For Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, women’s safety and empowerment has always been a concern. Being the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) president, he has said that the regional party named after his father, Biju Patnaik, has all along been fighting for the rights of women.
Recently, on the occasion of the 24th foundation day of BJD, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said that his party will continue to demand 33 percent reservation for women in assemblies and Parliament. He added that BJD will make women reservation issue a national movement by raising it in every session of Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha and the Legislative Assembly.
The Orissa government under his leadership has made 50% reservation for women in Panchayat Raj institutions to achieve gender equality in the representation in panchayati raj bodies. In fact, while his father late Biju Patnaik was the CM of the state, the then Janata Dal government had for the first time reserved 33% representation for women in local bodies.
“While initially there was a lot of criticism with most people saying that husbands and fathers will actually run the show, today more than sixty thousand women in Odisha are doing remarkable jobs as Ward Members, Sarpanchs, Block Samiti, Zilla Parishad Members, and Presidents,” said Patnaik.
Earlier, in March this year, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, Naveen Patnaik announced that his government cleared a proposal for a separate Mission Shakti department that would exclusively work for around 70 lakh rural women associated with nearly six lakh women self-help groups (SHGs) created under the Mission Shakti movement.
These groups strive towards economic empowerment of women by initiating income-generating activities and providing interest-free loans. With this, Odisha became the first state ever to have an exclusive self-help department for women.
“Be it financial independence or representing the people in Parliament, empowering women has been the cornerstone of our development initiatives. We will continue to work towards championing them in every field, and create spaces for their leadership towards progress,” Patnaik had tweeted.
This year also saw Odisha launching the Women’s Leadership Summit of Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC). Odisha became the first state in India to launch the Indian Chamber of Commerce’s (ICC) women chamber, namely ICC Women Entrepreneurship Committee.
A group comprising diverse and dedicated women entrepreneurs, it will work together to hasten the industrial development in the state. Starting with 40 women entrepreneurs and corporate leaders, the committee aims at including 100 women entrepreneurs from the state by the end of the year 2020.
Naveen Patnaik has recognised the idea that women’s empowerment has been a constant issue despite the independence of the nation, and to achieve the distant dream, we need to aim towards “challenging the status quo and creating precedence for women.”
He has always encouraged the socio-economic empowerment of women from different backgrounds or stratas. Previously, Patnaik had launched the Mamata Scheme with an aim to reduce maternal and infant mortality by improving the health and nutrition of pregnant and lactating women. Under this scheme, around six lakh pregnant women received 5000 rupees as cash assistance for medical procedures during pregnancy.
In order to bolster potential women entrepreneurs, Odisha government launched the Startup Odisha initiative. This is to ensure that at least 33 per cent of new startups have women as founders or co-founders. Moreover, it was aimed at making Odisha one of the top three startup destinations of India.
(Edited by Anju Narayanan)