On 18th May, 2015, Draupadi Murmu was sworn in as the first woman governor of Jharkhand. This is a cause of double celebration for the country, as she is also the first tribal woman to hold the post of Governor in India.
However, in the midst of this great stride for Indian women, let us look at how many women have been in top political posts in the country. Since 1947, there have been only 20 women governors in the various states in India, and only 15 women have been sworn in as chief ministers of various states.
Participation of women in politics is a very important aspect of a nation’s development and is a pressing issue world over.As per a report published by UN Women, based on a worldwide study, as of January 2015, only 22 per cent of all national parliamentarians are women, a slow increase from 11.3 per cent in 1995. Ten women served as Head of State and fourteen served as Head of Government.
The study by UN Women has shown that women’s representation in local governments makes a remarkabledifference to the overall development of a region.Research among various panchayats has showed that the number of drinking water projects in female-led areas was 62 per cent higher than in those with male-led areas.
In the patriarchal structure of Indian society, ensuring that women participate in politics becomes a challenge for various reasons.Primary among these are societal constraints, illiteracy, violence and discrimination. Many times, even when women are nominated as political candidates, they are just a face for their husbands and/or fathers, and are not given freedom of choice.
Another alarming fact which comes out from the UN Women study is that while only 17 per cent of government ministers were women, the majority were overseeing social sectors, such as education and family. This stereotyped mindset of allotting women with ‘care-taking’ portfolios is disturbing, and needs to be altered to ensure that women are represented in all departments of the government.Organizations working towards women’s empowerment must look into the barriers to women’s participation in politics, and work on these specific areas, to ensure that there is a greater active participation of women in politics. May there be many more Draupadi Murmus!
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