and local governance institutions, she said.

Ms. Bachelet – who is also the U.N. Under-Secretary General – said she is an ardent supporter of special measures such as quotas for ensuring women’s equal participation.

She noted that all South Asian countries except Bhutan have promoted women’s political partnership through the system of reserved seats in legislatures and local councils: “In that sense, the experiment has been successful.”

She praised the Rajasthan Government for passing an order to ensure that Mahila Sabhas are held prior to Gram Sabhas and pointed out that no large-scale and long-term change in women’s situation in society can be effective without government support. The U.N. Women, she said, focuses on making institutions of governance, planning and social services responsive to the issues concerning women as part of its two-pronged approach to promote women’s political leadership and governance.

In this approach, sensitive issues such as domestic violence and sexual harassment and abuse are also addressed, she added.