New Delhi: Linking sanitation to the safety, dignity and self-respect of women, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh Tuesday said Women Self-Help Groups should take up toilet construction as the sixth principle of National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM).
He said new direction is being given to NRLM, the government`s ambitious rural livelihood programme, to make sanitation its major part.
"Sanitation to my mind is a women`s issue and it is fundamentally of women`s issue. This is concerned with the safety of women, their dignity and self-respect," Ramesh told reporters here.
"If there is one step for women empowerment, it is sanitation and toilet construction. We are working on it in different states," he added.
The Minister said every women self group in India has got what is called paanch sootra (five principles).
"Everyone is brainwashed into learning the paanch sootra -- regular meetings of the Self-Help Groups, regular savings of Self-Help Groups, regular loaning to the members of Self-Help Groups, regular recovery and repayment of loans to Self-Help Groups and regular maintenance of accounts.
"Now, they will have a shashta sootra (sixth principle) and it must be sanitation," he said.
He said that Self Help Groups should also be known as "Sanitation" Help Groups.
Talking about the new direction, he said the women`s self-help groups will now be the primary instruments for implementation of sanitation programme. "Sanitation will be now part of the NRLM mainstream," he said.
He was speaking after signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between NRLM and Digital Green, a Microsoft Research Project.
Ramesh hailed the UPA`s NRLM as the "biggest programme" for empowerment of women and said that the movement is going to stay in the country despite political changes.
"Because today the success story of NRLM is Bihar, Chattisgarh, Odisha, Assam, Madhya Pradesh,
Jammu and Kashmir. I think, the Women`s Self-help Group movement is completely insulated from political changes. Parties will come, parties will go, governments will come, governnments will go...But the Women`s Selfhelp Group movement is here to stay," he said.
Ramesh said that today bank linkage for Women Self Help Group is about Rs 20000 crore and in five years time the government want to increase this to Rs 10,0000 crore as 80 percent of the current loan disbursement is concentrated in the four Southern States--Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.
Referring to the success stories of NRLM, Ramesh said the use of technology will help in documenting of best farm practices in the rural hinterland.
In areas where farmers have the second source of income apart from traditional crop agriculture like livestock or non timber forest produce, the cases of farmer?s suicides are low, he said.
Quoting data, the Minister said that at present one third of all farm households are owned by women in the country.