By Ishita Aggarwal:
The 15th of August in 1947 unraveled for us the flag of national pride. This enrapturing moment was made true due to a plethora of telescopic, dauntless and fiery souls. These leaders led us to the point which the nation viewed as the peak of ambition. It was an achievement so high that no one ever imagined any ideal beyond that of national independence.
On the eve of the 65th Indian Independence in 2012, President Pranab Mukherjee stated to the nation that “visions cannot be an open ended vista”. He said that “freedom must mean both bread and dreams…propelled by freedom of faith, gender equality and economic justice for all”.
Mahatma Gandhi had paved an entry to the Indian National CongressÂ for the women of his country. The once male-dominated sphere suddenly became abuzz with female leadership. From political meetings to bearing the brunt of the lathis, women participated and braved them all. 67 years on, the Indian National Congress is still led by a woman but it has failed to mobilize opportunities for the common women of this country. India, today, stands ashamed at a mere 10.9% representation of women in the Indian Parliament.
Sarojini Naidu, a fighter and crusader, stood fiercely on the side of feminism and equality. She battled a strong patriarchal system to make voting rights for women a reality. Today, as half of the nation’s citizens lay their gratitude for ensuring their rights to political participation, they continue to struggle to go beyond voting representatives who are mostly men.
Enhancing women’s political leadership is essential to building a strong democracy and global presence for India in the 21st century. Furthermore, the Constitution of India, via Articles 325 and 326, guarantees political equality to all men and women. Unfortunately, women are not benefiting from this right and their voice is excluded from higher levels of Indian politics.
While reservation policies at the Panchayat level have facilitated women’s greater engagement in the lower level political process, no such reservation exists at the state and national levels. Without this provision, women’s engagement in state and national politics remains extremely limited. Currently, women’s representation is just over 10% in the Indian Parliament and 7% in the state assemblies.
With so few women in governance at this level, the environment in these institutions is unsupportive of women’s growth and engagement and serves to perpetuate their exclusion from the higher levels of political process. Furthermore, women often lack the support networks, mentoring, and skills that help them navigate the political environment and better serve their constituencies.
With so many factors contributing to the malady of the political system of an “independent” country, it is time we once again decry the situation and call upon a new system to ensure equal and honest inclusion of women in the politics of the country.
Since the 9th of March 2010, three years have lapsed without any genuine effort to pass the Women’s Reservation Bill by the Lok Sabha. Sexist mentalities continue to pervade the leaders of our times who are making it impossible for women to explore their potential, by enforcing a non-inclusive political sphere.
On behalf of half the population of this country and many more, (I appreciate and applaud the efforts of many men who are with us in this struggle) I wish to assert to the leaders of India to view the inclusion of women as an equal part of the political process as an unquestionable right. The passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill to ensure 33 per cent reservation to women should not just be a reality, it should be our right!
Amongst other initiatives, there is an online Petition which has been started to lobby for the Women’s Reservation Bill. Please sign and support the cause, if you feel equally for equality!