Electing Women Not Enough For Gender-Responsive Governance: Atishi Marlena
The member of Aam Aadmi Party, Atishi Marlena has been a key strategist in reviving Delhi’s education system, especially in the government schools. And despite working with Delhi’s ruling party at the grass root level for the last few years, she lost in the recent Lok Sabha Election from the East Delhi constituency against BJP’s Gautam Gambhir. In her view, while the socio-economic data at large shows gender disparity, what’s going to bring gender-responsive governance is to understand what the lever of change is for politicians. At a discussion on July 28 in Delhi, she said that the only lever of change for politicians currently is getting re-elected.
In her view, while the socio-economic data at large shows gender disparity, what’s going to bring gender-responsive governance is to understand what the lever of change is for politicians.
Understanding electoral gains
“If a large percentage of women still need the permission of their families to visit a primary healthcare centre then how effective are we going to be at ensuring women’s participation in politics and having them at decision-making positions after overcoming the power structures that exist? We have to understand what moves the system and finally, it is the strategic motivation within politicians to get re-elected that governs our democratic and governance structure. For that politicians have to get their party coffers filled to get prepared for the upcoming elections. Monetary power is the most effective form to achieve that goal,” said Atishi.
Politicians today believe that the primary way, they can retain power is by getting re-elected and that to if they have enough money to contest the next election. And if we do want gender-sensitive governance, this is the only lever of change that can move politicians, stated Atishi. “The only way gender-based issues of maternal mortality rate, education, healthcare, sanitation, etc. will find their way in policies is when politicians think that doing this will bring them electoral gains.
This is why we as people who want change to happen should create a demand-side because up until now we have been working on the wrong side of the issue by pressurizing the supply-side or the government to implement policies,” she said. Adding, she said, when women, who constitute 50% of the voting population, who have voting rights depend on the government’s ability to provide them high-quality governance.
“If politicians know the fact that when they go for re-election five years after they are elected, the women in my constituency are not going to vote for me unless I have improved schools, better sanitation, healthcare, we cannot have gender-sensitive governance.”
Women voters need to be organised
She also believes that a politician will only be motivated by the strategy design of getting re-elected. “If politicians know the fact that when they go for re-election five years after they are elected, the women in my constituency are not going to vote for me unless I have improved schools, better sanitation, healthcare, we cannot have gender-sensitive governance.”
In the last two Lok Sabha elections, we have seen women voting in larger numbers than men in several states including Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Punjab, etc. However, women voters aren’t voting in an organised manner and that is why governments haven’t been keen on providing gender-responsive governance.
“We need to organise women voters into a voting bloc who can demand their rights. When the lawmaker will know that until they fix the hospitals or Anganwadi in their constituencies till then the women won’t vote for them, that’s when the real change will happen. It is just not enough to have women legislators because they are the part of the same power structures that exist within which governments work. Women legislators are also not able to have the kind of impact that we think they do,” evaluated Atishi.
Rhode Scholar, Atishi is one of the most intellectually-powered women, we have in our political system who has shown her skills in successful policy-making and that’s why her loss raised concern among many political analysts and enthusiasts across the country. This was for two facts—one is that she is a skilled policy-maker and second that she is one of those few women in politics who have made it into the power-game on their own.