With women joining the Indian Air Force, the first and foremost psychological barrier has been crossed. The government was now looking at varied roles in the armed forces where women can be inducted. However, the changes have to be gradual, said Manohar Parrikar, Defence Minister of India, at an interactive session ‘Parivartan in Defence Sector: Changing Role & Opportunities for Women’ organised by FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO).
Parrikar said that the biggest hurdle in inducting women in armed forces was the lack of requisite infrastructure suited to them. In warships, women can be on board after modifying the ships. But in case of submarines, women cannot be inducted immediately as provision for separate area for women was difficult to create at the moment.
Speaking about the opportunities for women in the defence sector, Mr. Parrikar said that low end clothing line such as uniforms for NCC cadets could be one area where women entrepreneurs can look for possible business prospects. He urged FLO to come forward with a list of business propositions where they can partner with the defence sector and promote women entrepreneurs.
Responding to a query on reservation in armed forces on the lines of police force, Mr. Parrikar said that he believed in affirmative action rather than reservation. He added that defence was a highly skilled sector, where it would be better to encourage both men and women to join the force instead of making reservations.
Sharing his views on women empowerment, Mr. Parrikar said that financial independence and information were the two tools needed by women to become empowered. He added that it was imperative that the mother in a family was educated as she was responsible for the upbringing of the child. An enlightened woman could bring a change in the mindset by treating the girls and boys at home at par, thus profoundly impacting society’s outlook towards women.
Speaking on 100% FDI in defence sector, Mr. Parrikar said that FDI was an enabler, the real multiplier effect will created by orders. The sector has started receiving FDI and orders and under the ‘Make in India’ campaign, the defence sector was looking towards indigenously developing technologies and other defence equipment.
In her welcome address, Ms. Vinita Bimbhet, President, FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO), emphasized on the crucial aspects of entrepreneurial role of women in the defence sector, which needs to be boosted to achieve the goal of inclusive growth. She said, “FLO welcomes recent steps taken by government to promote the participation of private sector in indigenous defence productions and 100 per cent FDI along with induction of first female fighters in Indian Air Force paving the way for women to be given more combat roles moving towards gender parity in World’s biggest force.”