Women who are members of Van Panchayats in Uttarakhand/Black Ticket Films
Gender & Politics

Women Leaders Breathing Life Into Van Panchayats in Uttarakhand

Uttarakhand is home to the fierce ‘Chipko Movement.’ Led by the bold and spirited women in the 1960s, the movement was one of the many significant attempts to bring to light the relationship between women’s rights and environmental justice in its fight against large scale deforestation.In recent times, we see inspired and motivated elected women representatives in Gram Panchayats ( India’s elected village councils) carrying forward the legacy of the Chipko movement as they rally around to strengthen the unique Uttarakhandi institution of Van Panchayats (forest councils).In early 2017, during the course of several meetings organized by The Hunger Project,

Adivasi Women from Ujala Samooh collective have been contesting elections to challenge the bastions of power and patriarchy in Rajasthan. Photo credit: Drishti Agarwal

Gender & Politics

Adivasi Women Claim Power In Local Elections

Badami Bai (32), had a problem on her hands, just a week before the Panchayat (India’s directly elected village councils) elections in India’s western state of Rajasthan in January 2020. The Bhil Adivasi contestant for the office of the Sarpanch (village council head) of Bhagoron ka Khera panchayat in  Banswara district suddenly found two new contestants running for office against her.“This was deliberately done by former Sarpanch Kamla Devi’s husband Chetanpuri, to undercut my vote share. He paid them Rs. 50,000  each to contest”, alleged a dejected Badami Bai.Badami Bai is no ordinary woman.  As a member of Ujala Samooh–

Photo Credit: The Population Council
Analysis

Concerns of Raising The Age Of Marriage

In February 2020, the Finance Minister of India Nirmala Sitharaman announced a new proposal to raise the legal age of marriage from 18 to 21. A task force led by Jaya Jaitley was set up to examine, among other things such as improving maternal mortality ratio (MMR) and improving educational outcomes for women and girls , the feasibility of raising the age of marriage. Age of marriage in India  was was raised from 15 to 18 by amending the Child Marriage Restraint Act, popularly known as the Sharda Act (1929) in 1978.“There are imperatives of lowering MMR as well as

Tanzeela Qambrani, the Member of Provincial Assembly (MPA), Sindh, Pakistan. She is the first MPA from the Sheedis, the African-Pakistan minority community. Photo credit: Reddit.com
Gender & Politics

First African-Pakistani Lawmaker Fights To Claim Power

Tanzeela Qambrani (41) created history in Pakistan when she became the first Sheedi Member of Provincial Assembly (MPA) of Sindh Assembly in 2018. Her election to the Sindh Assembly was significant for many reasons.As the first Sheedi lawmaker, she fought hard to rise above prejudices and discrimination. She was forced out from the position of Chairperson of the municipal council of Matli in Badin district of Sindh by councillors from her own Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). The elite councillors refused to accept  a descendent of former slaves as their leader.Sheedis (known as Sidis in India)  are Pakistan’s African minority group

Mamta, the former Sarpanch of Jayadara Panchayat in Sirohi district of Rajasthan. Photo Credit: Surbhi Mahajan
Gender & Politics

When Violence Is the Cost Of Doing Politics

When Mamta (26), was elected to Jayadara  Gram Panchayat ( lowest tier in India’s 3 tier local governance system)  in Sirohi district of Rajasthan in 2015, the upper caste former male Sarpanch (village council head) was angry. He found it hard to digest that an Adivasi woman from the Bhil tribe was not just entering the panchayat office but occupying the chair of  the sarpanch.What followed were a series of open threats, intimidation, harassment and abuse.The former Sarpanch threatened her with rape, something he had done with other women and girls in the village. On a monitoring visit to the

Surta Bairwa, President, Srirampura Village Council, Tonk District, Rajasthan. Photo Courtesy: Amrita Haldipur
Gender & Politics

Dalit And Adivasi Women Leaders Secure Community Rights

Surta Bairwa (33), the former Dalit Sarpanch of  Srirampura Panchayat in Rajasthan’s Tonk district had enough of the centuries old dominance of the upper caste Gurjars. The Gurjar community had encroached upon hand pumps and water tanks meant for common use of the village leaving the Dalit Valmiki community without access to water.“I took it upon myself to break this pattern and work to protect and promote the concerns and issues of the marginalised communities. I also want to ensure that women’s needs are not neglected any longer”, Surta said.At first, Surta and the other ward members approached the powerful

Varsha Eknath Gaikwad, the education minister of Maharashtra and MLA from Dharavi, Mumbai. Photo courtesy: The Hindu
Gender & Politics

“I Am The Education Minister Of Maharashtra Because Of Savitribai Phule”

For Varsha Eknath Gaikwad (45), Dharavi in Mumbai is much more than a constituency. She calls it home.The 4 time Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) from the Indian National Congress ( INC) from Dharavi- Asia’s biggest slum- has had her boots on the ground for the last 6 months in the efforts to contain the Covid-19 pandemic in one of the most densely populated slums in the world. From decentralising medical screening to streamlining the process of sending migrant workers back home, she has been in the middle of it all, personally overseeing the efforts.As the education minister of Maharashtra,

Fawzia Koofi, Member of Parliament, Afghanistan. She is one of the only two women leading the peace negotiations with the Taliban. Photo courtesy: Fawzia Koofi
Gender & Politics

The Afghan MP Who Is Not Shaken By The Strong Winds

Fawzia Koofi (45), the Member of Parliament from Afghanistan, has survived several assassination attempts by the Taliban.“The Taliban dislike women holding such powerful positions in government as I do, and they dislike my public criticisms even more. They often try to kill me”, she writes in her memoir, ‘ The Favoured Daughter’.Despite this, she is negotiating for peace, as one of the only two women in the pan Afghan delegation, in talks with the hardline Islamic group for the future of Afghanistan.Throughout her life, Fawzia Koofi, has beaten the odds.As a newborn, she survived after being left in the sun

Fawzia Koofi, Member of Parliament, Afghanistan. She is one of the only two women leading the peace negotiations with the Taliban. Photo courtesy: Fawzia Koofi
Gender & Politics

The Afghan MP Negotiating Peace With The Taliban

Fawzia Koofi (45), the Member of Parliament from Afghanistan, has survived several assassination attempts by the Taliban.“The Taliban dislike women holding such powerful positions in government as I do, and they dislike my public criticisms even more. They often try to kill me”, she writes in her memoir, ‘ The Favoured Daughter’.Despite this, she is negotiating for peace, as one of the only two women in the pan Afghan delegation, in talks with the hardline Islamic group for the future of Afghanistan.Throughout her life, Fawzia Koofi, has beaten the odds.As a newborn, she survived after being left in the sun

Dr. Harini Amarasuriya, the NPP alliance contestant in national elections in Sri Lanka. Photo credit: jvpsrilanka.com
Analysis

“Women in Sri Lanka Need to Change The Masculine, Toxic Political Space”: Dr. Harini Amarasuriya

Sri Lanka is all set to elect its ninth Parliament on 5 August 2020. According to officials, 7,452 candidates, 70 parties and 313 independent groups are contesting the elections.Sri Lanka has a unique place in history for electing the world’s first female Prime Minister- Sirimavo Bandaranayake. However, only 5.3% Members of Parliament in the last session were women. Women’s representation in the Parliament as well as grassroots institutions has been abysmally low, inspite of better gender indicators in the South Asia region.Only 24 women have been fielded by the main political alliances in these elections.Dr. Harini Amarasuriya is one of

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

Caption: Women MLAs in the outgoing Delhi Vidhan Sabha. Clockwise: Alka Lamba, Parmila Tokas, Bandana Kumari, Bhavna Gaur, Rakhi Birla, Sarita Singh, (Image Courtesy: Deccan Herald)
Data Stories

Women Continue To Be Underrepresented in Delhi Assembly

Delhi Vidhan Sabha, the elected body of the National Capital Territory of Delhi, has a dismal representation of women. Only 9% of the elected MLAs in the outgoing Vidhan Sabha were women. However, women contestants have increased by 17% in the upcoming elections from the last elections in 2015. While the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Indian National Congress (INC) have increased the share of tickets given to women, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has given fewer tickets to women since the last elections.As Delhi votes to elect its next Vidhan Sabha, BehanBox analyses data to construct a history

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

Rights activist Munni Hansda contesting from Shikaripara constituency on her campaign trail during the Jharkhand 2019 elections. Image courtesy: Munni Hansda
Data Stories

Women’s Political Participation Sees A Steady Increase In Jharkhand

Women’s political representation in Jharkhand has seen a constant upward surge since the state came into existence in 2000. The proportion of women Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) in the state’s Vidhan Sabha ( State Legislature) doubled from 5% in 2000 to 10% in 2014. The number of women contesting in the state’s Vidhan Sabha seen a 50% rise since the state’s formation. More Adivasi women are getting elected to the Vidhan Sabha. 75% of women MLAs in Jharkhand are from the Adivasi community- a significant increase from 33% in the early years of the state’s formation.Jharkhand, the mineral rich

Zahida Khan, first woman MLA from the Meo community in Haryana. Image courtesy: Janta ka Reporter
Data Stories

Haryana’s Women Carve a Larger Role in The State’s Politics

In Haryana, a state with a skewed sex ratio (913 girls to 1000 boys, an improvement from 830 girls in 2011), there is one gender indicator has been on a rise- women’s political representation. 14% of Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) in Haryana’s just dissolved legislature were women- the highest in India along with West Bengal and Chhattisgarh. 31% of women MLAs were from the Scheduled Castes. The number of women contestants in Haryana’s Vidhan Sabha elections has risen by 136% between 2000-2014. Women candidates from the Scheduled castes has increased by 158% in the same period. As Haryana goes to

Satyavathi Rathod (Right) and Sabitha Indra Reddy (Left), first women ministers in Telangana appointed recently. (Image courtesy: The Wire)
Data Stories

Women Hold Fewer Ministerial Positions In State Governments

Telangana, the newest state in Southern India, finally has women ministers in the state’s council of ministers for the first time in its history. In a recent cabinet expansion, Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao (KCR as he is popularly known)  inducted P Sabitha Indra Reddy and Satyavathi Rathod as Education and Women and Child Development Ministers respectively.In his first term soon after the state’s formation in 2014 and subsequently after his re-election in December 2018, KCR was criticised for appointing an all male cabinet. Despite women playing a pivotal role in the people’s movement for a separate Telangana state carved

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 MPs Ask Most Questions In The Inaugural Budget Session in Lok Sabha

96% of women Members of Parliament (MPs) participated in a debate and 62% of women asked questions from different ministries in the Lok Sabha-the lower house- during the Budget session held between June 17 and August 7, 2019. In the Rajya Sabha-the upper house of the Parliament- 64% of women MPs asked questions, according to a BehanBox analysis of data from the Parliament proceedings.The Budget session was the first session of the newly constituted 17th Lok Sabha, where 78 women-14.3% of the total MPs- were elected after the General Elections in May 2019. In the Rajya Sabha, which met for

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