Saturday 20 August 2011


Women’s role in decision making is one of the most important question for consideration in the movement for empowerment of women. Women can give a human face to governance in India.
Women play a dual role in politics – as voters and as political representatives .Since Independence ,due to exercise of their franchise ,Indian  women have been exposed to the political processes and are showing increasing awareness of their lack of rights. In recent years  past records show that has  been an increase in the percentage of women who vote .The number of women contestants in Parliamentary elections have not shown significant increase. The reason being that the political parties are still reluctant to field women candidates at  a national level. The growing money power and muscle power required to contest even the smallest of elections is another deterrent .The intimidation ,violence ,slander that a women candidate has to face combined with the traditional male domination  seeks to keep her indoors .Narrow electoral arithmetic and the necessity of fielding a winning candidate makes most political parties shy away from fielding more than the token number of women candidates .And if they are fielded at all… kinship and affinity factors play a major role. The women relatives of politicians  are promoted and supported to emerge as politicians. Increasingly based on this ideology women have stood for elections and got elected as members of State Legislative Assemblies and the Parliament!
In 1973 and 1974.Amendments to the Indian Constitution have served as a major break through towards ensuring women’s equal access and increased participation in political power structures .
This Amendment provided for reservations of 1/3rd of seats for women at level of local self governance in urban areas . In 1993 the Panchayati Raj (village Self Government )system was introduced as a tool to improve rural communities 33% of elected seats were reserved for women.
However women sarpanches (democratically elected village heads )have not been able to participate on an equal footing to men in rural governance.In the rural areas ,lack of education ,reproduction and productive roles ,lack of financial independence and deeply rooted cultural and religious taboos make it difficult for women to be heard in a traditionally male-dominated space like politics .
It has been found that women sarpanch ’s husband deny access to their wives. They send out messages that it is they who perform all the surpanche’s duties .On the phone they identify themselves as sarpanches.Clearly the message is that women are mere proxies! A few women sarpanches who took their jobs seriously were not taken seriously in official meetings.
Maharashtra’s first women Election Commissioner ,Neela Satyanarayan has vowed to change the image of Indian women as proxies. A retired civil servant Satyanarayan feels that the system was never programmed for women .The men will take their time to adjust to the entry of women in governance.e.g. compassion is a part of a women’s personality .It gives a human face to the establishment ,and it comes naturally to women.
There are limits and constraints that prevent women from participating equally with men in formal and informal meetings.
There is a need to understand just how to be a good
local politician .The role of a political representative
is demanding and all new recruits need time to gain experience and understand the rules ,regulations and
procedure governing the administration bureaucracy with which they have to work .
The role of women’s participation in elected bodies
should not be undervalued .Elections are after all
a form of self government and democracy. They are
significant in drawing the attention of the nations to the problems of the needs of disadvantageous section and the manifestos,campaigns,promises made by individual candidate’s track record and future course
of  actions of political parties are indicative of national concerns as well as mandates for action.
Proper selection of candidates in an election is vital
if this representative democracy is to function in the
interest of a majority of population that is repressed and disadvantaged.
Hence opportunities for participation at the local level are significant for the adoption of policies and measures for women’s development.Strong dynamic women who could not dream of appropriating privilege are today talking of reservation because they have come to recognize that they will not get “easy entry “ in the corridors of power without reservation.For most women it is the last straw and a desperate measure to ensure their coming into the political arena .
Their participation becomes vital in the context of the adoption of some development strategies that are negative and harmful to women . Here they can make amends.
Today most of the political parties in India have initiated some measures to ensure political participation of women and develop their capacities. And what a difference it has made to local self governance! Women have added their unmistakable flavor to Indian politics.
The examples of women sarpanches are few and far between ….yet all of them have made their mark some way or the other. They have to deliver because they know that they are viewed with a jaundiced eye by their male counterparts who will not let a slip go by.She has to work doubly hard to show  the world….(and I borrow lyrics from Diana Ross)…
I’m coming out!
I want the world to know
I gotta let it show
There’s a new me coming out …
I have to break out of my shell
And I have to shout
I am coming out!!!!!
To illustrate their success I am naming a few ….
30 years old Chhavi Rajawat an articulate computer savvy women sarpanch of Soda village 60 km from Jaipur in backward Rajasthan.,dazzled the world conference of the in March 2011.She thanked the U.N.officials who had visited and extended all support to the opening of the first Bank in her village. That made all the difference .To transform my village I don’t want money she said but I need people and organisations to adopt a project in my village .Often projects fail for  lack of local support she said that she would provide that support !
On the other hand we have Kiran Kumari despite lack of education ,social and financial backing Kiran stands as a proud role model of wonders that women reservation can do .At Muzzafarpur Bihar Kiran solves all disputes without the need of interference by police or the courts.
Sunita Devi Dalit Srpanch of Chattisgarh Garhi Hakeequet .What pleases her is the  proud remembrance of the day when she climbed up the village chaupal!
Studies have indicated that women members participate more actively in women’s issues Health,welfare,atrocities against women,crimes like dowry and violation of human rights ……
And may I ask why not?It’s the wearer who knows where the shoe pinches   who better but women who could address such issues better!
Women have indeed come a long way and yet have miles to go…..before one can say she has arrived!!!

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