As far as abilities go, women have shown their prowess time and again. Women are not inferior to men in any field. As prime ministers, industrialists, sportspersons or doctors, they have proved their mettle in every profession. But there is a reason why they need to be empowered politically. The importance of women's participation in politics arises from the fact that 'politics' confers an authority to exercise power, to form policies, make decisions and ensure an effective control over government machinery.
During the freedom movement in India, a very large section of women came out of their domestic seclusion and participated in dharnas, picketing and protests along with men. One cannot forget the role of women’s participation in the political movements of the Indian Independence, starting from the contribution of great Indian women like Rani Lakshmibai during the first war of Independence to women leaders’ active involvement in various political activities.
On December 20, 1952, the United Nations approved the Convention on the Political Rights of Women (CPRW) which was adopted on March 31, 1953. The major achievements of this convention were that it gave equal status to women for exercising their political rights and also obligated states to protect their citizens’ political rights. CPRW can be lauded as one of the first international efforts in the post-war period to set standards of non-discrimination against women. Convention on the Nationality of Married Women and the Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriages are also a few conventions worth mentioning when one talks about women empowerment.
The positive impact of women in politics is undeniable. Women participation in politics is increasing throughout the world. We can see that the countries which are headed by women leaders are doing well in containing COVID-19, for example, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern contained the spread of the virus very effectively. Germany, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway, all of which are headed by women leaders, managed the situation better than other developed countries. This clearly shows that women participation in politics is giving fruitful results and development of nations even in adverse circumstances.
India through its Constitution has created a revolution by providing equal voting rights to women, when the so-called developed nations were hesitant in providing voting rights to women. We have seen many decorated women as political leaders in the post-Independence era, including a prime minister and president. Also, there have been some noteworthy political leaders in the Union government including Sushma Swaraj and Nirmala Sitharaman. We also have multiple women chief ministers who have governed their states with excellent leadership skills.
YS Vijayalakshmi is the best living example of women empowerment in politics. She is a house wife-turned- politician of Andhra Pradesh who served as former MLA for Pulivendla constituency. She is the current chairperson of the YSR Congress Party and mother of the state’s 17th Chief Minister, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy.
The Andhra Pradesh government, under the leadership of Reddy, has appointed Pamula Pushpa Srivani as Deputy Chief Minister as well as Minister of Tribal Welfare, also Taneti Vanitha as Minister of Women and Child Welfare and Mekatoti Sucharita as Minister of Home and Disaster Management. The number of elected women members in the Andhra Pradesh Legislature is steadily increasing. At present, there are five women MLCs and 36 women MLAs (more than 20% of the MLAs) in the state.
The issue of women’s reservation came up for discussion at multiple times in 1973 with voices recommending calling for reservation in at least one third (33%) of the seats. Eventually, statutory women’s panchayats at the village level were recommended through 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments in 1993. Following the enactment of the Andhra Pradesh Panchayat Raj (Reservation of seats and offices of Gram Panchayats, Mandal Parishads and Zilla Parishads) Rules, 2006, half the seats in these institutions were earmarked for women.
The Andhra Pradesh government has moved one step ahead by announcing 50% reservation for women under the Municipalities Act, 1965, and Municipalities (Reservation of Seats in Municipal Councils and Nagar Panchayats) Rules, 1995. It will be implemented from the current year itself.
Economic stability of an individual is always important to progress well in other spheres of life, including politics. For strengthening the economic status of women, the Andhra Pradesh government has brought in a new scheme called ‘AP YSR Cheyutha’. Success of this scheme will boost the morale of the women ad it lead to more women participation in the politics as well.
It is obligatory on society to wake up to the patriarchal biases which are in practice today. With political empowerment women will be able to make laws, draft policies and get them implemented more effectively. To change a society which has been deeply rooted in gender discrimination, domestic violence, sexual harassment, where dowry is treated as a right and women are treated as inferior objects is not easy. One needs to get to the root of this bias. This coupled with access to education, safe living environment and economic security can undo the centuries of injustice meted out to the other half of the society.
It is a universal truth that women have proved their strength, competence and even superiority in many fields, including politics. Apart from the ones quoted above, there are many additional examples of exemplary women in politics all over the world. The government of Andhra Pradesh is working tirelessly towards empowerment of women by giving them the confidence and equal opportunity to take part in active politics.