Affirming his commitment to women's empowerment, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday said the government is moving towards providing one-third reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and state legislatures.
Inaugurating the women's leadership summit in New Delhi, he said the government is committed to social, economic and political empowerment of women, whatever effort and resources the task might take.
The Women's Reservation Bill -- providing for 33 per cent reservation of seats for women in Lok Sabha and state assemblies -- is expected to come up in the Rajya Sabha on Monday. Observing that reservation for women in local bodies has revolutionised governance at the grass-roots level, he said, "We hope to give this movement of political participation of women further fillip by increasing the number of seats reserved in panchayats and city and town governments to 50 per cent".
"More significantly, we are moving towards providing one-third reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and state legislatures," the prime minister said.
He decried the low female literacy rate as well as the maternal mortality rate besides the exceptionally low sex-ratio.
"The gender disparity on the economic front is reflected in the low female work participation rate of 25.7 per cent as compared to 51.0 per cent for males," he said.
"While we have shown improvement in these indicators over the years, the progress has been much slower than what we would have liked," he said at the summit attended by eminent women personalities and representatives from different walks of life.
Dr Singh said violence against women was another issue which needed to be addressed urgently.
United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi, in a message read out by Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath, said women in the country have broken glass ceilings but those in rural areas have not been able to avail of many opportunities. "Our sisters in rural India also need to enjoy such opportunities," she said.
Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar said that though Indian tradition provides high status to women by worshipping them as goddesses, the practise is reversed in society.
"Women are solely responsible for all household chores and their contribution to GDP is also not taken into consideration," she said.
She added that there was a need to take a relook at the present educational system as the problem of dowry even exists in educated societies. Observing that the ratio of women in the work force is not according to their ratio in the population, Kumar said special efforts are on to earmark one-third of funds in panchayats for the development of women.
The Speaker favoured a legislation to prevent violence against women. The three-day summit, being held as part of women's day celebrations, will be attended by women achievers from all fields. As part of the celebrations, Tirath felicitated women who have made a name for themselves in their field.
Those honoured included actress Sharmila Tagore, politician and social worker Mohsina Kidwai, former National Commission of Women chairperson Mohini Giri, danseuse Yamini Krishnamoorthy, mountaineer Santosh Yadav and media baron Indu Jain.