In a bid to ensure a speedy passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill (WRB) in Parliament and legislative assemblies, Centre for Social Research (CSR), New Delhi will galvanise 3,000 Panchayat heads spread across 29 states of India. While acknowledging the benefits of more women in governance, several Panchayat heads across India have extended their support to the Women’s Reservation Bill informally in the past.
However, they are being reached out through a systematic campaign, wherein these heads will be encouraged to educate their communities about the benefits of more women in politics at the national and state level. In the coming months, all these 3,000 Panchayat heads will be reached through letters, workshops and informal meetings in order to seek their support for the passage of the WRB by Lok Sabha and state assemblies.
The process of reaching out to Panchayat heads nationwide has already started in the month of May 2017 and more than 400 letters have been dispatched by CSR till date.
“The idea is to convert the Women’s Reservation Bill into a people’s demand rather than a political one. The past 21 years of our struggle on the bill has taught us that it tends to get lost in the corridors of power, and it’s actual benefits are hardly discussed or understood both by common people and decision makers. We need to change that trend if we have to make headway on this bill,” says Dr. Ranjana Kumari, Director, Centre for Social Research.
CSR recently concluded a meeting at Rohtak, wherein several village women and Gram Sabha members of the district came out in open to support the Women’s Reservation Bill.
“Such events demonstrate a certain fondness for women leaders among rural communities, who have seen the benefits of more women in decision-making positions,” adds Dr. Kumari.
The recent assembly elections in the five states show the number of women entrants in the state legislative assemblies still remains dismal. Out of 2,979 candidates in all the states, there were just 234 women in fray. Studies show that the global average of women in parliament stands at 22.40 percent, and India stands at pitiable 103rd place out of 140 countries, with a mere 12 percent representation of elected women in Parliament and an average of 9 percent of female representation in state assemblies, which is indeed a sorry state of affairs.
The 21 year-journey of the Women’s Reservation Bill has hit roadblocks in each of its outings in Parliament before it cleared the first legislative barrier in 2010. According to media reports, a number of parliamentarians over the years have opposed the passing of the Bill, leaving it in its current state.
However, the current BJP government had included an assurance for the passage of the Women’s Bill in its election manifesto, holding out to women a promise that their democratic right to adequate presence in the highest decision making bodies would be recognised.
The National Alliance for WRB, Centre for Social Research being a part of the Alliance, routinely demands action for women’s political empowerment. According to the Alliance, women’s participation in politics is a human right and the cornerstone of women’s equal citizenship. It is also essential for achieving genuine and effective democratic governance.
The Women’s Reservation Bill was developed in order to facilitate women’s political participation by reserving 33 percent of all seats for women in the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies. The Bill is vital for realising women’s rights under the Constitution of India and for addressing the widespread gender inequality throughout the country.