Prime Minister Narendra Modi met the members of group "Indian Ladies in United Kingdom (ILUK)" during his bilateral visit to UK last week. The group boasts of more than 27,000 first generation migrant Indian women from various walks of life and from all corners of the Indian sub-continent.
The women, led by ILUK founder Poonam Joshi, presented the Prime Minister with a special chest containing messages from Indian women across the UK. The messages outline their hopes and aspirations for future India.
The box, created by the London-based artist and long-standing ILUK member Komal Hoskotii, was called #WomanKiBaat.
The group members told the Prime Minister about ILUK's new initiative 'Beta Padhao, Beti Bachao' - an extension of his widely promoted, 'Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao' initiative.
Ms Joshi explained the Prime Minister that ILUK aims to promote the message that the most important factor in improving the circumstances of the girl child in India is to educate their male siblings, friends and peers. Education, she said, should not just be on issues of equality and empathy, but on other subjects like menstrual and reproductive health.
Three days after the meeting, Mr Modi took that message to an election rally in Madhya Pradesh. The Prime Minister called on families to better educate their sons and make them more responsible when it comes to the treatment of girls around them.
Ms Joshi said, "As Indians, we take a great deal of pride in our Prime Minister and the importance that he merits here in the UK. And we have been hugely encouraged by the work that he has carried out in India, whether it is with his 'Swachh Bharat' initiative or his measures to improve the circumstances of the girl child."
"The challenges are many as we have seen in recent days. So it is vital that we support Prime Minister Modi and work with him to bring about change and create a modern, progressive India," she added.
Speaking of the 'Beti Bachao, Beta Padhao' initiative, Ms Joshi said, "India is the most dynamic and talked-about country in the world right now. There is so much hope and potential for the future of our country. And yet, the global discourse about India is dominated by stories of oppression against women and minorities."
"We believe that the only way to change that conversation is by promoting education, specifically the education of our boys," she said.
Ms Joshi further said, "As a mother of three boys, there is no greater duty for me than to educate my sons, not just to have amazing jobs in the future but to respect and empathise with their female counterparts. I was born and raised in India, so I understand the inequality that has become second nature for us - not just on the part of men but the women who turn a blind eye to inequality. That has to stop," she continued.
The group shared the pictures on Facebook with the message:
ILUK's meeting with Prime Minister Modi came a day after the group welcomed the Prime Minister to the UK with a large and colourful "flash mob", featuring dozens of women in colourful saris.
On his visit to Britain in 2015, Prime Minister Modi was presented with a large blanket, called the 'Unity in Diversity' blanket, made up of 3,500 individual crochet squares handcrafted by members of the ILUK, which at the time comprised some 5,000 members.
What began as a social network for newly arrived migrant women, ILUK, has today grown to a major not-for-profit organisation that helps victims of domestic violence, spousal abandonment and dowry abuse in the UK.
The group also helps promote awareness of Indian culture in the UK and aims to help shape a progressive future for India, the cornerstone of which, its members believe is, gender equality.
During their first meeting with Prime Minister Modi, ILUK members highlighted some of the challenges faced by first-generation NRI's (Non-Residential Indians) in the UK.
The government too has introduced a number of measures to assist the NRIs which includes introduction of stricter laws governing spousal abandonment.
ILUK has also begun working closely with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), which helped to facilitate the return of a number of women abandoned in India, as well as the High Commission of India in the UK, which has started working closely with ILUK.
(With Inputs From ANI)