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Motivating women to contest polls
Published on 8 Mar. 2009 11:59 PM IST
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Women have less than 10 percent representation in India’s parliament even though they make up 44 percent of the voting population. But much of that may change if an NGO that is encouraging women to join mainstream politics has its way. The Centre for Social Research (CSR), through a UN project, “Enhancing the Role of Women in Strengthening Democracy”, has selected 1,000 women from across India and is grooming them to contest the April-May Lok Sabha election as well as state assembly polls. “We need more women in politics. And it is essential to train potential leaders as well as encourage the ones who are successful at the local governance level to enter the state assemblies and parliament,” Ranjana Kumari, director, CSR, told IANS. “The project is taking shape at three levels. At level one, women are being prepared and motivated to contest elections for the state legislatures and national parliament. “At level two, advocacy and lobbying with political parties to increase seats for women within parties and lobbying for the passage of 33 percent Reservation Bill. “At level three, the learning from the projects shall be shared with South Asian partners to build a stronger foundation for democracy in the region,” Kumari said. The project was launched in February 2008 keeping in mind the elections to the 15th Lok Sabha this year. The women have been identified from across the country, with proportional regional representation. But the exact number of women contesting the parliamentary elections will be final only after the list of candidates in the poll fray is out. “Women in leadership roles like those from academics, NGOs, media, trade unions have been selected. Special emphasis has been given to women in panchayati raj,” said Anju Dubey, project in-charge. The project addresses issues like the need for enhancing the capacity of the women to fight elections and sensitising state and national parties’ leadership to include more to fight elections. “The women are being imparted leadership and communication skills besides informing them about generic issues that they need to know to be good leaders. We are taking services of eminent women political leaders like Brinda Karat, professional trainers, counsellors, journalist and sociologists to train these women,” said Dubey. The NGO is organising several workshops in various parts of the country with the help of other social organisations working in the area to train these women. “Many of these women already have some political background. They are members of some political party or involved in some political activities. Despite that they are not able to carve a niche for themselves because of existing male dominance in Indian politics,” Dubey said. According to a UN report, women made up 48.26 percent of India’s population and nearly 44.2 percent of all voters in the 2004 general elections. “The dismal representation of women in Indian politics can be seen from the fact that in the 14th Lok Sabha only 9.2 percent of the Lok Sabha’s elected representatives and 8.6 percent of the Rajya Sabha members are female,” Dubey said.

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