A politician who holds many firsts in the Indian Politics and was called the ‘best-loved politician’ by the US daily Wall Street Journal – Sushma Swaraj passed away a year ago due to cardiac arrest. 6th August 2020 marks the first death anniversary of the Supreme Court lawyer and politician Sushma Swaraj. She was awarded the highest civilian award Padma Vibhushan posthumously in the field of public affairs.
The era where women politicians face online trolling and rape threats regularly, Sushma Swaraj can be witnessed as the epitome of women empowerment.
Late Sushma Swaraj holds many firsts of Indian Politics in her name. She became the first female Chief Minister of Delhi, first woman spokesperson of a National Party, the first woman leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha, and the first full-time female External Affairs Minister.
In 1987 Sushma Swaraj was named as state education minister and became the youngest cabinet minister in Haryana in 1997 just at the age of 25. She is the first and only woman member to be honoured with the Outstanding Parliamentary Award.
Sushma Swaraj questioned gender stereotypes prominently. In 2017, at National Policy for Women’s meeting, she asked everyone to question gender stereotypes starting with a gendered division of labour at home. She firmly believed that it is an absolute necessity for men to learn household skills to ease the burden on women.
A prominent MP, holding one of the most important positions speaking about gender equality garnered everyone’s attention. She once said:
Men should be encouraged to study home science in college and love their culinary skills, while women should be motivated to take up physical education, especially martial arts, as an effort to banish gender bias from the society
Sushma Swaraj believed in the importance of political empowerment. “Both education and economic independence are important but political empowerment is a higher form of government. We have known IT professionals who hand over their salaries to their mothers-in-law or others who are abused. But a lady police officer’s female peon may not have to face all this, as troubling her can lead the culprit to jail. This is political empowerment for us, women in politics. Our authorities move forward to our women workers and empower them,” Swaraj said in a workshop organised by BJP Mahila Morcha.
She used her position of power to remind fellow politicians that women in India were on an unstoppable movement. During a women’s day talk in the Parliament in 2018, she spelt out the need for India to take notice of women’s needs and demands. While she praised India for having a female Prime Minister and President leaving behind many developed economies, she added that there was a need to do more with political will.
Sushma Swaraj became the second woman to hold the office of Ministry of External Affairs of India after the Iron lady of India, our first woman Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Sushma Swaraj received some of the most derogatory, misogynist comments from the old-schoolers who were not ready to see a woman calling the shots for the country but was loved by the public. Though she bid goodbye a year ago but left an unflinching legacy.