Dr. Avnish Jolly :India’s Planning Commission is starting a new scheme to create awareness among minority women about issues and rights that can empower them socially, educationally and economically, and also teach them the importance of health, hygiene and sanitation.
To be implemented over the next five years with the help of the Ministry Women and Child Development, the scheme will cost Rs 20 crore. India’s 2001 census says Muslims account for 13.4 per cent of the country’s over one billion population, while Christians and Sikhs are respectively 2.3 per cent and 1.9 per cent.
Syeda Hameed, Planning Commission Member said that we hope to launch the scheme soon, Ministry of Women and Child Development is working out the details and it will be implemented with the help of NGOs / CBOs/ FBOs and stressed women need to be told about certain good things like why they should send their children to schools and how health is important and where one can get health facilities.
The Indian government has recently estimated that the literacy rate among Muslim women is as low as 21 per cent. Hameed said that due to high degree of backwardness among Muslim women they have been doubly discriminated. Muslim women do not even question their status. She further said that a lot needs to be done for the holistic empowerment of Indian Muslim women in particular.
Subhashini Ali, Former Member of Parliament and President of the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) said that Muslim women are faced with a huge problem of inequality and discrimination and how to bring them on a par with others continues to be a major concern. The government has a major responsibility to address their problems. AIDWA’s national convention of Muslim women held here August 27 had sought among other things equal economic, educational, employment, health and citizenship rights for these women.
Dr. Manwinder Sidhu, Department of Women Studies, Panjab University said that empowerment and leadership development will be possible only when women are equipped with education and basic life skills and the state should train and provide them with reasonable employment, and the spillover benefits will lead to the development of real leadership. It has to be done at a large scale regularly with innovation.