Home Insights Embracing 'Nari Shakti': A Call To Inclusion In Political Party Manifestos

Embracing 'Nari Shakti': A Call To Inclusion In Political Party Manifestos

Embracing 'Nari Shakti': A Call to Inclusion in Political Party Manifestos

Rekha Saxena & Aditi Narayani Paswan

The forthcoming elections will be pivotal to ascertain the aspirations of tribal and Dalit women. It remains to be seen whether the Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam Bill will translate into tangible progress.

The Indian civilisation places the woman, nari, in a pre-eminent position. Shakti is seen as a source of creation, maintenance, and destruction and is understood as a way of bringing balance to the universe. It has always signified the divine feminine form. The prayer ‘Yaa Devi Sarva-Bhuteshu Shakti-Ruupenna Samsthitaa’ refers to the devi or goddess who resides in all beings as a form of shakti. In this context, nari shakti is not merely sashaktikaran (empowerment) but the feminine power residing in all beings.

With a greater emphasis on nari shakti now and with the biggest festival of democracy, the Lok Sabha elections, around the corner, it is imperative to ask: Where does the nari of this nation stand? How do we understand the language of empowerment? Can it only be understood in political or economic terms?

Empowerment is a complex phenomenon, affecting education, economy and culture. In the recent state elections, women have emerged as a significant voter base, but we hope to see their engagement as “contenders” also being increased. Whether it was during the elections in Bihar in 2020, West Bengal in 2021 or the 2023 elections in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, female voters have supported parties that put forward policies and schemes designed to cater to their needs and well-being.

As the manifestos of all parties are being tabled, there should be increased allocation of funds for the holistic well being of women. Parties must include gender budgets targeting the female labour force in their manifestos. Gender is incorporated in government policy in India, and the gender budget statement reflects the extent of this integration, but there is a need for a nuanced understanding of intersectionality within the gender discourse. Examples include initiatives such as the National Health Mission, National Rural Livelihood Mission, MGNREGA, and Integrated Child Development Services.

Effective analysis using gender disaggregated data is critical for ensuring that policies and activities benefit women. Lack of funds and inefficient use has a negative influence on gender equality. We must work towards pay parity to ensure that men and women receive equal wages for performing the same work in the informal sector.

Over the past decade, financial inclusion schemes such as the MUDRA Yojana, Mahila e-Haat and Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) have helped millions of women in asserting their basic rights. With access to banking, LPG cylinders and education, they need not be reliant on male family members to lead a dignified life. The digitalisation of access to government schemes and facilities has the potential to create equal access to social security, micro-financing, skill-based funding, and subsidies.

An unprecedented number of women have gained access to clean toilets and energy under Swachh Bharat and the Ujjwala scheme, which are important for a life of dignity. Policies like PM-JAY and PM-SUMAN, are a move in the right direction while addressing women’s health, although, there is a need to invest in pre- and post-natal care for women. There is also a need to broaden the scope for women entrepreneurs and focus on diversification of skills.

Women’s rights need to be advocated even in the domain of personal laws. While the Triple Talaq Bill passed in 2019 has ensured the dignity of Muslim women, a Uniform Civil Code may ensure absolute formal citizenship rights for women. Gruesome violations as seen in Manipur and Sandeshkhali highlight the systemic nature of violence against women, underlining that the journey towards creating gender-sensitive public spaces is a long and arduous one. In their manifestos, political parties should formulate a policy statement against gender-based violence, ensuring safe public spaces for women.

In India, elections have served as harbingers of social change and shifting political dynamics. The forthcoming elections will be pivotal to ascertain the aspirations of tribal and Dalit women considering the recent introduction of the Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam Bill. It remains to be seen whether this legislative initiative will translate into tangible advancements facilitating increased accessibility and visible participation of marginalised women in the political sphere. The upcoming electoral race will be crucial in determining the untapped potential of nari shakti.

Saxena is senior Professor, department of Political Science, DU and Paswan is Assistant Professor of Sociology, Lakshmibai College, DU

The article was published in The Indian Express as It’s time to make space for ‘nari shakti’ in political party manifestos on April 2, 2024.

Disclaimer: All views expressed in the article belong solely to the author and not necessarily to the organization.

Read more by the Author:

Kanshi Ram’s Enduring Impact: Unifying Dalit Identity

V.D. Savarkar’s Advocacy for a Society Beyond Caste Division

Acknowledgment: This article was posted by Vishavjeet Singh, a research intern at IMPRI.

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