Unequal treatment - Women Empowerment


A workshop on " National Policy for Empowerment of Women- Plan of Action-State Consultation" was organised by the Women's Studies Research Centre, Gauhati University, in collaboration with the Assam State Commission for Women at the National Institute of Public Co-operation and Child Development (NIPCCD), Khanapara, Guwahati. The workshop is one of the series of the State Consultations being organised with sponsorship from the National Commission for Women in different States of the country where there are State Commissions for Women. The Women's Studies Research Centres provide academic support to such workshops.

Prof Susheela Kaushik, Director, Centre for Development Studies and Action, New Delhi and formerly Director of the Women's Studies Centre, Delhi University is co-ordinating the programme at the national level while Dr Archana Sharma Director i/c of the Women's Studies Research Centre, Gauhati University is co-ordinating the State Consultation .

The main theme of the discussions during the workshop was the need for and procedures of implementing a State Policy for Women.. All the resource persons and the participants were unanimous in their opinion regarding the urgency of declaring a State Plan of Action to implement the Women's Empowerment Policy. A set of recommendations for the State Plan of Action was prepared during the workshop. The major recommendations were, to incorporate at least two women members, preferably three in every decision-making body, including the governing bodies in schools and colleges, Executive Councils of the Universities, etc., gender budgeting, implementation of the Women Component Plan, strengthening of the Assam State Commission for Women and the Women's Studies Research Centres in the Universities with their network in colleges with proper budgetary support and creation of a gender desegregated data bank. It was suggested that these objectives must be achieved within a stipulated period of time even by reframing laws, acts and ordinances, if necessary.

The workshop was inaugurated by Smti Basanti Sarma, Chairperson, Assam State Commission for Women and the Registrar, Gauhati University, Dr MC Sarma presided over the inaugural session. The Chairperson of the State Commission, in her inaugural address, lamented the unequal treatment received by the womenfolk in the society. The Chief Secretary to the Government of Assam, Sri Jyotiprasad Rajkhowa, was the chief guest. Rajkhowa, in his elaborate and informative speech, reconfirmed the State Government's Commitment towards women's empowerment and emphasised the necessity of a State Plan of Action to achieve the desired results.

Dr Sarala Gopalan, formerly Secretary to the Department of Women and Child Development, Government of India acted as the key resource person. She had a direct dialogue with the Chief Secretary during the inaugural session on some crucial issues related to the implementation of women's empowerment programmes. Thereafter, she also dealt with in details about the various aspects of the National Policy for Empowerment of Women. She observed that the National Policy for Women's Empowerment is generally applicable, while there can be differences in the Plans of Action. According to her, compulsory registration of marriage, job reservation of women and participation of women in the decision making process should be accorded priority.

Prof Renu Debi, Professor and Retd. Head of the Department of Education and founder Director of the Women's Studies Research Centre, Gauhati University while presiding over this session, told that in her long association with the women's programmes, she has observed that the same issues have continued to be identified as women's problems. This shows what little has actually been done for women. Sri KK Hazarika, Secretary to the Department of Social Welfare, Government of Assam participated in a panel discussion chaired by Prof. Kunja Medhi, Professor and former Head of the Department of Political Science and formerly Director of the Women's Studies Research Centre, Gauhati University. Sri Ramesh Barpatragohain, Member, Faculty of Law, Gauhati University also participated in the panel discussion. Sri Hazarika gave a brief review of the State Government programmes for women empowerment and also the difficulties faced by government especially due to the fund crunch. Sri Barpatragohain pointed out government loopholes in legal provisions, that have hampered women's development and protection and the inaction of the State Government in dealing with these important issues. Prof. Medhi suggested that in spite of the problems, one should thrive for achieving harmonious society where men and women move together.

Prof Anuradha Dutta, professor and former Head of the Department of Political Science, Gauhati University chaired the session where the participants presented their group reports. While making a critical assessment of the group reports, she suggested that while formulating the recommendations we should specifically look at the situation of women in conflict situations. Faculty members from Universities and Colleges, NGO workers, Women's activists, members of the State Commission for women , Panchayat members participated in the discussions.

The valedictory session, held on the January 13, 2004 was chaired by Smti Basanti Sarma, Chairperson, Assam State Commission for Women and the valedictory address was delivered by Prof N Sanajaoba, Dean, Faculty of Arts, Gauhati University. In his scholarly , informative and provocative speech he observed that the State Commission for Women does not have a "tooth to bite" but it can at least raise its voice and use the pen and others will always be there to strengthen its hands. In his speech, he also asserted his strong belief in equal sharing of power by both men and women, and he even suggested the possibility of having co-chairpersons, co-heads etc., instead of having only a male head in any organisation/institution, even within the family. He suggested that while formulating recommendations, one should not also forget measures for changing the misconceptions prevailing in the traditional belief system, traditional family structure, etc.


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