Addressing the 29th Annual Session of the FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO) in New Delhi on Monday 8th April 2013, Shri Narendra Modi said that empowerment of women is the key to enhancing entrepreneurship among women. “Till we do not empower women, there is no change for entrepreneurship among them,” pointed the Chief Minister. He also called for a greater role for women in the decision making process. He affirmed that in every sphere, wherever women have got the opportunity they are two steps ahead of men and this has to be accepted. The FLO Annual Session was attended by a record number of women from all across the India. Not only did Shri Modi speak but also he answered some questions. Shri Modi was given a standing ovation by the audience at the conclusion to the programme.
Shri Modi stated that in Indian culture, the position of women is supreme. “Wherever there is purity, we see Mother. The Ganga is an incarnation of the Mother, so is India. Even the cow is revered as a Mother. Position of women has always been supreme, there are no two views on this,” he pointed out. However, Shri Modi stated that about 1200 years of slavery brought in adverse changes and shared that in the 18th century the girl child was drowned in milk. He expressed concern that the situation has gone from bad to worse today, “Sometimes I feel we have become worse than the 18th century, where atleast the girl child was allowed to be born. In 21st century the girl child is killed before she is born and both men as well as women are responsible for this.”
Categorically affirming that there is no question of differentiating between girl and boy child, the Chief Minister stated that he knows of families where four sons are doing very well but have not been able to take care of their parents but there are families where the only daughter has sacrificed her marriage to take care of the mother.
Giving instances of the Gujarat Government to empower women, Shri Modi recalled that when he became the Chief Minister after the earthquake in 2001, the Government made a norm that all houses given during relief work were named after women. Likewise he shared, “Today do a survey of homes, there is little property in the name of women. We took a small decision- if the property is named after the women, the stamp registration fee will be waived off. The result was a loss of Rs. 600 crore but in many families, property was bought in the name of the women.” Similarly, he talked about the State Government’s decision, which called for writing the name of the student’s Mother in school forms.
Speaking on the need of integrating women in the decision making process, Shri Modi recalled a visit by Panchayat Members of a village near Dakor. He affirmed that what he heard there, he has not heard anywhere else. “The women said we have got five years, we want to do something that there are no poor in the state. They said they wanted to do some economic activity and what can be a bigger agenda than this?” he asked. Shri Modi opined that the Gujarat Government gives special allowances to those villages that elect all-women bodies for administration.
Shri Modi also stated, “We talk of training, financial help but examples show that entrepreneurship is inbuilt in us. In the west, people think of Indian women as housewives. I am not convinced with this thought. In tribal dominated areas, see what women are doing for economic development. In dairy sphere, I feel the contribution of men is minimum. It is not that the women are not there in the development journey, only thing is that they are not partners in decision making process.” He gave examples of Ahmedabad’s Jasuben’s Pizza, Lijjat Papad, Induben Khakhrawala to illustrate what women entrepreneurs can achieve. Shri Modi also talked about steps taken by the Gujarat Government in coastal areas to integrate women in initiatives such as seaweed cultivation. He also went back in time and gave the example of Ganga Ba, a widow who joined Mahatma Gandhi at Sabarmati Ashram and introduced the Charkha there.
The Chief Minister said that before his speech he got a lot of suggestions, ideas and feedback on social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter. He welcomed this trend wholeheartedly.
After his speech, Shri Modi answered some questions related to his personal habits as well as the working of the Government. On being asked about his weakness, he admitted that no human is perfect and everyone has weaknesses. “But I have got values that teach me to walk ahead with my strengths. Also, if you feel I have any shortcomings, please feel free to share them with me, especially on social media.” This answer was very well received by the audience.
The Chief Minister also spoke about invigorating the handicrafts section in response to a question on the topic. On a question pertaining to his views on Women Reservation, Shri Modi shared that the state Assembly has already passed a bill for 50% reservation in local bodies but it is a woman Governor who is stalling it. He shared that whatever we are today is not due to ourselves but the contribution and efforts of lots of people.
Speaking before Shri Modi, FICCI President Ms. Naina Lal Kidwai said that Shri Modi presides over state that is a gateway to the globe for India. “Narendra Modi ji is a person whose Mantra is teamwork,” pointed Ms. Kidwai.
During the occasion, Shri Modi released the FLO Annual Report. Women entrepreneurs from all over India came, heard Shri Modi and enjoyed his speech.