The long-drawn-out debate on the subject of Gender Equality and Electoral Politics in India has gained a rapid momentum with Ab Hai Meri Baari, an initiative launched by Women’s Association for Training Empowerment and Resettlement (WATER) NGO, which organized around table discussion to spark a new national change and reshape the world of Indian Politics regarding women’s participation. The initiative has been aimed to reduce the gender gap in electoral politics and ensure equal strength to women in decision making. Rajya Sabha MP & Former Minister of State for Tourism, Govt. of India, Mr. K.J. Alphons, Dr. Udit Raj, National Spokesperson, Indian National Congress, and Kirti Azad, Campaign committee chairman, Delhi Congress along with many other prominent attendees like famous political commentator Neerja Chaudhury, astrologer Jai Madaan, Industrialist Sanjay Dalmia, Social Activist Anu Bajaj discussed various political perspectives and claimed “Ab Hai Meri Baari” as the much needed and thoughtful action to empower women on political grounds.
The legislative participation of women in politics is minimal. Since its independence, India has had only one female prime minister and one female president. Out of 31 states, 18 states in India have never had a female chief minister. There are only 78 women members in Lok Sabha which is barely a 14.58 % of the total house strength. In the case of Rajya Sabha, there are 33 women members, constituting a total of 12.7% of total house strength. Globally, India stands at the measly 20th position from the bottom when ranked according to the political participation of women.
Shilpi Arora, President, Water NGO expressed her deep concern regarding the low women participation in Indian politics. She said, “As against this basic notion of democracy what is normally seen is that women are excluded from different walks of life, more visibly in Politics. The U.N. observes that women constitute “world’s largest excluded category”. For the attainment of true democratic spirit shall be ensured better political participation. “In the struggle for gender justice equal political participation constitutes the first and foremost step in that direction.”
“We want 50-50 representation of both the genders in both the houses, this is how we can empower Indian women, not only psychologically but on real grounds where decision powers matter,” she further added.
Kirti Azad, Chairman, Campaign Committee, Delhi Congress – “In India we worship women as Goddess Durga, Parvati, and Saraswati. But the time has come when we need to see them as leaders capable of taking India to the next level. There is no doubt in my mind that this can happen.”
K.J. Alphons, Rajya sabha MP & Former Minister of State for Tourism, Govt. of India – “Women are by nature compassionate, caring and nurturing. Their goodness does not end there. They also have extraordinary leadership qualities. India needs women leaders committed to the future of our country.”
Udit Raj, National Spokesperson, Indian National Congress – “It is important to talk about women’s rights when we talk about gender parity in electoral politics. Women need rights and power so that they can lead the change. Women are always made to be aware of their chastity and purity and this acts as a burden, a deterrent to their stepping out to take their places in the society, for which they have educated themselves like men. Men do not carry this burden and it is a severe handicap to women.”
Neerja Chaudhury, Political Commentator – “ Mere lip service has been paid to women’s reservation bill for decades. The truth is, women are systematically left out of competing in elections by political parties. Ab Hai Meri Bari is an idea whose time has come. This century will belong to women.”
Starting from the national capital, the campaign is aimed to be spread nationwide, as Delhi is the Centre of Indian polity, and to mark a political change Delhi is an ideal place to spread the notion nationwide. The campaign in its first step is aiming to reconstruct the gender gap in parliament and reduce it to a minimal extent. The organization will forward the findings of the round table discussion to various national and regional political parties and would appeal them to work and implement strategies which can be effective in deciding the fair share of women on decision-making fronts.
The omission of women from positions of power seriously affect their ability to challenge the subordination of women in all its manifestations. Women have to be in politics and power to be able to change the very nature of that power which excludes them. Women, who constitute half the population need to be represented significantly in decision making bodies. Otherwise, the goal of development cannot be achieved. Gender equity is very essential for the progress of any society.