New Delhi, Dec 6 (UNI) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today reaffirmed the Government's commitment to providing representation to women in legislative bodies and said that true and meaningful gender equality could be achieved only by combining this with educating women and providing them gainful employment opportunities.
''If the education of women is combined with financial independence, then their empowerment gets a firm foundation. In fact true and meaningful gender equality will be achieved by educating women, providing gainful employment opportunities and ensuring their sufficient representation in legislative bodies,'' the Prime Minister pointed out and said it required a social movement to achieve this important goal.
''Let us initiate that movement now and become the torchbearers of a new movement for gender equality,''he exhorted the participants of the 2nd East Asia Gender Equality Ministerial Meeting here.
Dr Singh pointed out that mobilisation of over a million women elected in local bodies has brought about gender equality alongwith a significant shift in public policy and social attitude towards women.
''We are committed to providing similar representation to women in our State Assemblies and Parliament. We are working for a broad consensus in this important matter. We firmly believe that the participation of a critical mass of women in politics at the highest level will bring about a revolutionary change in ensuring good governance,'' the Prime Minister said.
Significantly, the women bodies have been criticising the UPA government for not fufilling its commitment made in the Common Minimum Programme of providing 33 per cent reservation to women in Parliament and State legislative assemblies as it has failed to bring the bill before Parliament during the past three and a half years, attributing it to the lack of consensus.
The Prime Minister also reiterated that gender equality was a fundamental necessity for promoting social and economic development.
He said that the Government sought to impart a new sense of urgency to the task of ensuring gender equality in society, polity, economic life, families and communities.
Gender equality was a very powerful and effective weapon against extremism, fanaticism, fundamentalism and political and social violence, the Prime Minister said and added that gender equality was a building block of a secular and democratic edifice.