STFI Collects One Crore Signatures ON WOMEN’S ISSUES
K Rajendran ON November 18, leaders of the School Teachers’ Federation of India (STFI) met the president of India to submit one crore signatures in support of women teachers, girl children and women’s demands. The delegation was led by STFI president Abhijit Mukharjee and included its general secretary K Rajendran, treasurer C N Bharti, vice president T Ganesan, and secretaries Utpal Ray, Swapan Pal and Sima Dutta. The president listened to the STFI demands patiently, saying how we could be called civilised if our society cannot respect women. He appreciated the STFI for meeting one crore people in the country on the women’s issues. Congratulating the government of India for having passed a bill against sexual harassment of and attacks on women, for providing the victims immediate relief and justice, and establishing fast track courts for meting out rigorous punishments to the accused, the STFI appealed to the government to take necessary action for the welfare of women teachers and girl students. The memorandum said lakhs of women teachers working throughout the length and breadth of the country, many of them under the state governments and union territories, do not have the facilities that are provided to women teachers in central government’s schools and other educational institutions. Women teachers are facing many problems in their families, in society and in the schools. These include discrimination, harassment and complacency in providing minimum facilities and creating a peaceful atmosphere. Raising the issue of women’s safety and security, the STFI said people of all walks of life should be sensitised about the need of gender equality at home outside and at workplaces, through special initiatives with commitment and courage. An atmosphere is to be created wherein everybody would be aware of the serious action to be taken against the perpetrators of misbehaviour against women and girls. At the same time, self-confidence must be infused in girls by giving them training in self-defence. This should be done on war footing by appointing qualified teachers and providing the required facilities. Under any circumstances, this should commence from the start of the next academic year. As a matter deserving utmost importance, necessary budget should be allocated and released for regularly running and strengthening such programmes. The STFI memo also expressed concern over the higher dropout rate among girls, and asked the government to take up the problem seriously and see that all girls in the country are educated up to secondary level at least. This needs creation of a healthy and conducive atmosphere, removal of the hurdles in the way, tightened security in schools and colleges, and issuance of stern warning to anti-social elements. The STFI memo demanded that all state governments must be directed to implement two years child care leave to women teachers under them. Despite the fact that the Right to Education Act (RTE) was passed about three years ago and despite the several Supreme Court directions regarding the fulfilment of minimum requirements in schools, the situation has not much changed. Special attention should be paid for an improvement in the situation. In view of the ground situation, the STFI memorandum brought to the president’s notice some urgent demands requiring a settlement at the earliest for a betterment of the conditions of girl students and women teachers in the country. The main demands of the STFI are as below. 1) All necessary steps should be taken for the safety and security of women and girls 2) Police force should be strengthened by recruiting women into it, at all levels, in large numbers. 3) Necessary steps should be taken to encourage girls’ education by providing scholarships, hostels and other incentives. 4) The Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas (KGBVs) should provide free and compulsory education from Class 1 to 12. 5) All primary schools should be strengthened by attaching the Anganwadi centres with them. 6) All state governments and union territories should be directed to provide two-years child care leave to all women employees under them, as is done in the case of central government’s women employees. 7) The government of India should see that all the state governments and union territories provide a minimum of six months maternity leave to all women employees under them. 8) All women teachers working in the recognized schools should be sanctioned six months maternity leave and other leaves at par with women teachers in the government schools. 9) Services of women teachers working in the central government sponsored Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas should be regularised. 10) Immediate steps should be taken to provide toilets, drinking water etc, in all schools in general and girls’ schools in particular. 11) There are plenty of warning signals regarding the dropouts of girl students from schools. This trend should be fully stopped and all such girls should be brought back to schools. 12) The central and all state governments as well as union territories should allocate separate gender budgets for girls and women under all heads. 13) The bill for 33 percent reservation for women in state legislatures and parliament should be passed at the earliest. 14) Steps must be taken to curb the price rise, strengthen the public distribution system and make it reach all the poor women and their families.