‘Not a ‘vibrant’ Gujarat on women’s issues’

Issues relating to women in Gujarat are not dealt with in an appropriate manner. This was one of the central themes at the first state-level convention on women's issues held in the city. Drawing more than a thousand women from across Gujarat, the convention held on Thursday witnessed some 45 organisations representing Gujarat-based women's NGOs and "secular" political parties objecting to Chief Minister Narendra Modi's projection of Gujarat as a "model state" on matters pertaining to women's issues.

Raveena Panchal, one of the speakers at the convention — titled "I will speak now" — hailing from Panchamahal said, "The plight of Dalit women in the state is pitiable and Modi is spreading falsehoods about the state being the developmental model."

Shabnam Hashmi, human rights activist and founder of Anhad, an NGO that took the lead in organising the event, said, "this convention is important in the present context where a leader like Modi is projecting Gujarat as a heaven. We are here to puncture that myth."

She said, "While women from many voluntary organisations spoke about issues close to their heart, this was the first time that political parties like JD (U), Mahila Congress, Communist Party of India (CPI), CPI (M), Lokjanshakti Party (LJP) and Nationalist Congress Party-Rastriya Janata Dal (NCP-RJD) came together on one platform to counter fascist forces and object against Modi projecting the state of Gujarat as 'vibrant'." A video footage of the event with sound bytes from various women has been compiled and will be released on the internet, she added.

While BJP officials were not invited to the conference, representatives from other political parties participated and spoke at panel discussions on women's issues. "How can Gujarat be a model state with emergence of cases like that of Asaram Bapu who has been arrested for alleged sexual assault and his son Narayan Sai. While the state government harps on educating women, it is made available to them through costly self-financed colleges, which proves costly for poor women," said Nalini Jadeja, CPI-M district secretary and member of the central committee member of All-India Democratic Women's Association.

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