New Delhi: How can there be empowerment of women without their representation in public office, President Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday said as he made a strong pitch for reviving the Constitution amendment Bill to give 33 per cent reservation to women in Parliament and the state Assemblies.
Inaugurating the first-ever National Conference of Women Legislators here, Mukherjee said the country has not been able to achieve more than 12 per cent representation for women out of the total membership of Parliament, which is "a sad commentary on us".
"How can there be empowerment without representation?" he said, adding that "attitudinal change is necessary."
The meet with the theme, 'Role of Women Legislators in Nation Building', has been organised by Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan.
It is being attended by women MPs and MLAs from across the country besides Speaker of the Bangladesh Parliament, Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury.
Recalling the efforts put in under the previous United Progressive Alliance government to pass the women's reservation Bill, Mukherjee said, "Even the legislation was passed with two-thirds majority in one of the Houses of Parliament (Lok Sabha); the other House has not yet approved it."
He said Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari has rightly spoken about the need for commitment from the political parties "in actual action, not in words, not in resolutions" in this regard.
The president said unless there is reservation, it is too much to expect that political parties will start giving one-third of tickets to women candidates.
"To expect that everybody will fall in line is too much and normally does not happen," he said at the first-of-its- kind conference.
On the issue of poor representation of women in committees not dealing with women's matters, Mukherjee said representation on such panels is not in the hands of the members of the political parties as it is distributed according to the strength of the parties in the House.
Lauding the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the inaugural session, Mukherjee hailed him for giving the slogan, 'beti bachao, beti padhao' immediately after assuming power.
He said Modi has underlined his commitment to the issue by being present for a session which he would not be addressing.
"The Prime Minister of India is giving more than an hour (to the session) without participating in it; that shows his total commitment to what he preaches and what he believes in," he said.
Pointing to local bodies where one-third reservation was ensured through the 73rd Amendment which inserted new Articles from 243A to 243O, the President said women improve societies when opportunities are given to them.
"There are more than 1.27 million women representatives and they are doing a good job. Their representation is 43 per cent," Mukherjee said.
Earlier, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said she had seen that women MPs often ignore financial matters. It is also expected that they speak on women issues, she added.
"This gives an impression that they are lagging behind. I am not saying they should not speak on women's issues, but they should also show similar interest in financial and other matters of national importance," she said.
It is important to pay attention to economic issues and government policies like Jan Dhan Yojana, she said.
Such information should be disseminated among women so that they can move forward. We can also do something similar in other areas, like agriculture, the Speaker said.
"We should strive to bring women issues in science and technology as well. Once I came across a problem of women- friendly tools. There are many women labourers, but never has the thought occurred to anybody to design tools according to their needs," she said.