Breaking Gender Barriers
Breaking Gender Barriers
As a nation, India has a tradition of being led by formidable women — whether through the words of Sarojini Naidu or the fearlessness of Indira Gandhi, through the bravery of Aruna Asaf Ali or the skilled diplomacy of Pratibha Patil. The women of India have taken the nation to new heights. Even so, women continue to grapple various forms of systematic and societal discrimination. Even today, we are far from our goal of achieving gender equality. Mr. Scindia believes that our nation cannot move forward or accomplish all that it is capable of, as long as half our population continues to struggle for basic rights and dignity.
The empowerment of women is among Mr. Scindia’s foremost priorities.
- Safety of Women: Scindia is deeply concerned by the increasing levels of crimes against women in the nation, and especially in the state. According to the 2017 National Crime Records Bureau statistics, Madhya Pradesh has the highest number of rapes. Mr. Scindia is committed to ensuring safety for women in Madhya Pradesh by strengthening the enforcement of law & enforcement, taking stringent measures against offenders. Further, he believes that change begins with altering mindsets, and is committed to ensuring a statewide mindset of respect for women.
- Education: The first step toward changing mindsets is education. Education not only equips the girl child with the adequate skill set to become financially independent, but also empowers her with knowledge of her rights to make her socially independent. Mr. Scindia strives to achieve universal literacy, with a special focus on educating the girl child.
- Employment: But it doesn’t just stop at education. For Mr. Scindia, his task is not just to educate, but to employ and to empower. The Economic Survey 2017-18 presents concerning statistics that highlight that the number of women in the workforce has seen a 12% decline. He is committed to building collaborations with industries and businesses across the state and nation to ensure that the girls in his state are able to seek employment and that they are adequately compensated for their work and skills. For him, education and employment go hand-in-hand — one must educate based on the demands and requirements of the industry. Mr. Scindia believes it is crucial to build strong links with employers and to set up opportunities ranging from vocational trainings, apprenticeships, and trainee programs.
- Health and Maternity: Health forms the backbone of life and progress. Even so, health conditions in Madhya Pradesh are pitiful. The incumbent government has done little to provide even basic health facilities to the people. Primary Health Centers are in shambles, there is a lack of medical professionals, and a scarcity of medicines. People are forced to travel far and wide to seek medical assistance, bearing high costs of time and finances. This is especially difficult for women, who need special healthcare and maternal care. But gynaecologists are rarely found in rural Madhya Pradesh. Mr. Scindia recognizes the importance of women’s reproductive and maternal health, and resolves to revolutionize the healthcare system to offer adequate facilities and access to all.
- Menstrual Hygiene: Studies suggest that over 70% of reproductive diseases in women originate from poor menstrual hygiene. Even so, only 12% of women in India have access to and use sanitary napkins. A large proportion of women continue to use unhygienic, medically troublesome alternatives to pads, causing a health hazard. The issue is not just of lack of access and affordability, but also that of scarcity of awareness and knowledge. Mr. Scindia is committed to ensuring that women across MP are made aware and are given access to menstrual hygiene products at affordable prices.
- Reservation for Women in Parliament: Scindia recognizes that to make all these changes possible and to see the nation and individual states adopt a systematic change, it is necessary to have more women in the decision-making positions — it is essential to build an environment conducive for the empowerment of women by having more women in Parliament and in public service. As such, he lends his unflinching support to the Women’s Reservation Bill, bolstered by the Indian National Congress. In 1989, Rajiv Gandhi first envisioned women’s reservation and campaigned for it in Parliament and state assemblies. However, this was thwarted by the Opposition at the time, but realised later in 1993 by achieving 33% quota for women in Panchayats and municipal bodies through the 73rd & 74th constitutional amendment bills, signalling a grassroots revolution from the bottom-up. The Bill to take this forward and mandate a third of seats in Parliament and state legislatures was passed by Rajya Sabha in 2010, defeated in Lok Sabha as the UPA didn’t have a full majority, was not supported by allied. It has languished since then in the lower house, and the same BJP that made it an election promise has made no effort to see it through. Despite repeated reminders by Former Congress President Sonia Gandhi to PM Narendra Modi, urging him to take advantage of the majority his party enjoys and assuring full support by INC in both Houses, BJP has not shown any political will in four years.
Work so far
Towards achieving this goal of gender equality and ensuring health, safety and education for women, Mr. Scindia has made a number of interventions in his constituency:
- Lifeline Express: The world’s first hospital on a train, stops in his constituency of Guna (covering a district each every year), where it provides quality gynaecological care to girls and women. Started in 2003, the Lifeline Express has so far treated over 1.7 lakh patients in and around Guna, Shivpuri and Ashoknagar.
- Girls Hostels: To encourage education of the girl child, Mr. Scindia has paid special attention to setting up girls hostels in various academic institutes across his constituency.
- Solar Lights: in villages that are not yet connected to the electric grid, now allow women to undertake a range of activities, from household chores to income-generating activities like weaving and stitching at hours of their convenience.