Be it getting denied the status of citizens in Athens – the cradle of Democracy, to historically being deprived of power, being subject to oppression, to getting the right to vote for the first time only in 1920, to being excluded from positions of leaderships – both in public and private sphere since times immemorial till today, women have historically been denied equal rights and opportunities.

The global share of women in parliaments has jumped from a sad 18% figure in 2008 to 26.5% as of Jan 2023 – this presents a sorry, painstakingly slow picture of progress towards gender equality. According to a UN Women report, at the current rate, gender equality in the positions of leadership and power will not be reached for another 130 years. This implies that we are headed towards another 130 years of underrepresentation of experiences of 50% population, systematic prioritization of more ‘masculine’ aspects of national interest and a simultaneous setback to social facets of welfare, political campaigns being designed by men, pandering to men, drastic under-utilization of half of the human resource, continued ignorance of women’s capacity to peacefully resolve conflicts, promote peace and flagrant exploitation of women’s human rights in political spaces.

The biggest hindrance which prevents women from escalating higher up on the political ladder is the societal conditioning which constantly affirms and reaffirms that politics is not ‘feminine’ and requires one to have ‘masculine’ attributes of courage, resilience, shrewdness, competitiveness and dominance. ‘Power’, as a term has historically, always had masculine connotations, resulting in deeming Politics, a space of power play – ‘A Man’s domain’. It is high time we discard the gender-neutral approach to politics and start viewing it from a gendered vantage point, since the former denies the distinctive ways in which policies uniquely affect women and difference in the way women experience the full force of various political phenomena such as war.

Now with regards to answering the question of why bolstering women’s participation in politics is important – the first and very basic reason stems from the state’s obligation to promote equality under the social contract theory. Thus, morally and principally states are required to commit to actualizing the goal of an egalitarian society. Underdevelopment and weak democratic institutions in a country are a direct function of the status of women in that country. Be it the middle-east countries, instability stricken Afghanistan or the Sub-Saharan nations plagued with decades long spell of underdevelopment – constant oppression of women, their near invisibility in leadership positions are common to all these countries. Embracing inclusivity, plurality, diverse experiences of masses are the hallmarks of a successful democracy.

Women offer unique perspectives owing to their vulnerabilities in a largely patriarchal world and this further helps devising better policies for women and children, social development, sustainability and durable peace. According to studies from UN Women, when women were involved in peacebuilding – it was more likely to be sustainable for upto 2 years by 20% and for upto 15 years by 35%. Sanam Naraghi Anderlini in her book Women building peace highlights women’s special agency in mitigating the “call to arms.” Women are often among the first to publicly denounce the march to war. Anderlini provides diverse examples of this type of activism, including the Women for Peace that formed in Sri Lanka in October 1984 and the anti-war group Women in Black that, in October 1991, protested against the escalation of the war in the Balkans.

Women’s political leadership has shown greater prioritization of social indicators of development such as education, health, child care, mortality rate etc. At the local level of governance, female voter turnout and female political participation proportionally increases with presence of women in leadership positions. The Role Model effect of women breaking stereotypes, shattering the glass ceiling and claiming their space in the political domain closes the aspiration gap between girls and boys with regards to building successful political careers. But, this alone is not enough to generate a spontaneous surge in the number of females in political spaces. Systematic and deliberate policy initiatives are needed to be pursued consistently to change the global political landscape.

Proper utilization of reservation quotas for women, identifying and nipping instances of proxy governance by men through female relatives holding seats, promoting political literacy among women of all ages to create both – capable political workers and intelligent female voters. Campaigns and bootcamps can be organized by political organisations, think tanks and political parties to aid re-conditioning of women and to help them realize their political potential. Us women need to realize our potential as significant vote banks as well. Organizing women in voter blocs – something that seldom happens (thanks to cross cutting identities of caste, class, religion and polarization of electorates on communal basis), incentivizes it for the political players to raise women’s issues and make it a crucial part of their agenda and election campaigning. Having conversations with women in power, in the system and those with the valuable experience of working at the grassroot really helps develop a great sense of understanding of nuances associated with politics and policy spaces. Such community interactions spark conversations on issues like historic marginalization of women, harassment in working places – politics being one of them and the need to have greater representation for women in politics.

Image Credits: achonaonline.com

Rubani Sandhu

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The rhetoric of development has always been used as a method to lure people. The cost of this kind of development has always been borne by the marginalised and voiceless people, or the environment. In such a context consent becomes an important parameter if one really wants inclusive development. This open letter describes the plight when the rhetoric wins over the essence of development. 

Dear Development, 

I was in awe of you when they said you will improve my life. You would ease these sufferings and would take the “underdeveloped” in me to a “developed one”. I hoped to come out of this vicious cycle of poverty, as is what meant development to me. I expected to avail a better physical quality of life as that meant development. You were my ray of hope of becoming a human. They said you were good for me, and I simply agreed, because how does my consent matter any way. They know what is good for me. They know what is the best in the interest of development.

I have always aspired to become like the developed countries, as that is what a better life means. I was appealed to, by the common rhetoric of development. Little did I know my cost for development had a bigger picture, vested interests, and a propaganda complementary with it. My development never took my consent. I am the trees of Aarey and I paid the cost of development. I am a slum dweller and I paid the cost of development. I am a native of Kashmir and I paid the cost of development. Only to realise that I had a flawed notion of development being inclusive, holistic and for my benefit and well-being.

That is when I realized the importance of Consent for Development. You can have growth, you can build those structures, but how will you build my inner self?

You came for me and made me a destitute in the name of development. This development was not my development. It was largely governed by the vested interests and the public opinion professed by the propaganda of development. 

You came for me because I was the easy, soft target, I was voiceless and lured by you, development. 

I never wanted this type of development to happen. I never wanted your parenting for my good. I never wanted your progress at the cost of my own. India is my country defined by secularism and democracy. India is my country flaunting those plush green forests. India is my country defined by religious tolerance. But my idea of India does not matter, because that is not what the consensus today says. Surely there was vikas, but not sabka saath. You cut me down, you shut me down, and you threw me out because you were going to make my life better. I am still waitingf for that day to come, if ever it does. 

Yours truly,

The cost of development.

Feature Image Credits: Greenbiz

Sriya Rane 

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With the recent development in the country, it is easy to lose sight of what India, even as an ‘imaginary’ country, had to offer to the rest of the world in its past, be it collective or not. However, in order to move further ahead, we need to think about our past, present, and future collectively and take pride in all the potential that India has and can harness.

India, the  seventh largest in area and the wettest inhabited place in the world, is a country to behold! With a diverse terrain and history reaching back 8 millennia, she is home to the world’s largest number of religious communities and to more than 300 languages!

She is unique in the fact that she has had a glorious past in technology and knowledge and yet never invaded any other country in the several years of history. Civilisations throughout history have tried spreading their influence and dominance over other others through invasion, conquest, and colonisation but India is different. She has been able to spread her influence in a unique way through something genuine, that people themselves felt attracted to. The greatest example of that is the spread of spirituality through Buddhism, from India, to the whole of East without any military conquest.

She never needed to venture out for resources, be it exotic spices, unique Wootz steel, or knowledge. In the past India has always been self-reliant and the modern India has not lost this feature of hers, India had requested NASA for GPS assistance, but was denied. It was then that India built one for herself. Now, the  space programs have revolutionized space science and can contribute to helping the world understand the universe in the best way possible.

India has proven the potential to contribute to the world of space sciences by being the only country which has been able to launch a spacecraft into the Martian orbit on the maiden attempt. India’s Mars Mission, which discovered water on Mars, was monetarily cheaper than the movie ‘Gravity’. The Dalai Lama says “Everything in my head is from India. I am a son of India.” India’s soft power –  like that of no other country – is not just considered its manipulative potential, but is rather debated to be a reality, which can be justified through its past, and which gives a boost to all other ‘potentials’ of India in the future for contributing generously to the world.

India’s culture is put together after years of evaluation and each component of it can contribute to the world is various ways, if taken up by individuals all around the world. Ancient India has a lot of practices which can make the world a better place.

Vegetarianism, which originated in India and is the most prevalent there, is an integral part of India’s soft power. It is believed by some that it can end world hunger since the more people eat meat, the fewer people can be fed. To produce one pound of beef protein, over 10 pounds of plant protein is needed. If these grains were fed to humans instead of animals, more food would be available for the 925 million people in chronic hunger worldwide!

Another contribution of India to the world can be the betterment of health through Yoga and Ayurveda. Surya Namaskar, itself, is known to have over fifty spiritual and health benefits, and has taken the world by storm. Super brain yoga, a simple exercise, is said to be the “energy fuel” by science today that can keep our brain fit and functional. Along with that, Ayurvedic medicines have all been to be based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the “mind, body, and spirit.”

Even the ancient Indian languages have a life of their own. Sanskrit is the mother of all languages. It has some valid reasons. A general one is that no word in Sanskrit word has two meanings. One, very unique and special quality of Sanskrit is that the pronunciations of the words are chosen with great precision, The Sanskrit pronunciations are such that their sound makes the water in us vibrate in a certain manner which causes changes in us. That is why some words are ‘auspicious.’ Their sound itself can cause positive changes in us, like, ‘Aum’, which is said to be the vibration in all atoms and from the studies of NASA.

India is also a country which has proved her worthy of blending modern development with the colors of culture to create a refined amalgam. She can contribute to the world the most effectively by leading the world into a global environment of progress – in technology and spirituality, both. She has a lot confided in herself, unappreciated and unrecognized by the ‘outsiders’, and India needs to get in touch with her glorious past, become aware of her present potentials and move with vision into the future, to be able to offer the unique amalgam to the world.

AC Nielsen had recently conducted a survey in India. In response to a question on what are the best aspects of living in India, the top answer was the culture of this country. 45% of the respondents gave this as their answer that included factors like India’s diversity, its long tradition and so on.

It, therefore, seems like it won’t be long before India realises its potential throughout  history, which had later been twisted to make the Indians lose their pride in their culture.


 Feature Image Credits: India.com

Khyati Sanger
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