"Women alone are not responsible for bringing a change in perceptions about equality," said Union Textiles Minister Smriti Irani during her speech at Outlook's annual conclave SpeakOut on Friday.
“We need to empower society irrespective of gender,” said the minister, while delivering the keynote address at the annual Outlook conclave.
Irani, who was the Chief Guest at the event, said that men need to be equally responsible and involved at home and also to bring about changes in perceptions about gender rights.
The BJP leader said that when she was invited as the Chief Guest at the event, she had asked why her. “I was told that we are giving women a platform to speak. Women don’t need a platform to speak. They don’t have a problem speaking out; they have a problem being heard,” she said .
The event honoured several women who had achieved success in their chosen fields despite several odds including gender imbalance and misoginy.
Television producer Ekta Kapoor, who was present at the event, referred to Irani several times during her speech. “In 2008, Smiti told me that she wanted to do something for the nation. I was skeptical, but look at her now,” said Kapoor.
As part of the event, Irani felicitated several women, including Kapoor. “I am really happy that a woman whom I launched on television is the chief guest and giving me this accolade,” said Kapoor.
Back in 2000, Kapoor had taken a chance when she had taken an unknown face from Delhi in a key role in her first mega-serial Kyunki Saans Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi.
Irani pointed out that women have an incessant need to pass on the baton to other women. This, she said, was unnecessary.
“We never tell men that they need to hand over the baton to the son or the son-in-law. That’s what I learned from when I worked with Ekta Kapoor—[I realised] here’s my baton and I don’t have to give it up to anyone.,” she said.
"I am 42-year-old and I have a daughter at home who is 15-year-old. I don't wish to pass on the baton to her. I tell her that she has to run her own race,” Irani said.
Before she became a Union minister in the Narendra Modi government, Irani had been a spokesperson for the BJP for several years, apart from holding posts in the party’s executive body.
During that time, she had had several run-ins with Outlook’s founding editor, Vinod Mehta, whom she described as “audacious by design” and one-of-a-kind journalist. The two had faced-off during some television debates and on one such occasion, Irani recalled that Mehta had commended her for “showing spine”.
“There’s more where that came from, is what I told him,” said Irani, adding. “I am fortunate to have locked horns with the best.”