New Delhi: An ambitious programme to empower elected women panchayat representatives was on Friday launched by the government here in collaboration with Norway and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).
The joint programme, launched on the occasion of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi`s birth anniversary, will be undertaken on a pilot basis in Bihar, Orissa, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka, Union Minister for Rural Development CP Joshi said.
`Promoting Women`s Political Leadership and Governance
in India and South Asia` was jointly launched by Joshi along
with Norweigian Minister of International Development and Environment Erik Solheim and Regional Director of UNIFEM in India Anne F Steinhammer at a function here.
"We need to ensure that women play effective role as leaders without facing discrimination or voluntary silence. Only such participation can bring to the fore their concern of economic, social, and physical skills," Joshi said while addressing the function.
He hoped that the joint initiative would help in capacity building of elected women representatives in the six selected states.
The launch of the programme is part of an inter-government MoU signed between India and Norway during
Joshi`s recent visit to the country.
"We are today celebrating the birth anniversary of our great leader, Indira Gandhi. So I congratulate you on behalf of the Government of India for selecting this day for the launch of this programme," Joshi said.
Addressing the function, the Norwegian Minister said he was "very impressed" by the the law passed by India which gives 33 per cent reservation to women in panchayats, saying "that`s one of most progressive laws in any nation".
Solheim said India and Norway can help each other through mutual cooperation. "We can learn from India. May be we have some experiences which may interest India as well."
Joshi said India has about 10 lakh elected women panchayat representatives. "In terms of quantity, we have large number of representatives, but in terms of quality, I think we have to learn certain things from Norway," he said.
The programme, for which the Royal Government of Norway has committed about 10 million USD, will also be implemented by UNIFEM in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan apart from six states in India, the Norwegian Embassy said.
It aims at providing an effective political leadership role for women in governance without facing discrimination or violence and addressing their concerns of economic, social and physical security at different levels, a Rural Development Ministry official said.