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CNN Today

Clinton Calls Attention to Struggle of Indian Women

Aired March 23, 2000 - 2:11 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: President Clinton and daughter Chelsea visited a game preserve in India today. Mr. Clinton set aside his work schedule for awhile, taking Chelsea and some top aides on a two-hour sightseeing safari through a national park.

The 12-vehicle convoy slowed to a stop when it came upon this: a wild Bengal tiger, about 20-feet away. It was one of the two they spotted.

The president said he was thrilled. Reporters say the tigers just yawned.

Earlier, Mr. Clinton traveled to a small village to call attention to the struggle for a better life by many Indian women.

We get that story from CNN's Kelly Wallace. She is traveling with the president.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): India's president calls the treatment of women his nation's greatest shame.

But women at this village got the royal treatment when President Clinton came to salute the role they play on village councils and to encourage them to keep pressing for their rights.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You have these institutions of democracy. You must believe in them and use them and not give up when you're frustrated.

WALLACE: Maya Devi (ph), a 30-year-old mother of two, was elected to her village council, or panchayat, this year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I learned today that women should move forward. The work that men are doing today can easily be done by us women.

WALLACE (on camera): A 1993 constitutional amendment gave village women power they never had before. It declared that 33 percent of the seats of any panchayat must go to women.

And seven years later, Indian women, at least on the village level, say their voices are starting to be heard. (voice-over): And they say that has led to a change in perceptions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From one, who is a homemaker, who can't take her own decisions, who pays extreme discrimination, has -- carries a very low self-image, to one, who is today not only a homemaker, but also a breadwinner.

WALLACE: Despite some successes, Indian women still face major obstacles: six out of 10 can't read, and women have fewer than 10 percent of the seats in the Indian parliament.

But Dr. Matuhr (ph) says there are promising signs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because as the source of development in terms of education or health or nutrition, our coming into the village by government that is better equity and better civil justice. So now that they begin to recognize that they can get many more things through women.

WALLACE: Maya Devi (ph) hopes women learn from her story. She married at 13 and became a young mother. She thinks women should put off marriage and children and get an education first, so that the next generation of Indian women can break down more barriers.

Kelly Wallace, CNN, Nayla Village, India.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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