We are talking of a campaign ‘make way for her’. It is both intriguing and complicated. Where do all women fight for their space? At home? In workplace? In public spaces or in the decision making process? Will society soaked in patriarchy over the centuries pave way or women will have to create and expand their space?
While the women movement is more than a century old and many of the gender inequality issues are coming to focus both at the national and international levels, in many countries one of the spaces still very elusive for women is having a say in matters that concerns them and issues which are critical at the national and international forums. Women representation in decision making bodies’ world over is abysmal. Nevertheless efforts are being made through quota system to provide representation to women in parliament. However, while the world average, though not encouraging is at 22.4%, India’s position is far dismal with just 12% representation of women in Parliament, with a ranking at 103 positions among 140 nations.
India made news when the 73rd amendment to the Constitution reserved 33% seats in Panchayat way back in 1993. In these 20 odd years, this giant step has helped in empowering women in the rural India and has proved that such affirmative action does help.
Voting rights is one part of political participation which as a constitutional right was given to women since the Indian Republic came into being. In the initial stages it was stated that women voted as per the guidance of the male member of the family be it father or husband. But over a period of time not only has the number of women voting has increased but also there is a gradual shift from being led to making a choice by free will. Women voter turnout has seen a steady increase which reflects a desire to have a say in electing representatives to decision making positions. Also active involvement of women in panchayat election where women have crossed the reserved 33% and have 50% representation in some states has resulted in states. Progressive states have also enhanced the representation of women in these local bodies to 50%. With all these encouraging results, one wonders why women’s struggle of more than two decades to get 33% representation in parliament and state assemblies’ has not borne fruit. That too after the Rajya Sabha passed the Women Reservation Bill in March 2010, with open commitment of major political parties to support enhanced representation of women in Parliament.
Not taking up such an important piece of legislation and denying the rightful space to half the population of the country in the highest decision making body reflects poorly on the democratic ethos of the nation. It is nothing but one the manifestations of patriarchy which shudders to share power equally with women least its citadel is threatened. Sharing space in Parliament means not just making way but also giving away what on zealously possess. This requires men who contest election from particular constituencies to forego their seats for women contestants. This needs political parties to field more women candidates. This also needs women to enter the political ‘dangal’ and fight their way through. Nevertheless it is important women get space in parliament in enough numbers to influence government decisions concerning development and social change, to fight age old norms which perpetuate discrimination and inequality. It is not making way for her. It is vacating her space which is occupied by others. It is political space, decision making power, a right to reject and support, it is right to represent and be an agent of change. To be an equal partner in the path of progress. Make way or She will carve her way.
About Dr. Hamsa Natesa
Dr. Hamsa is a Governing Body Member at Women Power Connect. Women Power Connect is a national level organization of women’s groups and individuals working together for formalizing the process of legislative coordination. Our activities are aimed at influencing legislators and policy makers to frame gender-friendly policies, which impact women positively.