Women MPs in the Lok Sabha. (From left to right) Remya Haridas (Kerala), Jothimani Sennimalai (Tamil Nadu), G.Madhavi (Andhra Pradesh) Photo credit: Annapurna Verma
Data Stories

Women Continue To Be Underrepresented in India’s Parliament

Women’s political participation remains abysmally low in the Lok Sabha- the directly elected House of the Parliament as well as state legislative assemblies. The current Lok Sabha has 14% women members of parliament-the highest ever proportion of women elected since 1951, when the first elections were held in independent India.59 years after the first Lok Sabha elections, half the population is  still systemically excluded from political participation, representation and decision-making.  What do the numbers tell us about women’s representation in Lok Sabha over the years?Increase in Women MPs since the first Lok SabhaThe first Lok Sabha in 1951 had 22

Minara Begum (right), an ASHA worker from Assam. ASHAs in Assam have not been paid their regular honorariums for the last 3 months.

COVID-19

Promised, Mostly Never Paid: Rs 1,000 Covid Wage To Million Health Workers

Hyderabad: Minara Begum, 33, has reached breaking point. “If the government of Assam does not release my salary today, my kids will starve,” said the mother of four, her voice choked with emotion. “I have done many dharnas (protests) and agitatiations in the past. Now I am literally begging the government to send my money.” Her youngest son is two-years old.Minara Begum, is an Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) working in Assam’s eastern district of Kamrup Metro, one of a national volunteer cadre of over one million women health workers who serve as a crucial interface between India’s community and

COVID-19

10 लाख स्वास्थ्य कर्मियों को 1000 रुपये की ‘कोविड सैलरी’: वादे ज्यादातर पूरे नहीं हुए

असम की रहने वालीं 33 साल की मीनारा बेगम चार बच्चों की मां हैं. उनका सबसे छोटा बेटा दो साल का है. वह रोते हुए कहती हैं कि अगर असम सरकार मेरी सैलरी आज नहीं देती है तो मेरे बच्चे भूखे मरेंगे. इसके लिए पहले मैंने कई धरने और आंदोलन किए हैं, लेकिन अब मैं सचमुच अपने पैसे के लिए सरकार से भीख मांग रही हूं.मीनारा बेगम एक मान्यता प्राप्त सामाजिक स्वास्थ्य कार्यकर्ता (आशा) हैं जो असम के पूर्वी जिले कामरूप मेट्रो में काम करती हैं. मीनारा भारत की महिला स्वास्थ्य वर्कर्स के नेशनल वॉलेंटियर कैडर की 10 लाख से

COVID-19

कोविड-19 के खिलाफ लड़ाई : गुस्सा और तनाव में भारत के फ्रंटलाइन वर्कर्स

रात के 9 बज रहे हैं. दिनभर की भाग-दौड़ के बाद अब लक्ष्मी सिंह खाने बैठी ही थीं कि सरपंच ने उन्हें बुला लिया.कई दिनों से पैदल चलकर अभी कुछ प्रवासी मजदूर उनके गांव पहुंचे थे. लक्ष्मी बीच में ही खाना छोड़कर उन लोगों को क्वारंटीन करने के लिए जरूरी कामों में जुट गईं. यह घटना मध्यप्रदेश के भिंड जिले के रानियां गांव की है.लक्ष्मी बताती हैं कि सबसे पहले समुदाय के जिस भी व्यक्ति में लक्षण होता है, वे लोग उसकी जांच करते हैं. इसके बाद ही डॉक्टरों का काम शुरू होता है. जब डॉक्टर गांव आते हैं तो

Seasonal farm workers from Mantralayam in Kurnool district, Andhra Pradesh (AP), stranded in a chilli farm in Peddapalem in the state’s Guntur district. Thousands of intra-state migrants from other districts in AP who work as seasonal farm labour are stranded in their workplaces with little or no support from the government.

COVID-19

COVID-19: Intra-State Migrants Marooned Too

Peddapalem (Guntur district), Andhra Pradesh: Thousands of families of intra-state migrants are stranded on the margins of Guntur’s world-renowned chilli farms, scrambling to live on a meagre supply of grains and other provisions, and sheltering from 40 degree Celsius temperatures under tarpaulin, as they wait for the lockdown to end.The continuing ordeal of these chilli-farm workers–hailing mostly from Andhra Pradesh’s drought-ravaged Kurnool district–who have neither been accommodated in buildings nor received timely rations and cash from the district administration, suggests that poor migrants within states may be even worse off during the lockdown than inter-state migrants whose home states have been

Photo caption: Midnight Session of the Constituent Assembly held on 14-15 August 1947 Photo Courtesy: Department of Justice, Govt. Of India
Gender & Politics

Why A Feminist Engagment With Constitution Is Necessary

Seventy years ago, on 26th January 1950, India’s constitution came into force. The constituent assembly which started its debates on 9th December 1946, took 2 years and 11 months to frame the constitution. Surbhi Karwa has analysed the constituent assembly debates from a feminist lens for her LLM thesis- looking at its composition and gendered nature of some of the debates. In a detailed interview with BehanBox, Karwa, an alumnus of National Law University (NLU), Lucknow and gold medallist from NLU,Delhi, outlines why a feminist critique of the constitution is important and lays out the gendered language, themes and representation in

Mishika Singh started ‘Lawyers for Detainees’, a legal aid group to help with legal support during the NRC-CAA protests. (Photo courtesy:Reuters/Adnan Abidi)
Reportage

NRC-CAA : More Legal Feet required on the Ground

India is seeing a massive countrywide resistance against discriminatory citizenship measures and women are leading it. Women across states have been resisting on the streets, inside universities and outside of it. This has seen a spate of police brutality and high handedness of the state in many parts as protestors are being detained and even arrested on flimsy grounds.While India resists on the streets, the legal fraternity has stepped up in joining the resistance with crucial legal support on the ground for detainees as well as spreading legal awareness. Women lawyers across states have been playing an important role in

Debsmita Chaudhury (24), is a gold medallist in Political Science and International relations from Jadavpur University. She expressed her dissent during the convocation ceremony by tearing a copy of the Citizenship Amendment Act. (Photo Courtesy: Debsmita Chaudhury)
Reportage

Why are Politically Inactive Students Like Me On The Streets?

Debsmita Chaudhury (24) has no regrets. On the contrary, she is quite proud of herself for using the most important platform of her life to stage dissent. The Jadavpur University gold medallist in Political Science and International Relations used the convocation ceremony on 24th December 2019 to protest against the newly legislated discriminatory and exclusionary Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). In an act that both surprised her family and professors, Debsmita walked up to the stage and tore apart the copy of the CAA. She then chanted “Inquilab Zindabad” (Long Live Revolution), bowed to the audience and then went on to accept

Tazeen Junaid (18), a second year English Literature student at Aligarh Muslim University. She, along with other women students have kept the anti- NRC resistance alive in AMU after it was shut down following police brutality on the students. (Photo courtesy: Tazeen Junaid)
Reportage

“Women Of AMU Will Keep The Resistance Alive” Tazeen Junaid

Tazeen Junaid (18) believes she has a duty to keep the resistance against the discriminatory and exclusionary citizenship laws alive in Aligarh Muslim University. On 15th December 2019, the Central Reserve Police Force entered AMU and cracked down on the students who were protesting against the police brutality against the students of Jamia Milia Islamia in India’s capital New Delhi. Following this, the university administration asked the resident students to vacate their hostels and the campus was closed.In the aftermath of the police excesses, Tazeen and other non-resident women students gather  every morning at 10 AM at Bab-e-Syed- the imposing main

Saima Khan(33) a resident of Jasola at the anti CAA and NRC resistance in Shaheen Bagh. Protestors at Shaheen Bagh, led by women, have been offering a peaceful resistance against India’s discriminatory citizenship laws for the past 19 days.
Reportage

Women of Shaheen Bagh Are Fighting For The Soul of this Country

Saima Khan (33) is heartbroken and angry. “ I cannot explain in words my pain when I am asked as a Muslim to prove my citizenship in my own country”, she told BehanBox.Saima is a resident of Jasola Vihar near Shaheen Bagh,a neighbourhood in the southern part of  India’s capital New Delhi. Shaheen Bagh is the site of a mass sit-in resistance, primarily led by Muslim women of the area to protest against India’s new citizenship laws.The Government of India has legislated the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 which gives citizenship to persecuted minorities from neighbouring countries excluding Muslims. Additionally, it has

Bitiya Murmu, a Santhal Adivasi woman leader based in Dumka in Jharkhand has been fighting a personal and a political battle for women’s land and inheritance rights within the Adivasi society. (Photo Courtesy: Bitiya Murmu)
Adivasi Rights

Where Are The Equal Rights For Adivasi Women?

For Bitiya Murmu (40), a Santhal Adivasi woman leader in Jharkhand, personal has become political. For the last ten years, she has been fighting a long battle with her male relatives to claim her rightful share to her ancestral property- a struggle which has since transformed into a statewide advocacy for land, property and inheritance rights for all Adivasi women in the state.Governed by unwritten customary laws, Adivasi women are not entitled to secure inheritance which pushes them into multiple levels of vulnerability within the society. In 1986, Juliana Lakra, an Oraon Adivasi woman filed a writ petition challenging the

Gender & Politics

Krishnaveni’s Story And The Era Of Women Panchayat Presidents

Thalaiyuthu panchayat, Tirunelveli district (Tamil Nadu): P Krishnaveni remembers the night of 13 June, 2011, clear as day. Barely 200 m from her home of 15 years, in front of a local temple, she lay in a pool of her blood.It was 10 pm, when her husband and two teenage daughters found her and screamed for help. No one came. When they finally lifted her into an auto-rickshaw, two fingers–one each hacked from her left and right hands–dropped to the floor. Her right ear was also severed.The trauma of that day lives with Krishnaveni, but it made her more determined

Goddeti Madhavi is a first time Scheduled Tribe Member of Parliament from the Araku Lok Sabha constituency in Andhra Pradesh. Photo credit: Annapurna Verma
Gender & Politics

First Time Adivasi MP Hopes To Be The Voice Of People

Goddeti Madhavi (26), the first time Member of Parliament (MP) from Araku in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh (AP) knows the trust that her constituents have placed in her in this predominantly tribal constituency. After all, more than half the voters (52%) of Araku had chosen her, a political novice, to represent them over V Kishore Chandra Deo– a five time MP and a former Union minister in the recently concluded elections to the Lok Sabha, the directly elected lower house of the Parliament, in May 2019.She is determined to fulfill their aspirations in her five year term.  “Each time

Gender & Politics

The Triumph Of Sharmila Devi And Tamil Nadu’s Women Leaders

Thirumanvayal Panchayat, Sivagangai District (Tamil Nadu): Sharmila Devi (39), the youngest dalit sarpanch of Thirumanvayal panchayat in southern Tamil Nadu’s Sivagangai district, has pulled off what none of her upper-caste, male predecessors could in 50 years–bringing drinking water to the village.“Thirumanvayal had uppu thanni (salt water). The villagers had to go to the nearby villages to get their daily supply,” she said. “I have seen this since my childhood. I always wondered why we could never solve this problem.”The water crisis is also the reason why Sharmila, who had studied upto grade X, chose to contest for the panchayat president’s post in 2011

Gender & Politics

Meagre Funds, No Salary: How Tamil Nadu’s Women Leaders Still Succeed

Nachangulam Panchayat, Sivagangai district (Tamil Nadu): What is it like to do a full-time job without a salary? Especially if you are a dalit or an adivasi woman and your daily earnings sustain your family?Ask Rajanikandham, a dalit daily wage worker, who heads the Nachangulam village panchayat in southern Tamil Nadu’s Sivagangai district. Her husband too earns daily wages and the couple have three children, one of whom is disabled.A state-run, guaranteed rural job scheme like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) is critical for poor families like these but as a panchayat head, Rajanikandham is not allowed

Gender & Politics

Why Muthukanni, A Dalit, Had To Build Her Own Panchayat Office

Madhavakurichi Panchayat, Tirunelveli district, Tamil Nadu: It wasn’t personal ambition that drove K Muthukanni to stand for election as panchayat president from Madhavakurichi in Mannur block of southern Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli district. It was indignation at the humiliation heaped on the incumbent dalit panchayat president by the dominant Maravar caste.“They just would not allow him to work,” she said, her voice ringing with rage. “He was not allowed inside the panchayat office. One time he went in, he was locked in by those monsters. The poor man had to sign cheques while standing on the road. I wanted to end this

Gender & Politics

Tamil Nadu’s Women Leaders Live, Work In The Shadow Of Violence

Urapakkam (Kancheepuram district), Tamil Nadu: Even by normal standards of violence in Tamil Nadu’s panchayat politics, the events of March 29, 2001, were troubling. Menaka, 35, the feisty dalit president of Urapakkam panchayat near Tambaram, a Chennai suburb, was hacked to death right in front of her office in daylight.It was 11:30 am, when a gang of four men, armed with long knives, barged into her office. While one stood guard at the door, the others slashed her neck, head and face. She was dead before her brother Nehru could rush to her defence.Menaka’s murder shook panchayat politics and rural governance

Gender & Politics

Why 277,160 Women Leaders Remain Invisible To Tamil Nadu’s Political Parties

Chennai: Salma (50), the deputy secretary of the women’s wing of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), is among the few women to have made the transition from rural governance to mainstream politics in Tamil Nadu. Most other women have no choice but to retreat into their homes at the end of their five-year stint as panchayat chiefs.Salma, a celebrated Tamil poet and novelist, believes that it was her literary talent that caught her the biggest break in her life. During the course of her term as the head of the Tuvarankurinchi town panchayat in Tiruchirapalli district of Tamil Nadu in 2004

Gender & Politics

Why Ashubi Khan’s Pioneering Run Ends Today

Mewat (Haryana): Ashubi Khan, 51, is distraught. A decade of trailblazing work done by this tall, soft-spoken sarpanch (village chief) and her team of seven illiterate women–and three literate men–ends today. Over the decade, despite male resistance, which once led them to resign en masse in protest, the chief of Haryana’s first all-women panchayat in 2005, Khan, and her then nine women panchs (ward members) in southeastern Haryana’s Neemkheda gram panchayat (village council) racked up an impressive list of achievements. The 10 women carried out a successful campaign against female foeticide. In a district with severe water shortages, they had 20 pumps installed and Neemkheda connected to a canal. They had 50 houses

Gender & Politics

Women MP Track: Weekly Updates

This Week in Parliament: 8th-12th July 2019Women MPs in Lok Sabha this WeekAsked 20% of all Oral Questions15% of written questions7% of speakers during Matters Under 37714% of speakers in Zero Hour18% of speakers during debate on the Union BudgetQuestions (Written and Oral)Once again Supriya Sule (NCP)and Dr. Heena Gavit (BJP) asked the highest number of questions. However, some new women MPs opened their questions score this week- Jyotsna Mahant (INC), Rekha Verma (BJP), Ranjeeta Koli( BJP), Aparajita Sarangi (BJP), Pratima Bhoumik from Tripura.Most questions from Women MPs were directed at the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), followed by Agriculture and Human Resource Development (HRD).Some of

Gender & Politics

Women MP Track: Daily Updates

Women MP Track 8th-9th July 2019 Highlights Women MPs in Lok Sabha asked 20% of Oral Questions 17% of Written Questions 17% of Zero Hour Speakers 7% of MPs who raised issues under Rule 377 Questions (Oral and Written) Finance Raksha Khadse (BJP) asked the Minister of Finance if NITI Aayog has listed 192 loss-making Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) for disinvestment if there were any objections raised by labour organisations. Meenakshi Lekhi (BJP) wanted to know from the Finance Minister if the Goods and Services Tax (GST) has helped in widening the tax base of the Government along with the data. Steel Pritam Munde (BJP) asked the Minister

Madhavi Goddeti (26), the first time Member of Parliament from Araku (ST) constituency in Andhra Pradesh. Photo Credit: Annapurna Verma

Gender & Politics

When I step into the Parliament, I carry the voices of 10 lakh people of Araku: Madhavi Goddeti

Madhavi Goddeti may be a first time Member of Parliament (MP) in the newly elected Lok Sabha but she is no stranger to politics. The 26 year old Scheduled Tribe MP of the Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) from Araku  in Andhra Pradesh, who defeated a 5 time MP and a former Union minister, grew up surrounded by it.“ Politics was all around me since I was a little girl. I saw my father who was an MLA and tribal rights leader fight for the interests of people in the region against rampant bauxite mining all his life. I

Gender & Politics

Illiterate, Married at 11, Mother At 12: Panchayat President Now Changes Fates

Padiganalam, Krishnagiri district (Tamil Nadu): Married against her wishes at 11 to her dead sister’s husband, Sidhamallamma Kanchappa gave birth to her first child at home when she was 12. It was 1998, the child nearly died, and the doctors at the hospital chided her and the family for marrying so young.That experience taught her the importance of women’s reproductive health and control over their bodies. “I told my goud (husband) that I will not have another baby so soon,” said Sidhamallamma, today a self-assured woman with a bright smile. “My second son was born eight years later.”So, when Sidhamallamma–from the Irula tribe, famed

Gender & Politics

In A Sylvan Valley, One Woman Reveals, Changes Lives Obscured By Beauty

Sittilinghi, Dharmapuri district (Tamil Nadu): Nestled in a sylvan valley in northwestern Tamil Nadu and surrounded by forests, the village council, or panchayat, of Sittilinghi struggled to bring to state attention the infirmities obscured by its natural beauty.There were few roads between the 40 villages governed by the panchayat. There was no health centre. There weren’t enough schools–so girls dropped out and married before 18.That began to change in 2011 when a soft-spoken, mathematics graduate and former hospital administrator was elected panchayat president in a seat that was not then reserved for women. In the five years since, Tenmozhi (she uses

Gender & Politics

The Woman Who Brought Drinking Water, Toilets To A Lost Panchayat

Melamarungoor, Sivagangai district (Tamil Nadu): Mazharkodi Dhanasekar has a radiant smile and is keen to talk about her achievements, which, as it emerges, are considerable: Building 650 toilets and making her panchayat free of open-defecation in southern Tamil Nadu.Dhanasekar’s fame has spread across the district as the woman who transformed and gained attention for a remote, lost panchayat–village council–largely ignored by officials until she was elected president in 2011.Dhanasekar, 49, is one of 40 past and current women panchayat leaders we surveyed across six Tamil Nadu districts to analyse the impact of a quarter century of reservations for women in local

Gender & Politics

In Bihar’s Political Realignment, Women Suffer

As a first-time member of the legislative assembly (MLA) in Bihar, Jyothi Devi, 46, did well over her five-year term: She had 10 bridges—some of which were demanded since independence—and 3,300 km of roads constructed in her constituency, Barachatti, including several link roads connecting villages to the Grand Trunk Road that cuts across Gaya district, where Barachatti is located.Jyothi Devi got the NGO that she runs to work with a British-government agency to survey poor homesteads and arranged for 900 families to get land titles. She has been a vocal participant in the legislative assembly, the Vidhan Sabha, asking more than 250 questions.

Analysis

States With Worst Sex Ratios Have Most Female MLAs

States with poor development indicators for women (mainly sex ratio and female literacy) have higher representation of women in their vidhan sabhas (legislative assemblies) according to an analysis of Census and Election Commission data.The top five states of India with the highest percentage of women MLAs (members of legislative assembly) are also states with the worst sex ratios.The female literacy rate in three of these states is lower than the national average of 64.4%. The northern states of Haryana and Punjab, known for their poor female sex ratio, have higher literacy rates than the national average.Political empowerment, an important indicator of gender development, does not necessarily

A former sweeper from a Mahadalit–or lowest of the low–castes, Bhagirathi Devi (centre), 65, is among 28 female MLAs from Bihar contesting the forthcoming assembly election of their own standing, refuting a commonly held notion that most women in politics are proxies for male spouses or relatives. Image credit: Bhagirathi Devi/Nityanand Kumar
Gender & Politics

From Proxies To Politicians: Bihar’s Female MLAs

Thirty five years ago, Bhagirathi Devi was a sweeper in the block development office in Narkatiyaganj, a town in Bihar’s West Champaran district.Today, she is a third-term member of the legislative assembly (MLA) of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), representing the Ramnagar (formerly Shikarpur) constituency in northwestern Bihar, one of 34 female MLAs in the 243-member vidhan sabha.A Mahadalit–as the Bihar government started calling the poorest of low-caste Dalits in 2007– Bhagirathi Devi joined politics as a reaction to what she saw around her. “I was angry at the injustice and cruelty meted out to the poor, especially poor women, who came to the

Data Stories

In Bihar’s Political Realignment, Women Suffer

As a first-time member of the legislative assembly (MLA) in Bihar, Jyothi Devi, 46, did well over her five-year term: She had 10 bridges—some of which were demanded since independence—and 3,300 km of roads constructed in her constituency, Barachatti, including several link roads connecting villages to the Grand Trunk Road that cuts across Gaya district, where Barachatti is located.Jyothi Devi got the NGO that she runs to work with a British-government agency to survey poor homesteads and arranged for 900 families to get land titles. She has been a vocal participant in the legislative assembly, the Vidhan Sabha, asking more than 250 questions.