Narendra Modi spoke to the ladies of FICCI flo- an organisation representing entrepreneurial Indian women. The organisers had indicated that they wanted him to elaborate the steps he’d taken in Gujarat, to empower women, and encourage both increased employment and entrepreneurship.
He did speak very generally, and seemed to aim his words at more ordinary women than the illustrious who’s who of Indian industry in front of him. The main thrust of his speech seemed to be praise for non-professional women- homemakers, women in rural India. This gem of an idea unfortunately translated into a wholly unimpressive speech .
Here are my thoughts on the speech:
He spoke about entrepreneurial initiatives like Lijjat Papad, Amul and a certain Jasuben’s Pizza- the first two especially are wonderful examples of small home-based industries , initiated by women or run by them, that have evolved to become companies that corner large pieces of their respective markets. It’s inspiring to hear of these skill-based industries, obviously,but it’s important to remember that the CEO and ‘top guns’ of these companies are still male-with good reason I’m sure, but I still feel it’s misleading to hide this fact. Also, these two companies predate Modi by many years- and it’s wholly wrong for any political outfit to claim any sort of role in the success of these companies.
The absence of any mention of the rural women who play a major role in grass-root implementation of various governmental schemes-the auxillary nurse midwives, ASHA workers, and anganwadi workers.While a lot of women in these roles have limited education and training, they are vital to the success of all state programs- it’s criminal, in my eyes, to omit their contribution in any discussion of rural women’s achievements.
Like many politicians, the approach was indubitably patronising.He resorted to stereotypes of burnt fingers while making chapatis which have NOTHING to do with women empowerment or entrepreneurship, and serve to place women on some exalted pedestal that they are supposed to aspire to! Another example of this was the constant use of maa-behen to describe women- I found it extremely problematic- considering he uses ‘mitr’ (friends) while addressing men.
P.S. This is not about his politics, or my assessment of his suitability to lead the country in 2014.