Women activists across organizations in Tamil Nadu have written to Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa asking for a proactive chairperson for the State Commission for Women who can revive the commission. In the recent past, these activists feel the commission has become a largely defunct entity, and needs strong leadership to make it relevant again.
About 17 activists belonging to 12 women's organisations across Tamil Nadu are signatories to the letter. The letter states, â€śWomenâ€™s organisations in Tamil Nadu are looking forward to the revival of the Tamil Nadu State Womenâ€™s Commission, with a proactive chair who is proven to be sensitive to gender issues, and has concretely contributed towards womenâ€™s empowerment.â€ť
With the post-election mood of change in the air, the womenâ€™s organizations feel that this is the right time to push for a new chairperson.
R Renuka, who works with the Centre for Women's Development and Research, felt that the commission has suffered for want of a good leadership. â€śEvery time they appoint women above the age of 60 or 70, we want a younger and a proactive person,â€ť she said.
Activist Bimla Chandrasekar, Director of EKTA Nambikkai, concurred, adding that the commission requires a chairperson who actively engages with civil society organisations. â€śThey need to engage with civil society and womenâ€™s organizations. We have a chairperson who is now 92 years old,â€ť she said.
Dr Swarna Rajagopalan, founder of Prajnya, which works on issues related to peace, justice and security, emphasized that the womenâ€™s commission is a bridge between civil society and government. â€śIt should be able to marshall credibility of womenâ€™s organizations and access the resources of the state for the women in the state. The chairman can call a department secretary and get an answer which we cannot. So they become a focal point,â€ť she said.
Talking about the functioning of the womenâ€™s commission, she said, â€śAs long as Dr Vasanthi Devi was the chairperson (2002-2005), things were going well but after that there has been lesser engagement with civil society. We want someone of great caliber as chairperson,â€ť she said.
Renuka added that providing an able leadership and granting more power to the commission should be the way forward. She pointed out that in the past few years, the commission had been reduced to an insubstantial, purely formal existence. â€śActivists are claiming that there is no use of the women commission. We expect the chairperson to be concerned with women issues and want them to be given power to take actions,â€ť she said.
â€śDecision-making power should be given to the commission. A lot of women do not even know about the existence of the commission in the state. Every woman should know if they have problem they can approach the commission,â€ť she said.
The petitioners have also started an online petition at Change.org.