At FICCI Ladies Organisation 29th AGM, Gujarat CM Narendra Modi shows how women empowerment can change the picture of country's economy
AFTER stirring the youth and the corporates, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi overwhelmed the country’s key women entrepreneurs who sit in boards of different commercial giants and have a significant say in share market, export-import as well as economic policies of the government. When Shri Modi unfolded his agenda for real women empowerment, these women thrilled with his innovative ideas. Citing several successful steps that he has taken in Gujarat for betterment of women, Shri Modi proved he has a vision for empowerment of women. Instead of focusing on the problems, he emphasised on solutions.
Modi’s speech was significant in the sense that Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, on April 4 at CII meeting, raised mostly shortcomings of the system, but Modi’s speech presented practical solutions. He not only counted successful women entrepreneurs of the state but also said how the problem of water scarcity was overcome in Gujarat.
Unfolding his agenda for good governance in the form of Vision Document-2014 at FICCI Ladies Organisation’s 29th annual meeting in New Delhi on April 8, Modi focused on women’s entrepreneurship, empowerment and equality for the fair sex. “Give the opportunities to women that they can go two steps ahead of men,” he said. He cited the examples of women in Vanvasi areas and the dairy movement, which made Amul an internationally known brand. “But even today women are not part of the economic decision-making process. We have to change the mindset and bring them into the decision-making process,” he said in a speech that received cheers from the country’s key women entrepreneurs, which included FICCI president Naina Lal Kidwai, FLO's new president Malvika Rai and others.
Highlighting exemplary women entrepreneurship of Gujarat, he narrated the story of Jassu Behn, who has a pizza stall in Ahmedabad. “Her stall is so popular there that if there is a Pizza Hut next to her stall, people will still go for Jassu Behn’s pizza. Her pizzas could beat even the known international brands,” he said urging FICCI to constitute an editorial board to compile and showcase the exemplary work being done by women entrepreneurs, the likes of many can be found in Gujarat – the Amul cooperative, Lijjat Paapad and Indu Behn’s Khakra. He said Lijjat Papad is a model of entrepreneurship worth chronicling.
In his trade mark half-sleeve and band-gala Gujarati kurta, Shri Modi kept the audience hooked with his frequent one-liners. Citing the example of his visit to the representatives of an all-women village Panchayat, he said, he was struck by their agenda. “These uneducated women had a single-point agenda during their five-year elected term and that was to ensure that nobody in their village remained poor. It demonstrates the women’s vision and determination and can be the agenda which, if followed resolutely, could transform the nation,” he said. He however expressed concern over the silence of Governor Smt Kamla Beniwal, who is sitting on the Bill passed by Gujarat Assembly granting 50 per cent reservation to women in local urban and rural bodies.
Referring to the decisions taken by his government for women empowerment, he said after the 2001 earthquake in Gujarat, he decided to give homes to the quake-affected family only in name of female members. His Government also gives special grants to villages, which have women Sarpanchs and Panchayat members. As of today, Gujarat has 300 such villages, he informed.
He also revealed that when a child is admitted in school, his or her enrolment is done by using the mother’s name. However at the same time, he pointed out that such psychological empowerment would have no meaning if women are not empowered financially and have no say in decision making. And this, he added, requires certain strong policy measures, as ironically the country has become much more discriminating and cruel to women than it was in the 18th century. “Sometimes I think we have gone back further than the 18th century. At least in the 18th century, the girl child could see her mother’s face. But in the 21st century, the foetus is killed,” he said.
At the same time he also emphasised on dignity of women and giving them respect. “If we have to create a modern India, we have to take pride in our women and their power. We have to empower them through demonstrable actions. Like in Gujarat, properties registered in the name of women should be free of stamp duty”. Such a step, he said, would empower them not just economically but ensure that the benefits of such empowerment spreads throughout the family and subsequently to the entire society.
He deeply conquered the audience when asked about his failings. He said no human being is complete. “In everybody there are some shortcomings. I have all the shortcomings of an ordinary man but the values (sanskar) that I received I have been able to leave some of them behind…. I have not reached the height where I can evaluate myself. It is for you all to do,” he quipped.
Taking questions on Gujarat’s development model and what more he wants to do, he said, “We have just filled the potholes left by the successive Congress Governments. We have now managed to bring it to a level-playing field. Imagine how big the potholes would have been, that took us so long to fill them. The actual work to take Gujarat to new heights will start now,” he said amid a resounding round of applause.
Earlier, FICCI President Smt Naina Lal Kidwai said Gujarat emerged as a gateway to the globe from India and one to India from the globe. “India’s success must be measured by its success in mainstreaming women,” she said adding that “the demographic window enjoins us to focus on skill development and vocational training and creating employment opportunities. These will be the building blocks to growth.”