The Compelling Need For More Women In Parliament

Written By: Anjali Mehta

The most obvious reason for more women in parliament is that women make up 50% of the population but have only a limited part of the decision making share – India has 11% women parliamentarians, Asia 19.5% and the global average is 22.9% (IPU statistics 2016). Indian women thus have far to go. However there are so many other reasons to encourage women in the highest decision making bodies.


Women are deeply impacted in atrocities and social changes

In war for example, it has become a common means of mass subjugation to rape the women to break the mental resilience of the captured. The number and scale of rapes of women in armed conflict zones in the world is staggering.

Revolutionary militants often use women as bargaining chips. In 2014, Boko Haram kidnapped 200 schoolgirls studying in Nigeria to use it as leverage with the Nigerian government and secure the release of Boko Haram prisoners. Only a few girls have returned to their homes so far, the large majority still captives in a forest area.

ISIS, is known to keep a large number of women sex slaves in captivity. One of the survivors of this harrowing experience, Nadia Murad is now an ambassador at the UN. Said Nadia of her ordeal : “Their cruelty was not merely opportunistic. The ISIS soldiers came with a pre-established policy to commit such crimes.” The ISIS shot several of the Yazidi men in cold blood and kept the women as spoils of war.

So keeping in mind that the survivors of war are increasingly women who are subjected to long term suffering, it is necessary for many more of them to have a voice.

Likewise, Trafficking has become a deeply entrenched social problem. The disruptive conditions of war and local instabilities due to various reasons have led to a huge spurt in trafficking. Almost 21 million adults and children are victims of trafficking and women make up 98% of this. Not having equitable opportunities renders women more susceptible to poverty and lack of support and easier to kidnap and coerce. Once a woman enters into trafficking, the mental and physical abuse (drugs/violence/illness) she suffers results in a downward spiral in health and confidence.

More women in power help draw stronger and more detailed attention to this problem and help stem the tide of human trafficking.

Closer home in India, women are equally affected, if not more, by the demonetisation that took place. The most poignant stories were of women who saved carefully over the years for a rainy day for their families….carefully collecting each rupee, only to have loves’ labour lost as a sum over a certain amount deposited in the bank attracted questioning or fines. No one approved of their little sacrifices and meticulous financial micro planning prompted by love, in fact husbands criticized them for salting away the money behind their back, and there was no one to represent this group to the government and save their hard earned honest rupees.

In another example from India, skewed sex ratios have forced poor women to enter into unhappy alliances:
Men in the state of Haryana which has one of the worst sex ratios (877females/1000males) have resorted to finding brides for themselves from neighbouring states such as Himachal Pradesh and Bihar. Typically, the girl is from a poor or destitute family and the parents are only too happy to find a groom since they don’t have much resources or prospects for their daughter. The girls are often treated quite badly and are fairly devoid of any support system to rescue them.

Humans affected by a particular issue may be the best placed to take decisions about their own welfare.

There is no substitute for experience. Those who have lived through an experience may be the right people to describe what they went through and also articulate what help they would have benefitted from most and what their current requirements are.

Women are very valuable strategists when planning social welfare programmes as they may be able to bring a wealth of insights and plan the finer details more skillfully. This could include a whole range of programmes from water and sanitation to those developed for basic safety for women.

We need a fresh, authoritative perspective on long standing traditions:

Important religious texts and rule books such as countries’ constitutions have been interpreted more by male than female minds, often with unhappy consequences.

For example, in the recent past, because women have been at the receiving end of unfair divorce laws, the religious books have been more closely scrutinized and it was found that some practices, such as giving triple talaq instantaneously was never sanctioned in the original book, the holy Quran. The book advocated kindness in all dealings. It is safe to assume that men have on occasion been intellectually dishonest and subverted information to give an unfair advantage to themselves at the cost of women. We need to allow more women to interpret laws that govern our daily lives and may well discover that they interpret these texts in a more compassionate and truthful way.

Women bring a different skill set to leadership: having a feminine influence will have better outcomes.

Several interesting studies have been performed to evaluate the differences in leadership styles of men and women, typically by HR departments of companies as well as by psychologists.
There is plenty of data to show a definite contrast in styles.

Among others, a white paper by the Caliper company highlights how women were more collaborative in their leadership styles, more team players, more likely to try new things (take risks) and more empathic with colleagues.Eagly and Johnson’s 1990 review of several studies found that women encouraged more participation and men were more autocratic and directed performance. Women were also more likely to reward good performance.

Many thinkers have been advocating that implementation of the ‘maternal culture’ at an International level is imperative to the survival of the planet. Prof. Murata’s group from Japan has presented a paper to the UN on the virtues of a maternal world order. The maternal way of life relies on harmony, cooperation, a democratic development of all stakeholders including the weakest and is in contrast to the patriarchal way of life which is more about power, confrontation and subjugation. The patriarchal way of life encourages more wars and violence and destructive utilization of resources, something the planet can ill afford.

It is women who execute the small everyday tasks that affect our daily existence

In most of the villages in India and likely in most other countries, it falls on women to draw water from the wells or manage the water resources at home if not in the fields. Water is one of the critical resources for our survival and women have been the ones in charge of its utilization since a long while. Similarly, the food and nutrition which keeps us alive is largely prepared by women and without their effort we would starve.

From nature’s perspective, it is more of women who take to gardening, who do creative ways of recycling and are the ones who actually make the little compost pits on their balconies and gardens. Many schemes for conserving energy relying on solar cookers and changing from traditional cooking stoves to solar energy are addressed to women

Since women are overwhelmingly the people whose actions support the greater longevity of the planet, were they the ones to make decisions on a higher and more visible platform, they would be able to scale up on the level of conservation and the entire planet would benefit.

Hence increasing women’s representation is both right and better. Right, because it is fair and hands power to those most impacted by policy. Good because the quality of decision making will be better and more inclusive.

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