Photo: V. Sudershan
President Pranab Mukherjee presents the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development to Ela Ramesh Bhatt, watched by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, chairperson, Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust, at Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi on Monday.
Gender disparity in the country can be tackled only through proactive intervention in areas such as economic empowerment of women, building of adequate social and physical infrastructure and improving women’s role in governance, said President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday.
Presenting the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development for 2011 to Ela Ramesh Bhatt of Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) at Rashtrapati Bhavan here, Mr. Mukherjee said empowerment of women was the key to not only meeting the objective of gender equality but also to eliciting full participation in nation-building.
Congratulating Ms. Ela Bhatt, the President said her life and work was reflective of the philosophy and ideals espoused by the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The prize bestowed upon Ms. Bhatt “is a tribute to her unflinching zeal towards the betterment of women in society and progress of humanity”.
Expressing hope that Ms. Bhatt’s example would spur many more initiatives in the country and elsewhere, the President said there was a need to strengthen the systems and processes that facilitated women to take control and claim ownership of their lives.
“Rural backwardness can be addressed only through concerted efforts to create equality in access and unearth the potentialities hidden in people. Ms. Bhatt’s work has underscored this approach to socio-economic upliftment,” he said. “Women comprise 48.5 per cent of our total population. Though the overall sex ratio has increased by 7 points during the decade 2001 to 2011, the ratio of 940 females per 1,000 male population in 2011 is [a] disappointing figure and reflects the distance that remains in achieving true equality.”
The President said that as poor women were often incapacitated to act individually, social mobilisation for their economic redemption was a critical necessity. “Participatory institution building through self-help groups has been found to be one of the most effective tools for the empowerment of women in developing countries. As on 31st March 2012, there were around 63 lakh all-women self-help groups in India that had combined bank savings of more than Rs. 5,100 crore. The number of such self-help groups is increasing, with a growth rate of 9.2, 14.8 and 3.3 per cent during 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12 respectively,” he pointed out.
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