To make women digitally empowered in Odisha, the state government will provide free smartphones to all the women self-help groups under Mission Shakti programme, chief minister Naveen Patnaik said Wednesday.
Stating that women in Odisha have come a long way, the next ceiling to be broken is the digital one, Patnaik said.
"Digital empowerment will further accelerate the socio-political and economic empowerment of women," he said.
The chief minister made the announcement at a seminar on women entrepreneurship at the Make in Odisha Conclave, 2018 here.
""My dream is to see that every woman has access to knowledge economy. As a first step, my government will digitally empower all the six lakh Mission Shakti groups with a smart phone," Patnaik said.
Stating that women empowerment was something "very close" to his heart, the chief minister said that he was happy that the second edition of the Make in Odisha conclave had focused on women entrepreneurs.
"No household, no society, no state and no country has ever moved forward without empowering its women. From the day, I assumed office in 2000, my government has always been conscious of the great role women can play, especially in a state like Odisha which had challenging socio-economic indicators," Patnaik said.
As soon as he took over in 2000, Patnaik said he started Mission Shakti as a project in 2001, which has transformed into a movement with 70 lakh women, 6 lakh groups, Rs 5,000 crore savings and Rs 2,000 crore annual bank exposure.
"There is no habitation in the state without a Mission Shakti group. Almost every second household has a member in Mission Shakti. We have had the highest drop in maternal mortality rate. Our infant mortality rate is better than the national average. Our institutional delivery is a record 90 per cent," he said.
Recalling his discussion with the collector of a tribal district, Patnaik said that banks compete with each other to finance Mission Shakti groups and the repayment rate is 95 per cent.
"My government honours their sincerity by providing SHGs loans at one per cent the Mission Shakti loans, he said urging the bankers to meet the credit requirement of Mission Shakti groups in a dignified and professional manner.
On the political empowerment of women, Patnaik said his father Biju Patnaik was a pioneer who made 33 per cent reservation for women in local bodies while his government has increased it to 50 per cent.
"Whenever my government has made an initiative whether Mamata or Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana or the land rights, the state always runs the extra mile for women," he said.
"As a government we do so many things institutions, buildings, bridges. Let me confess that whenever we have done anything for women, it has had the maximum impact for the state and given me the greatest personal satisfaction," the chief minister said.