The gender disparity in politics indicates the need to promote education amongst women, thus, enabling greater political participation
While numerous political advancements have occurred throughout the world in recent decades, the most important influence has to be on women’s involvement and representation in political roles. Women make up about half of our population, but they are underrepresented in our political system in proportion to their numbers. At every level, from the home to the highest levels of government, women are excluded from decision-making. Women’s decision-making engagement in politics may have a substantial impact on women’s empowerment, which is why India is battling with the issue of gender disparity. Despite the Indian Constitution’s provision of equal opportunity, women have a small presence in legislative bodies and political participation at all levels. Accessing the possible reasons, we see that, interestingly, education plays a part in politics; however, only for women because the literacy rate of female politicians is higher than the male politicians, implying that only women need political education.
Women’s decision-making engagement in politics may have a substantial impact on women’s empowerment, which is why India is battling with the issue of gender disparity.
As per the report of the Election Commission of India, women represent 10.5 percent of the total members of the Parliament. The plight of women in the state assemblies is even worse, where they nearly account for 9 percent of the leaders. Women’s representation in the Lok Sabha has not even grown by 10 percent in the last 75 years of independence. Women workers abound in India’s main political parties, but they are often marginalised and refused a party ticket to run in elections. However, there are several factors responsible for the poor representation of women in Indian politics such as gender stereotypes, lack of political network, financial strains, and unavailability of resources, etc. but one prominent factor that hinders the inclusion of women in politics is the lack of political education amongst women in the country. According to Global Gender Gap Report 2020, India ranks 112th in educational attainment out of 153 countries, which reveals a stark involvement of education as a factor that determines women’s participation in politics. Women’s social mobility is influenced by their education. Formal education, such as that given in educational institutions, provides an opportunity for leadership and instils critical leadership abilities. Due to a lack of political knowledge, women are oblivious of their basic and political rights.
According to Global Gender Gap Report 2020, India ranks 112th in educational attainment out of 153 countries, which reveals a stark involvement of education as a factor that determines women’s participation in politics.
Majority of Indian women politicians are highly educated such as Nirmala Sitharaman, Finance Minister of India; Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal; Mahua Moitra, an MP from West Bengal; Atishi Marlena, an MLA from Delhi; Mayawati, former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. This fuels the notion that education does play an important role amongst women when it comes to political representation. The question of literacy not only restricts to contesting but also stretches to voting; to begin with, women’s total engagement is low in states where female literacy is low and high in areas where female literacy is high. Furthermore, despite improvements in female literacy over the previous decade, female voter participation has remained relatively flat. It also important to note that no such link between men and literacy can be established. The disparities between overall voter participation and female voter participation are greater in states with low literacy rates. Males participate in the same proportions whether they are literate or not.
In states like Uttar Pradesh, where only 10 percent of the women are representing in state assemblies, out of them 77.5 percent women are graduates and post-graduates while the number is comparatively lower for men. Similarly, in West Bengal, only 14 percent of the women elected for the state assemblies have around 60 percent literacy rate, and male leaders are considerably low. The comparison here shows the stark reality of political education amongst Indian politicians, as female politicians are much more educated than male politicians but still lag in terms of representation, and portrays an evident link between literacy and politics for women in India. Due to lack of political education and education in general, women fail to enter politics and gender equality remains a distant dream in India. Without a question, female representation plays huge importance to the growth of the country towards sustainable development (SDG 5 (5.5 and 5. c) goals at achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls with special emphasis on leadership and participation in public, political, and economical decision-making and the adoption of policies to facilitate this participation), as a country where half of the voters are women and the policies are made for both men and women, they deserve to get equal representation in the governing and policymaking procedures because a deficiency here can reduce the effectiveness and relevance of the respective policy.
Due to lack of political education and education in general, women fail to enter politics and gender equality remains a distant dream in India.
“Where women are more educated and empowered, economies are more productive and strong. Where women are fully represented, societies are more peaceful and stable” (UNSC 2013), this quote from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon emphasises the significance of education in achieving gender equality and making countries more affluent. India has a low rate of girl-child education and is still in the grips of patriarchy which results from traditionally assigned roles to women; however, this, in turn, has led to more dire issues where we are facing a lack of representation in policies and problems of inclusion as an absence of education makes women ignorant of these aspects and become a part of the same vicious circle. The government did make efforts to ensure women participation in politics from the ground level by promoting women education (“Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao”) and also through constitutional amendments such as reservation for women in Panchayati Raj Institutions (Article 243D of the Constitution ensures participation of women by mandating not less than one-third reservation for women); proposal of the Women Reservation Bill, 2008 which reserves one-third of all seats in the Lok Sabha, and in all state legislative assemblies for women.
Women participation has suffered for ages and looking at the grave circumstances we are in, these raw steps are nugatory, therefore, there is an urgent need for policies that can ensure better representation of women in the country such as more strict policies and implementation of girl-child education in the country; initiatives from the recognised political parties to ensure that women receive a minimum agreed-upon representation in state assembly and parliamentary elections; passage of Women Reservation Bill; safe political space for women and debunking of the stereotyped role of women. Extrapolating these aspects, women’s political participation in India still has a long way to go, particularly at greater levels of government. However, with more female political leaders and more women practising their democratic rights, we may expect policy changes that will help India improve its political performance.
The views expressed above belong to the author(s).