TN released first of its kind Policy Draft for Women

Photo credit: The Hindu

Activists believe that the draft lacks an effective framework

By Anoushka Sawhney

The ‘Tamil Nadu State New Policy for Women 2021 (draft)’, which was released on December 15, 2021, lacks an implementation and monitoring framework, according to many activists. The policy draft did not receive much coverage from media organisations. 

Sheelu Francis of Tamil Nadu Women’s Collective said that there is a “big gap in the list of affected women” mentioned in the policy draft. “There is no mention of homeless women, migrants, refugees, sanitary workers – who were regarded as frontline workers during Covid-19 –, women farmers.”

Around 80% of the women rural community is involved in farming, she added. 

After 20 years of the National Policy for Empowerment of Women, the Tamil Nadu government released the ‘Tamil Nadu State New Policy for Women 2021 (draft)’, a first of its kind, which proposes women-friendly public spaces, mandatory martial arts training in all schools and colleges, availability of credit for women, among the many. 

The policy, according to the draft, would be implemented in five years. 

Many have lauded the policy draft and expressed their happiness. However, researchers and activists believe that the policy draft has neglected a few crucial points. 

“In December 2001, the 18-point programme for the Welfare of Women and Children was released during the tenure of J. Jayalalithaa, former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. The release of the Tamil Nadu State Policy for Women draft, after two decades, is a success story,” Kamatchi, Senior Researcher, Social Watch – Tamil Nadu said. 

Kamatchi said that Chapter six of the draft mentions that gender budgeting will be introduced at all levels of ministries and public sector units. 

“But, there is not much coverage of decentralizing this gender budgeting process at the local bodies level.” 

She said that the policy and budget should always be intertwined, and both of them should have an intersectional perspective for a successful model. 

Kamatchi said that Part C of the tentative budget statement assumes 30% allocation to women schemes by each department. “It should be revamped with 5% allocation of the total gender budget statement to the vulnerable and marginalized women in the state.”

None of the courts has washrooms, which are friendly to disabled people, Kamatchi said.

She established a comparison between two government buildings, that is, Taisha building in Virugambakkam built for IAS officers with all the facilities and Semmanjeri with lack of water, toilets, etc. 

“It is the same government, same tax money but the lack of social equity perspective,” Kamatchi said.

“100% the policy draft would not be implemented if there is no voice of the grassroots. It will just be a black and white paper,” she added. 

The draft was released in English, which “automatically reduced the access of women to give feedback,” Francis said.  

Francis said that they had translated the document before the release of the policy draft in Tamil to take feedback from the villagers. They covered various villages such as Vasudevanallur in Tenkasi, Melmalayanur in Tiruvannamalai, etc. 

The Tamil version of the draft was released five days before the deadline, that is, January 31, 2022, and the window to give suggestions was extended for another eight days. 

Gowri Ashokan, former head of the State Commission for Women, said that the policy draft by the government is appreciated. “But, the action is not clear.” 

“It is just on paper and is a silent act. The state should come up with a clear strategy of implementation.” 

Francis said that the draft lacked accountability regarding the work each institution/department will be responsible for.

Kamatchi and Francis believed that the policy was not participatory and lacked an effective framework. Francis said, “The drafting committee team should have representation.”

Ms. Vanessa Peter (Founder IRCDUC, Chennai), Ms. Geetha Narayanan (Consultant and Researcher), Ms. Kamatchi (Senior Researcher, Social Watch – Tamilnadu), Ms. Sheelu Francis (President, Tamilnadu Women’s Collective), Ms. Bimla Chandrasekaran (Director, Ekta Resource Centre for Women) have together sent the government their suggestions on the policy draft. 

Ms. Bimla Chandrasekaran, Director, Ekta Resource Centre for Women said, “We are hearing that the policy will be finalised and released on women’s day, but we are not sure.”