President speech on Women’s Day
India Blooms News Service
Puttaparthy, Nov 19 (IBNS) SPEECH BY HER EXCELLENCY THE PRESIDENT OF INDIA SHRIMATI PRATIBHA DEVISINGH PATIL AT THE WOMEN’S DAY CELEBRATIONS
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I extend my warm greetings to all of you on Women’s Day which is being celebrated today by Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust and coincides with the birth anniversary of Smt. Indira Gandhi, a brave first and the only woman Prime Minister of India. In the morning today, the nation paid homage to her including in a ceremony at Shakti Sthal in New Delhi, in which I participated. Throughout her life, she worked tirelessly for the progress of the country and the welfare of the people.
Today, we are gathered at Puttaparthy to begin the 85th Birthday celebrations of Sri Sathya Sai Baba.I pay my regards and I wish him the very best on this occasion. His progressive views on the role of women are inspiring. His commitment to their upliftment was evident when in 1969 he opened a college for Women at Anantapur, which was among the first of the several educational institutions being run today by the Sri Sathya Sai Trust. I am truly impressed by the range of welfare activities undertaken by Baba to ameliorate the hardships of the poor. Services are provided free and in an atmosphere of love and tender care, to the poorest sections of society and women. What is remarkable is that these activities were undertaken in pursuance of the promises which Baba gave to his mother years ago.
A mother’s impact on shaping the future of humanity is immense. A mother has been endowed with a special gift from nature to give unconditional love to her children and family and to bind the family together. Therefore, the saying that, “God created mother because he could not be present everywhere”. Many of the values and approaches in life are learnt by children from their mother. A woman’s role extends from being an important member of the family – daughter, sister, wife, and mother – to being a determinant of social development, as well as an architect of and contributor to building the nation. As love and kindness are the essential qualities of motherhood, women contribute to the development of a good family, a compassionate society, a progressive nation and a more tolerant world.
Women’s participation in the political and economic activities of a society enrich the fabric of a nation. Many women in India have reached high positions and many others are doing well in different spheres and even in professions once unthinkable for women. I am, however, conscious about the constraints and difficulties that they face in realizing their full potential. Our efforts to empower women through education, awareness and opportunities must continue.
The progress of women occupies a special place in my priorities, and it is my endeavour to see forward movement on issues that have an impact on them. After the Governors’ Conference held in September 2008, I constituted a Sub-Committee of Governors with the mandate to suggest steps for empowerment of women to move forward rapidly on the agenda of gender equality. Emerging from its recommendations, later the National Mission on Empowerment of Women was launched on 8th March this year, for the co-ordinated delivery of women-centric and women-related programmes of the Government. Proper and timely implementation of these schemes in a transparent and accountable manner is essential for achieving the goal of empowering women. Success in this will translate into manifold benefits to the nation. In this context, I recall the words of Swami Vivekananda that, “The upliftment of the women …… must come first, and then only can any real good come about for the country – for India.”
A foremost tool for empowerment is education. The Right to Free and Compulsory Education and the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan should ensure that every child, boy or girl, in the age group 6 to 14 years receives education. It would be well to remember that when a daughter goes to study, it has a ripple effect. Educated women can be the voices in the fight against social evils like female foeticide, child marriage, dowry and addictions, as well as against the discrimination and biases that exist in society against women. Educated women can help other women to become self-reliant and self-confident. They can counsel other women and share experiences about career choices, entrepreneurship, as well as in matters like nutrition and childcare.
Health is an area that deserves full attention. India’s burden of maternal, newborn and child mortality is one of the highest in the world and needs to be addressed. Access to and affordability of healthcare, especially for women and children are tasks that must be accomplished. A sustained approach is required towards developing a strong health infrastructure throughout the country. All stakeholders – the Government, private sector, voluntary organizations and people have to work together for this objective.
Women should be actively drawn into the planning and development process, especially at the grassroots level in rural areas. I am happy that at the grassroots level in our elected bodies in villages and towns there are 1.2 million elected women representatives. They should focus on bringing women related issues to the forefront, so that not only do women progress, but there is overall improvement in the standard of living and opening of many more avenues of employment and productive work in rural areas. A fact, which is sometimes forgotten, is that agriculture is the main employer of women. 75 percent of the total female workforce and 85 percent of rural women are employed in agriculture. Women should be encouraged and empowered to be more active in obtaining food security in our country.
Diversification of the rural economy hinges on changes in agriculture, as well as on emerging opportunities in the non-farm sector. Our food production has grown, but we still face the challenge of enhancing our productivity, particularly in rainfed areas. This requires a radical change in the existing conventional methods of farming, crop diversification, better management of water and land resources, proper storage and transport facilities, as well as improved and scientific farm practices. I believe that linkages between the corporate world and the agriculture sector should be forged given the many complementarities that exist between them. Location of food processing industry and other agro-based industries close to rural areas will optimize benefits for both – business persons and farmers. Partnerships can also be evolved for marketing, research, micro-credit and skill building of men and women, amongst others.
I see in the gathering a number of girl children, youth and women, all very energetic. I see the people exuding self confidence. Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s effort has been to assist every one to acquire self-knowledge and self-confidence, which I appreciate. Confident citizens constitute the foundation of a confident nation, as they can take the nation forward. Moreover, those who are working selflessly – giving their time, resources and energy, are the ones who are impacting lives and bringing change quietly, but resolutely. As Smt. Indira Gandhi had said, “My grandfather once told me that there were two kinds of people: those who do the work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be in the first group; there was much less competition.” I urge all present here to do their work honestly and earnestly. We have to work together to build a strong nation. No country can achieve its full potential without adequately developing the capabilities of its women.
With these words, I extend my best wishes to each and everyone here. I once again greet Sri Sathya Sai Baba, and I am sure with his guidance many will follow that path of service to humankind.