UNDP Calls for the Formation of a Caucus of Women Political Leaders across Party Lines
New Delhi - UNDP has called for the formation of a caucus of women political leaders across party lines to enhance women’s participation within political parties and to advocate for the Women’s Reservation Bill as a collective voice.
For affirmative action to happen – be it quotas in Parliament or in political parties – mobilization of women around an integrated development agenda is critical. This was one of the key recommendations that emerged from the Roundtable on Women’s Participation in Politics organized by the United Nations Development Programme.
In discussion with Parliamentarians, social activists and grassroots leaders UN Under-Secretary General and UNDP Associate Administrator, Rebeca Grynspan said, “There is much to be celebrated in India. There are over one million elected women representatives in local self- governments thanks to mandatory quotas ranging from 33 to 50 percent. Yet there are only around 11 percent women in Parliament lower than the global average of 20 percent, still far from the 30 percent target set at Beijing.”
Ms. Grynspan went on to add, “More diverse participation in politics is not only good for women but is key for society and a strong democracy”.
Ranjana Kumari, President of Women Power Connect and Director of Centre For Social Research making a strong case for urgent action on the long pending Women’s Reservation Bill said, “Women must not only demand but take their legitimate space in the political arena as a matter of right – they are no longer waiting for hand-outs as they are capable of entering the political field and doing as well as men. I am hopeful that the Bill will indeed be passed by the current government”.
Participants pointed out that women are held back from entering politics because of social norms and deeply entrenched patriarchal mindsets. Subhasini Ali of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) said “Women of India are already empowered. All they need is a safe political environment which provides a level playing field for their participation.”
India ranks 129 out of 147 countries on UNDP’s Gender Equality Index, lower than all South Asian countries except Afghanistan at 141. One of the key factors pulling down India’s rank on this index is the low level women’s representation in Parliament at just under 11 percent.
Caitlin Wiesen, UNDP Country Director summed up the outcome of the Roundtable by saying, “The key ingredients of success for women’s participation in politics are money, mentoring, mobilization and men”.
Women who had contested in local self-government elections pointed out that having a large base of elected women at the Panchayat (local self-government) level is not enough to ensure that more women will contest or win elections at the state or higher levels. Shalini Tomar who contested state Assembly elections from Uttar Pradesh said, “Education, self-confidence and leadership skills are very important to bridge this gap. For this capacity development, networking with other women in politics and mentoring are very important”.