Silent revolution: more women elected in India than rest of world

November 19th, 2008 - 6:29 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 19 (IANS) Calling it a silent revolution in India, Panchayati Raj Minister Mani Shankar Aiyer Wednesday said women represent close to 40 percent in local self-governance, going beyond the 33 percent seats reserved for them.Addressing the International Conference on Decentralisation, Local Power and Women’s Rights at Mexico city, Aiyer said that over a million of the 3.2 million elected representatives to the local self-government in India are women. Another 200,000 women representatives are in urban local bodies.

“In the state of Karnataka, it has been found that whereas the share of tribal women in seats reserved for tribals is 33 percent, in actual fact close to double that figure - some 65 percent - of the seats have been won by tribal women,” Aiyer said in his speech, according to a release issued here.

“I am also happy to report that one state - Sikkim - has raised the share of reserved seats for women to 40 percent, and in five other states, the state legislatures have in the course of the last year raised the share of women in our local bodies to an assured 50 percent, which, considering that half of humanity comprises women, seems only fair.

“Yet, even in the two states that have since been to the polls, the share of women actually elected has been several percentage points above the reserved share - 55 percent in Bihar and 53 percent in Uttarakahand,” he added.

Saying that most of these women come from traditional background and have emerged from their kitchens and courtyards to fight elections in the public platform, Aiyer further added that there are more elected women in India alone than in the rest of the world put together.

To criticism that sometimes these elected women simply act as ‘rubber stamp’ representatives with their male relatives exercising effective power from behind, Aiyer said: “There is no denying this, but to put matters in perspective we recently undertook a survey through one of our leading pollsters of some 20,000 elected representatives to ascertain the true picture of the performance of women in our local bodies.

“It emerges from the survey that the proportion of elected women representatives (EWRs) from families with political antecedents in the village is really no greater than for males; the responses show a majority of women representatives are not proxies of their male relatives or patrons. As many as 58 percent of the women representatives are now taking their own decisions to contest elections.

“While reservations and elections have indeed promoted the political and social empowerment of women in local self-governance, there is still a long way to go to secure the administrative and economic empowerment of women through the local bodies,” he added.

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