Skip to main content

Women entering public life have to face much harder, longer road

By Moin Qazi*
Men and women should own the world as a mutual possession. ― Pearl S. Buck
The Punjab Assembly has cleared the way for 50 percent reservation for women in panchayati raj institutions (PRIs) and municipal bodies. Several other states have already taken to this progressive trajectory and have 50 percent reservations for women in panchayats.
Even though India’s women enjoyed constitutional equality with men, religious custom, traditional thinking, illiteracy and economic reality thwarted their freedom for long. During the last two decades the gender landscape has been slowly greening and women are now on the cusp of a powerful empowerment revolution.
The issue of gender discrimination is usually exploited by political parties to appeal to their core vote, much like a travelling circus drums up an audience. After the media switches its attention away, the political circus will pitch its tent somewhere else. Gender was not a priority with the government which was content with tokenism, such as installing a woman president. But the early Nineties saw some well-meaning policies that, unlike those that barely scratched the surface, hoped to deliver a sledgehammer blow to deeply entrenched patriarchy.
In 1993, an amendment to India’s constitution formally established the Panchayat Raj (Village Government), a three-tiered structure of local governance at the village, block and district levels. It also mandated that the gram panchayat-village council- at bottom tier of new decentralized governance system- would have one third council seats reserved for women .It revitalized an age-old system of rural local government whose name is drawn from the Sanskrit for ”council of five wise men.”
It is a silent revolution, the greatest social experiment of our time and one of the greatest innovations in grassroots democracy. These rural women, who are ordinarily portrayed as being weak, secluded, and victims of tradition, are shattering the stereotypes. Earlier the contention was that politically inexperienced and otherwise disadvantaged women would simply be overruled or manipulated by their spouses or other powerful local interests. Critics argued that male politicians would promote female relatives to do their bidding, and that it could advance wealthy, upper-caste women at the expense of poorer lower castes.
This is not the case if one sees the heartening developments on the ground. Political power has enabled several women to successfully overcome deep-seated cultural resistance to catalyze changes in their leadership roles as heads of village governance. They are now setting aright Indian demographics and social indices.
These women leaders are now heralding the dawn and the roosters are waking up to the new socioeconomic and political revolution that is emerging in the countryside. Women throughout India are ensuring that roads are repaired, electricity is brought to their villages, schools are built, toilets are installed, water sources are made safe, medical services are available, local savings groups are formed, and the list goes on and on. When put in charge, women in India have shown they are better than men at providing public good, which have greater priority for the community.
More than three million women have become politically active, with over one million of them being elected to public office every five years. They are no longer puppets, rubber stamps, or proxies for their husbands. The rise of Indian women as heads of gram panchayats is a spectacular achievement given that India has one of the worst records with respect to the way it treats the female sex.
One of the changes is a decrease in sex selection. In the 2001 Indian census, men outnumbered women by seven percentage points. A study by Priti Kalsi, a researcher with the University of Colorado at Boulder, found that increasing women’s political leadership may limit preferential selection for boys because leadership elevates the status and desirability of girls. Kalsi’s research found that after women’s political representation was increased through quotas, there was a substantial decrease in child mortality among girls and a significant increase in the likelihood that one of the first three children born to a mother will be a girl — suggesting a decrease in sex-selective abortions and female foeticide.
A study co-authored by Esther Duflo at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rohini Pande at Harvard University and Petia Topalova at the International Monetary Fund has found that the quotas did something else as well: they dramatically changed the beliefs of young girls – and their parents – about what they could and should do with their lives.
But women do face severe constraints. To enter public life, they have to cross many barriers and the many constraints and challenges that are inherent in them.
First, the barrier of home and family, with the economic and socio cultural barriers and demands that exist.
The second barrier is access to knowledge and information. The education of girls has not been a priority for decades, and though this is changing, girls are still deprived. Moreover, literacy is not enough to enable a woman to access all the skills and knowledge required to govern.
Third, the new age of information technology has penetrated villages. Gram panchayats have become more technologically savvy thanks to the state governments’ attempt to computerize all data and communications of the Panchayat Raj Institutions (PRI) to introduce the concept of e-governance. Here again, the lack of access to education and training makes the prevalence of technology a barrier to women.
But still, women are using whatever their levers of authority provide to bring about change in their societies. The World Bank’s World Development Report on gender equality and development shows progress in some areas, while in others gaps between men and women stubbornly persist. In India, the World Bank team discovered that measures like the introduction of quotas for women in the Panchayati Raj, or village level government, led to better access to clean water and sanitation, crimes against women being reported more often, and a jump in prosecution for those crimes.
The heroic stories of tenacious women scripting tales of success are great signs of a brighter tomorrow. The journey of a thousand miles starts with a step. Women’s empowerment is a journey, not a fixed point that yields to simple policies.
For a fuller and more decisive and meaningful role in village governance, women have still a long way to go. For this to happen, women need to actively compete in the present political game in the rural arena. It’s going to be a much harder, longer road than policy wonks may imagine. But if they have the will, they can succeed. They know from their past lessons that they have the tools and they increasingly need to summon their political will to support reforms that can engender greater empowerment for women.
What is finally needed is not just changing the rules of the game, but changing the game itself.

*Author of “Village Diary of a Heretic Banker”, has spent more than three decades in the development sector

Comments

TRENDING

देशव्यापी ग्रामीण भारत बंध में उतरे मध्य प्रदेश के आदिवासी, किया केंद्र सरकार का विरोध

- हरसिंग जमरे, भिखला सोलंकी, रतन अलावे*  15 और 16 फरवरी को निमाड के बड़वानी, खरगोन और बुरहानपुर में जागृत आदिवासी दलित संगठन के नेतृत्व में आदिवासी महिला-पुरुषों ग्रामीण भारत बंद में रैली एवं विरोध प्रदर्शन किया । प्रधान मंत्री द्वारा 2014 में फसलों की लागत का डेढ़ गुना भाव देने का वादा किया गया था, 2016 में किसानों की आय दुगना करने का वादा किया गया था । आज, फसलों का दाम नहीं बढ़ रहा है, लेकिन खेती में खर्च बढ़ता जा रहा है! खाद, बीज और दवाइयों का दाम, तीन-चार गुना बढ़ चुका है! किसानों को लागत का डेढ़ गुना भाव देने के बजाए, खेती को कंपनियों के हवाले करने के लिए 3 काले कृषि कानून लाए गए । 3 काले कानून वापस लेते समय प्रधान मंत्री ने फिर वादा किया था कि फसलों की लागत का डेढ़ गुना भाव की कानूनी गारंटी के लिए कानून बनाएँगे, लेकिन वो भी झूठ निकला! आज जब देश के किसान दिल्ली में आपको अपना वादा याद दिलाने आए है, तब आप उनका रास्ता रोक रहें है, उनके साथ मारपीट कर उन पर आँसू गैस फेंक रहें हैं, उन पर छर्रों से फायरिंग कर रहें है! देश को खिलाने वाला किसान खुद भूखा रहे, क्या यही विकास है?

Only 15% businesses provide employees real-time sustainability dashboards: Study

Kyndryl in collaboration with Microsoft has released the findings of The Global Sustainability Barometer study. The study, conducted by Ecosystm, finds that while 85% of organizations place a high strategic level of importance on achieving their sustainability goals, only 16% have integrated sustainability into their strategies and data. A Kyndryl note: *** Kyndryl (NYSE: KD), the world’s largest IT infrastructure services provider, in collaboration with Microsoft , today released the findings of The Global Sustainability Barometer study. The study, conducted by Ecosystm , finds that while 85% of organizations place a high strategic level of importance on achieving their sustainability goals, only 16% have integrated sustainability into their strategies and data.

Tamil Nadu brahmins are at cross roads, their future scenario remains uncertain

By NS Venkataraman*  For over 70 years now, brahmin community in Tamil Nadu have been abused, insulted and even physically attacked on some occasions by those who claimed that they were part of the so called dravidian movement. However, brahmin community silently and helplessly ducked under pressure and showed no signs of resistance or fight back.

How the slogan Jai Bhim gained momentum as movement of popularity and revolution

By Dr Kapilendra Das*  India is an incomprehensible plural country loaded with diversities of religions, castes, cultures, languages, dialects, tribes, societies, costumes, etc. The Indians have good manners/etiquette (decent social conduct, gesture, courtesy, politeness) that build healthy relationships and take them ahead to life. In many parts of India, in many situations, and on formal occasions, it is common for people of India to express and exchange respect, greetings, and salutation for which we people usually use words and phrases like- Namaskar, Namaste, Pranam, Ram Ram, Jai Ram ji, Jai Sriram, Good morning, shubha sakal, Radhe Radhe, Jai Bajarangabali, Jai Gopal, Jai Jai, Supravat, Good night, Shuvaratri, Jai Bhole, Salaam walekam, Walekam salaam, Radhaswami, Namo Buddhaya, Jai Bhim, Hello, and so on.

नफरती बातें: मुसलमानों में असुरक्षा का भाव बढ़ रहा है, वे अपने मोहल्लों में सिमट रहे हैं

- राम पुनियानी*  भारत पर पिछले 10 सालों से हिन्दू राष्ट्रवादी भारतीय जनता पार्टी (भाजपा) राज कर रही है. भाजपा आरएसएस परिवार की सदस्य है और आरएसएस का लक्ष्य है हिन्दू राष्ट्र का निर्माण. आरएसएस से जुड़ी सैंकड़ों संस्थाएँ हैं. उसके लाखों, बल्कि शायद, करोड़ों स्वयंसेवक हैं. इसके अलावा कई हजार वरिष्ठ कार्यकर्ता हैं जिन्हें प्रचारक कहा जाता है. भाजपा के सत्ता में आने के बाद से आरएसएस दुगनी गति से हिन्दू राष्ट्र के निर्माण के अपने एजेण्डे को पूरा करने में जुट गया है. यदि भाजपा को चुनावों में लगातार सफलता हासिल हो रही है तो उसका कारण है देश में साम्प्रदायिकता और साम्प्रदायिक मुद्दों का बढ़ता बोलबाला. इनमें से कुछ हैं राम मंदिर, गौमांस और गोवध एवं लव जिहाद. 

Birth of New Communist Party ushers in new epoch in Canada's Left history

By Harsh Thakor  On January 31, 2024, history was made with the formation of the (New) Communist Party of Canada (the (N)CPC), the successful completion of its Founding Congress, and the public release of its Political Program. A most sporadic development in turning course of Communist movement locally, and worldwide. It also pits a challenge to dogmatism or mechanical approach and stagnation. taps the revolutionary creativity of the masses and is major re-orientation towards shaping revolutionary class struggles and  the massline.

Ethiopian ruling classes, political masters in West have their hands soaked in blood

By Harsh Thakor  Over two hundred were killed in recent weeks in Ethiopia’s Oromia and Amhara region. After peace-talks between the Oromo Liberation Army and the Ethiopian government did not materialise tensions are escalating in the Oromia region. Earlier, on November 22, least 25 civilians were massacred in a government aerial drone strike, in Chawaka districts of the Buno Bedelle zone. This incident took place only two days after a fierce battle arose between the OLA and governmental troops in the Sulula Fincha district of the Horro Guduru Wollega zone.

Landslide early warning system: Odisha Govt, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham collaborate

By Divya Saini  In a strategic move to mitigate the impact of landslides during storms, the Odisha government in collaboration with Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham is gearing up to establish a user-friendly Landslide Early Warning System (EWS) in Gajapati district. This initiative aims to provide advanced information, especially regarding landslides caused by disturbances in the natural stability of a slope.

Violent incidents in Haldwani: CPDRS on dubious role of Uttarakhand government

By DN Rath  Center for Democratic Rights and Secularism (CPDRS) unequivocally condemns the dubious role of Uttarakhand Government and its administration in the incidents that happened in Haldwani of Nanital district of the state.

A third view of Islamic paradox: Can Muslim unity defeat Zionist evil regime’s injustice?

By Chandra Vikash*  Could India, as a mirror to the ethno-federal One State solution, play a key role in resolving the Palestinian genocide crisis, that has emerged in the global consciousness as a focal point for injustice of centuries-old settler-colonialism project that continues to spread its hydra-headed tentacles through globalisation of this Old World Order?