UN Women Executive Director to call for speedy implementation of progressive laws on women’s rights in India


For immediate release
03 October 2012

Women's political participation and increased economic opportunities to be the focus of the three day visit.

New Delhi, 3 October— Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women Michelle Bachelet on her first official visit to India will draw attention to efforts to advance gender equality and women's empowerment, including at the grassroots level.

Commending India on the progressive legislation and initiatives that have been put in place in the largest democracy in the world, including the Sexual Harassment Bill, the Domestic Violence Act, and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act that guarantees equal pay for equal work for women, Ms. Bachelet will call for robust actions to ensure implementation of these progressive laws, so that all women at all economic levels can benefit from them.

“India with its 1.22 billion population can be a world leader in all spheres. Progress in India is not only progress in India, it is progress for all, said Ms. Bachelet. “Unlocking women's potential and increasing their political and economic participation and leadership is critical from the district offices to the corporate boardroom, from the Lok Sabha to the village panchayats. This will send a clear message to the world that India is leading the way for democracy, for women and for equality, she said. In India,local level reservation has spurred women's political engagement from the ground up. Today more than 40 per cent of seats on local councils are occupied by women.

More than an estimated 1.5 million women have been elected into these panchayats, administering public services and resolving disputes from violence against women and girls to property. Ms. Bachelet will call on India to complement the successful results obtained at the local level and to bring into conclusion the legislation for 1/3 reservation for women in Parliament.

Through discussions with senior-most officials and leaders in India, private sector and civil society, as well as meeting with elected women representatives and grassroots women in a Gram Sabha, attention will also be on women's access to economic opportunities and resources. In India women's workforce participation is only 22 per cent, and though 79 per cent of rural women work in agriculture, more than 90 per cent of them are in the informal sector, with little social protection and land ownership.

During the three-day trip, Ms. Bachelet will provide the keynote address at a global Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference on women speakers of Parliament on 3rd October in New Delhi and also meet with private sector leaders at a high-level event hosted by the Confederation of Indian Industry.

To advance efforts to invest in women's leadership in South Asia, Ms. Bachelet will launch a unique Regional Centre of Excellence for elected women representatives at the local level during the National Leadership Summit hosted by the Government of India in Jaipur.