New Delhi: The National Forum of Single Women's Rights has sought a monthly pension of at least Rs 3,000 and demanded that the term 'single women' be redefined to include widowed women of all ages and those who head their households.
"Until now, single women below the age of 60 in Rajasthan have been getting a minimum of Rs 500. This is not enough to survive in 2018. We don't want anything less than half of the minimum wage, that is, Rs 3,000 per month," Chandrakala Sharma from the Association of Strong Women Alone said.
According to the 2011 census, 8.6 per cent (or over 5 crore) of the total female population of India is 'single'. This includes widows, divorced, unmarried older women and those deserted by husbands. In the 2001 census, the figure was over 3 crore.
These women are also demanding that the central government, in its definition of 'single women', include women who head their households - women whose husbands are missing, in jail, suffering from some physical or mental ailment.
For their children, the women want the Centre to adopt the Rajasthan government's scheme, which gives Rs 1,000 to children below 18.
"In Himachal, we get Rs 5,000 per year for the education of our children, which is way less than what the children of single women get in Rajasthan," said a woman from the northern state.
Rajina, a resident of Darjeeling, gave a grim account of how single women are exploited by their employers.
"In Darjeeling, we have a quota of 100 people. So, whoever gets to be in that quota gets the pension, the others are left out. We have no social security scheme and the tea gardens are surviving on everyday labour," she told IANS.
Besides, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, which aims to enhance livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of wage employment in a financial year, "is completely useless now".
"Of the 100 days, we only get 50 days of work; the rest is eaten up by the employers," Rajina said.
Skill and educational training at a subsidised rate and equal share in husband's property are some of the other demands that the single women have.