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Fostering Women’s Participation In Decision-Making

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Fostering Womens Participation in Decision Making e1705933958180

Session Report
Reetwika Mallick

The Gender Impact Studies Center, at IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi conducted a Two-Month Online National Winter School Program on ‘Young Women Leaders in Public Policy Fellowship’ from January 6th, 2024 to March 8th 2024.

The course, spread over two months, provided a unique opportunity to gain in-depth insight into public policy. The course led by esteemed experts, empowered young women to be effective leaders. Through a combination of engaging lectures, interactive workshops, networking, guidance by thematic experts and practical exercises.

On day 1 of the ‘Young Women Leaders in Public Policy Fellowship’, Ms. Amarjeet Kaur, General Secretary, All India Trade Union Congress, enumerated the need for women to take part actively in the public policy domain. Sharing her experience as a women’s rights activist and an active participant in the women’s movement she outlined the challenges faced in formulating and implementing women’s rights, that the young women leaders must strive to mend.

Women in Decision- Making

Ms. Kaur commenced her lecture by expressing her views that the advancement of any society cannot take place without addressing the question of gender inequality. Ms. Kaur drew the session’s attention to the fact that the majority of the population did not know the women constituent assembly members of India who were responsible for shaping women’s rights in the post-independence India. Thereby indicating the challenge of not acknowledging the role of women policy-makers in the country.

Tracing women’s participation in policy formulation, Ms. Kaur delineated different roles that women freedom fighters adopted in the freedom struggle of India and in the making of the Indian Constitution. Ms. Kaur, while elucidating the role of women in policy formulation, drew the session’s attention toward the innumerable women’s struggles both within and outside the constituent assembly for designing women’s rights. Ms. Kaur underlined the long and arduous struggle for the Maternity Benefit Act, the Equal Remuneration Act, along with other legislation.

Taking the session forward, Ms. Kaur conceded that though women have been in the domain of public policy as legislators and bureaucrats, but, such participation did not lead to desired policy implementation. Ms. Kaur instead asserted how societal participation as a whole in policy-making is required in order to overcome the existing challenges.

Emphasizing societal participation in policy implementation, Ms. Kaur through examples explained that unless the patriarchal mindset of the society changes, women’s rights through public policy could not be achieved. Ms. Kaur discussed several instances of struggles of women for getting their due share of justice- the Roop Kanwar case and Bhanwari Devi case, including some of the recent cases of sexual harassment of women.

Social Biases Hindering Public Policy Making

In the session, Ms. Kaur enumerated the need for humanitarian and inclusive policy formulation that endeavours to build a harmonious and peaceful society. Such public policy, according to Ms. Kaur will open the door to talks of equality and justice in society. In her lecture, Ms. Kaur highlighted several social cleavages that hinder the development of the desired society.

The biases existing in the society include- casteism, religion and bias towards the economically weaker section. The Indian constitution though tried to eradicate these biases through- affirmative action, fundamental rights of freedom of religion and right to work and livelihood, but Ms. Kaur pointed out the gaps in such provisions in the present-day scenarios. In terms of caste, Ms. Kaur highlighted the need for developing acceptance towards reservation policy within the society. Similarly, biases towards the economically weaker section can be eliminated by economic and educational empowerment. Developing a tolerant society is the need for religious harmony, Ms. Kaur insisted.

Ms. Kaur, concluding her session, reiterated that the Constitutional provisions need to be practiced and the desires of the people need to be taken into consideration. Sharing her experience as an active member of several women’s movements, Ms. Kaur acknowledged that public policy implementation and formulation is a difficult task since it accounts for changing the mindset and the attitude of the people. Therefore, the role of young women in policy making should be to formulate an implementable and inclusive public policy.

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Women’s Rights, Laws and Policies in India

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