From Job Cards to Law Against Witch-Hunt: An Election Manifesto for Single Women
A 45-page manifesto put together by ActionAid Association demands that the term ‘single women’ be defined to include all categories so all single women, and not just widows, benefit from welfare schemes.
Ahmedabad: From ‘chowkidars’ to ‘chaiwalas’, political parties are raining promises to woo voters ahead of the general elections. But one group that finds itself on the margins of these poll promises is that of single women.
The hopes and aspirations of this group have now been put together in a manifesto by ActionAid Association, which is part of ActionAid International.
The 45-page manifesto titled, ‘For Equality and Justice: A People’s Agenda’, demands that the term ‘single women’ be defined to include all categories so all single women, and not just widows, can avail schemes for pension, child support, housing and skill training.
“Single women should be considered as constituting a single household. Single women-led households in both urban and rural areas that are BPL must be provided with ration cards and other relevant documentation under the woman’s name,” it said.
ActionAid Association, whose chairperson is Shabana Azmi, further demanded that “all separated, deserted and divorced women must be entitled to at least half of the assets of the marital home or half of the assets acquired by a couple during the period that they have lived together, regardless of whose name the asset is in”.
The rights group highlighted that the performance of family courts with respect to delivering justice and compensation and recognising the rights and agency of women is abysmal.
“The problem is made worse by former spouses who do not pay maintenance adequately or in time. Therefore, legislation is needed such that when family courts award maintenance to women, the monthly amount is paid by the government from a central or state fund, and the government recovers the money from the separated/divorced husband.”
According to the 2011 Census, there was 39% increase in the number of single women in India, from 51.2 million in 2001 to 71.4 million in 2011. This includes widows, divorcees and unmarried women, and those deserted by husbands.
The body has also demanded a national law to deal with harassment and violence against women who are branded as “witches”. Some of the other demands mentioned in the manifesto are:
- Single women engaged in agriculture should be recognised as farmers.
- Single women must be linked with existing housing schemes.
- In addition to pension for widows, single women who have never been married, are divorced, or are separated must also be ensured monthly pension. The pension amount should be set as at least half of the national minimum wage.
- Single women must be provided separate job cards under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.
- The children of single women should be provided free education up to class VIII and scholarships should be made available to them thereafter.
“We have given this manifesto to all political parties in the country, asking them to include these demands in their manifesto,” Sushila Prajapati, programme officer, Jaipur regional office, ActionAid Association, told News18.