There are only about 11% women in India's parliament. The women's reservation bill, that proposes to reserve 33% of the total seats for women, is still pending. There is also a strong system of nepotism and proxyism that operates, due to which hardly any women from non-political backgrounds are able to make it inside the system.
Our history is not the same as the western world, their starting point was way behind when it came to gender. Indian women did not have to fight for voting rights, it came to them along with the men. We also boast of one of the first women Prime Ministers in the world. However, we haven't built on that much. There are many countries in the western world that are doing some amazing things to stimulate political participation amongst women, and we, as an ambitious nation that is 'Making in India' must know to learn from these experiences.
Here are a few countries and their excellent policies to enhance the number of politically active women.
Currently the favorite destination for youth across the globe, Canada- the only nation in the world with a gender balanced parliament, has a special mentorship program under the Canadian Women Voters Congress. Under the program, young girls between 18-23 years of age are connected with current female politicians, from whom they get hands on training on the art of campaigning, contesting and various other nuances of the political process. Any woman who is genuinely interested can also participate in this 7 month program, where she gets personal sessions with already accomplished women in the political space. The association also runs a Women's Campaign School, an institute where women from across all political parties come together and provide aspiring women with campaigning skills and real-life experiences.
As the drama of the presidential race in America unfolds, the country stares at a possibility of electing it's very first female president (perhaps along with a female VP too!) by the end of this year. The nation's journey from the suffrage of 1900s to the present scenario hasn't been easy, but they have made some headway. Started in 2002, the American Political Science Association (APSA) works on recruitment, retention, and integration of people of colour, especially women in the political space. The association runs a tailored mentorship professional advice and mentorship support for women who are interested in making a career in politics.
Running with a feminist agenda, the European Union runs a European Political Mentoring Network (EPMN), to empower women from minority groups and increase their participation in the European Parliament. Officially launched in 2013 at Brussels, the EPMN connects 11 aspiring women politicians with already established individual mentors each year, bringing equality in the political decision making process each year. As of 2014, the percentage of women's participation in the EP has been 37%, as opposed to 50% that the program is aimed at. With the next elections happening in 2019, we can surely expect a great surge in the ratio here as well.
When such programs are created, more and more women are inspired to participate. Such programs allow women to feel that they matter. We do hope that some political party in our country takes note of this and puts it up in their agenda!
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