The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has called for forming a caucus of women political leaders to enhance women’s participation within parties and to advocate for the Women’s Reservation Bill.
A UNDP roundtable on women’s participation in politics on Thursday recommended mobilisation of women for integrated development agenda including quota in Parliament and representation in political parties. The roundtable had participants from cross sections, including parliamentarians, social activists and grassroots leaders.
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 of women’s representation in Parliament at just under 11 per cent.
UN Under-Secretary General and UNDP Associate Administrator Rebeca Grynspan lauded India’s achievement in providing high representation to women in panchayats, but expressed disappointment over poor representation in Parliament.
“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 per cent. Yet there are only around 11 per cent women in Parliament, lower than the global average of 20 per cent, still far from the 30 per cent target set in Beijing,” she
“More diverse participation in politics is not only good for women but also key for society and a strong democracy,” added Grynspan.
Ranjana Kumari, President of Women Power Connect and Director of Centre for Social Research, suggested an urgent action on the long-pending Women’s Reservation Bill. Participants held that deeply entrenched patriarchal mindsets are responsible for holding back women from entering politics.
Senior leader Suhasini Ali asserted that women in India need a safe political environment which should provide a level-playing field for their participation. Caitlin Wiesen, UNDP Country Director, identified money, mentoring, mobilisation and men as important ingredients for success of women’s participation. Having a large base of elected women at the panchayat level alone will not ensure more women contesting or winning elections at the State or higher levels, said women who had contested in local self-government elections.