“Supporting Women’s Empowerment: A Call to Action for Political Parties”

Lalita Panicker’s recent article, “Parties Must Fulfil Poll Promises to Women,” is a compelling reminder that political parties in India must deliver on their electoral promises to women. The stakes are high: women’s votes have proven to be crucial in recent elections, and it is now imperative that campaign rhetoric is transformed into tangible actions.
In the 2024 elections, women voters played a decisive role. For the first time, more women voted than men, illustrating their growing influence in the electoral process.

This shift underscores the necessity for political parties to address women’s issues comprehensively and consistently. According to the Election Commission of India, the female voter turnout was 67.18%, a significant increase from previous years, reflecting women’s rising engagement in the political process.

Political parties across the spectrum have recognized the importance of women’s votes, as evidenced by their manifestos. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) promised to empower women through various initiatives, including enhancing the capabilities of Women Self-Help Groups (SHGs). They pledged to equip these groups with skills and tools to boost their incomes, aligning with the goal of a Viksit Bharat where Nari Shakti (women power) is central to societal progress.

The Congress party also made significant promises, such as providing ₹1 lakh annually to the oldest woman in every poor household. These promises must now be implemented to address the economic and social challenges women face.

Economic empowerment is a critical area where more action is needed. As Renana Jhabvala of SEWA (Self-Employed Women’s Association) highlights, nearly 50% of women are self-employed and require substantial financial support to expand their businesses. Current schemes like Mudra provide small loans, but there is a pressing need for larger financial support ranging from ₹2 lakh to ₹10 lakh.

Another critical area is women’s participation in the workforce. Data from the World Bank indicates that India’s female labor force participation rate is a mere 20.3%, one of the lowest in the world. To address this, the government needs to create policies that support women in the formal sector, including the establishment of government-run childcare centers to enable women to balance work and family responsibilities.

Safety remains a paramount concern. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reported over 405,861 crimes against women in 2022, including domestic violence, assault, and harassment. Political promises must translate into robust legal and policy frameworks that ensure women’s safety in public and private spheres.

While women’s voter turnout is high, their representation in Parliament is disappointingly low, with only 74 women MPs. This disparity needs urgent redressal. Increased representation can drive more focused and effective legislation for women’s issues.

Women are proving to be crucial change-makers in India, contributing significantly to entrepreneurship, politics, sports, and other leadership roles. The new government must support this momentum by fulfilling electoral promises and enacting policies that promote women’s empowerment. The success of initiatives like the TMC’s Lakhir Bhandar program in Bengal demonstrates the positive impact of targeted support for women.

Political parties must understand that women’s issues cannot be relegated to the back burner once elections are over. The growing importance of the female vote means that fulfilling these promises is not just a matter of justice but a political imperative. By addressing these issues head-on, we can move towards a more equitable and empowered society for all.

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