At SXSW, the business and technology conference, in Austin, Texas, I heard 2020 presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren’s interview with Anand Giridharadas. Her advice to the audience was, “run for office.” She then went on to explain how President Barack Obama invited her to join his administration and she got to create an institution, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and make a difference.

Key Takeaways:

  • India ranks 148 out of 193 countries when it comes to women parliamentarians with less than 12% women occupying the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
  • It is important for all parties to have a healthy number of women candidates as this brings in diverse perspectives and views to the table.
  • We need support systems that will educate women to navigate the political system, give them access to funding and mentoring, and create an ecosystem of support irrespective of political ideology.
  • We have seen amazing results when women with the right credentials are given the platform to make change.

At the recent mid-term elections in the US, an unprecedented number of women followed Warren’s advice and ran campaigns and entered Congress. Many of them are first timers and already they are really pushing change by using their voice and position of power. It is a refreshing change and gives people a lot of hope.

At the recent mid-term elections in the US, an unprecedented number of women followed Warren’s advice and ran campaigns and entered Congress.

India’s national elections are around the corner and I have high hopes for women in that election, too.

India ranks 148 out of 193 countries when it comes to women parliamentarians with less than 12% women occupying the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. With elections approaching, several political parties have announced quotas for women candidates. Naveen Patnaik has stated that every third candidate would be a woman whilst Mamta Banerjee has released a list with women comprising 41% of the candidates. Whilst Rahul Gandhi has assured 33% quota for women in Congress’ list saying, “Women in general are smarter than men.”

India ranks 148 out of 193 countries when it comes to women parliamentarians with less than 12% women occupying the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.

This is hugely encouraging, and I welcome the efforts to increase the number of women candidates in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. We have already seen how quotas can result in an increase in the local governance system, the Panchayats where 46% seats are occupied by women. But there is definitely a drop off when you consider mainstream politics and the state and national assemblies.

So, in 2019, yes, it is important for all parties to have a healthy number of women candidates as this brings in diverse perspectives and views to the table. However, merely fielding women candidates or having a quota is not sufficient. Furthermore it is important to have the right women, not just fronts for their family members which is currently the trend across party lines.

It is important to have the right women, not just fronts for their family members which is currently the trend across party lines.

But in order to be merit based, we need support systems that will educate women to navigate the political system, give them access to funding and mentoring, and create an ecosystem of support irrespective of political ideology. It would be incredible if we could have women from the grassroots in India like US Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib rise up and take on the establishment. It is fascinating watching them speak their mind and put forward their views even if it means going against the party’s traditions.

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We have seen amazing results when women with the right credentials are given the platform to make change. Atishi Marlena even though not elected has transformed the education system in Delhi. Sarpanch Chhavi Rajawat from Soda Rajasthan and several others have brought modernisation and development to their villages.

We have seen amazing results when women with the right credentials are given the platform to make change.

We need more such women to step forward and take on politics as a career. If ordinary citizens can take on the challenge of entering a political career with the right knowledge, support systems and backing to truly “govern” and make a change, it will be transformational.

It is powerful and exactly what democracy is meant to be.

The views expressed are the author’s own.

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