Nations will only succeed if women are successful, Obama tells India

Tue Jan 27, 2015 8:06am EST
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By Nita Bhalla

NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - U.S. President Barack Obama raised the issue of women's rights as he ended a visit to India on Tuesday, saying that if countries wanted to develop effectively, they must educate and empower their daughters as much as their sons.

"We know from experience that nations are more successful when their women are successful," said Obama, speaking at a meeting attended mainly by students and broadcast live on local news television stations.

"This is one of the most direct measures of whether a nation is going to develop effectively - how it treats its women. When a girl goes to school, it doesn't just open up her young mind, it benefits all of us," he said.

"Maybe some day she'll start her own business, or invent a new technology or cure a disease. And when women are able to work, families are healthier, communities are wealthier, and entire countries are more prosperous."

Gender equality has gained greater public attention in India since the notorious gang rape and murder of a young woman on a Delhi bus in December 2012.

The crime, which sparked protests across India, spotlighted rising violence against women and has led to broader debate about the discrimination faced by girls and women in areas such as health, education and employment.

Obama was speaking days after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a campaign to tackle the dwindling number of girls in India - the result of decades of deliberate abortions of female fetuses due to a cultural preference for sons.

India's 2011 census showed that while the overall female-to-male ratio had risen marginally since the last census a decade earlier, fewer girls were born than boys.   Continued...

U.S. President Barack Obama addresses a gathering at Siri Fort Auditorium in New Delhi January 27, 2015. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood