Women’s Role in Indian politics was seen recently when Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated the people of Uttar Pradesh for electing a record number of 38 women MLAs in the recent Uttar Pradesh elections. The stellar result came despite the political parties fielding 96 women candidates in the legislative elections.
Let us analyse the women’s Role in socio-political scene of India since the days of freedom struggle.
Since the glorious days of our freedom struggle, Indian women have played a key role in every field of life such as in nation building, empowerment of society, taking the nation forward on the development path and leading the country in the cleanliness drive. Women have found themselves in very significant positions and played their roles with utmost excellence.
Women’s Role in India’s freedom struggle
- Although the importance of women cannot be attributed only to the freedom struggle as it dates back to the pre-independence struggle era i.e. since ancient and medieval times, the manner in which women in India came into the public sphere particularly in political sphere is remarkable. During 1857 revolt India had important women participants such asJhansi Rani Lakshmi Bai, Sarojini Naidu, Rani Gaidinliu and Begum Hazrat Mahal.
- The first mass participation of women in the national movement started with the Swadeshi movement and kept on increasing through the Non Cooperation Movement with certain limitations. In Civil Disobedience Movement we saw women coming in thousands of numbersand leading the key aspects of the National Movement through initiatives like picketing of liquor and cloth shops, taking care of the injured freedom fighters, going to jails. Therefore, they earned for themselves what they got in the constitution in 1950 which was the Universal right to ‘Adult Franchise’.
- During the time of freedom struggle (especially during the Civil Disobedience Movement and Quit India movement) women in large numbers began to take part in national life and sacrificed their personal life for the sake of national cause.
Women’s Role in politics of India
- In 1917 an Irish woman, Annie Besant became president of the Indian National Congress and in 1925 Sarojini Naidu became the first Indian woman who assumed the role of President of the INC.
- Moving ahead with the post-independence era, India managed to elect its first woman Prime Minister ShrimatiIndira Gandhi even when the western worlddid not even think of women leaders at that time.
- Although the participation of women in Indian Politics has not improved at a rate at which one would have assumed that it would improve given the stellar role women played in national movement, the increasing focus of participation of women in politics is giving fruitful results to the Indian polity.
- Injecting democracy at the grass root level i.e. at the level of panchayat and municipalities India has managed to securethousands of women representatives. A thorough analysis of low representation at national and state level signal that the political parties are reluctant to give seats to women because of politics being a game of winning ability and power management. Women are shy of participating in politics because of increasing violence and criminalisation of politics.
- The Women’s Reservation Billhas now become a necessity as the grass root women political workers are prepared to assume the state and central level role in Indian politics. The increase in the voting participation of women testifies their interest in politics. Surprisingly, in 2010 and 2012 assembly elections women had outnumbered men in terms of voting percentage. At Pan-India level in 2014 the difference between men and women voting percentage has come down to a meagre 1.5%. This healthy trend indicates that women are ready, they are keen, and they understand the importance of political process.
- It is important to understand that the political representation of women is important because this is how issues related to women and other major policy decisions get the right kind of space. Experience shows that when women are in important leadership roles the policies change for good.
Women’s Role in social sphere
- Fortunately, women do not face discrimination in employment opportunities or promotion in the academic sphere and in the sphere of pure sciences. Professional and financial areas like banking has accommodated many young professional women. But the prevalence of disparity at the lower levels of society are disturbing such as women being paid less in rural labour sector. It is also being said that the Minimum Wages Act also discriminate between women’s and men’s wages in agriculture and construction labour sectors. We have also seen that Bollywood actresses raising the issue of gender pay gap quite
- There is a debate about the nutritional status of women which was raised recently when so many women won Olympic medals for India. The Indian women are nutritionally not considered as strong as their western counterparts. Despite the obvious limitations of low nutritional status compared to the males, Indian women performed exceptionally well in Olympics.
- In Swachh Bharat campaign also, women are leading from the front as we often see advertisements where women reject the marriage proposals when the families did not have toilets at their home. Hence, we can see that in the areas of cleanliness and hygiene women are entrusted with the responsibility within the family. To mark this achievement, the Union Government is celebrating Swachh Shakti Saptahto highlight the role of women in the Clean India mission and to recognize their leadership and honour the women sanitation winners.