Bridging India’s Glaring Gender Gap


In 1994, Rwanda rose from the depths of its worst civil war and quadrupled the percentage of women parliamentarians to 64%, the highest in the world. Women’s labour force participation rate is one of the highest in the world (86%), and the wage gap is lower than in many industrialized counties (88 cents per dollar). The Rwandan Women’s Parliamentary Forum and the constitutional amendment mandating a minimum 30% quota for women in all decision-making bodies were instrumental in this remarkable transformation. Moreover, the plan was executed flawlessly through the Gender Monitoring Office.

In Namibia, 44% of the national assembly seats are held by women. Since 2014, the Government has conducted annual workshops to support the performance of women parliamentarians and has organised effective mass media campaigns to eliminate harmful cultural practices and reduce gender-based violence.

In 2000, Nicaragua changed its electoral laws and mandated 50% women candidates on the electoral lists of all parties participating in the National Assembly elections. Nicaragua’s vice-president and more than half of cabinet positions are occupied by women.

In June 2022, EU lawmakers passed a landmark deal for gender equality, mandating that women have at least 40% of seats on corporate boards by mid-2026. National authorities have been empowered with strict enforcement of the directive. Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, said: “It is high time we break the glass ceiling. There are plenty of women qualified for top jobs: they should be able to get them.”

In India, the 1993 Amendment to the Indian Constitution mandating 33% of panchayat seats to women, accelerated the entry of women into grassroots level governance. Currently, women hold 45% of panchayat seats. Several research studies have highlighted the marked difference in the nature of decisions made by women-led panchayats.

They used their power to prioritize issues like drinking water supply, installation of pumps, construction of toilets, village wells and roads, the appointment of teachers, and closing of liquor shops. In 1997, President Murmu was elected as councillor of the Rairanpur Nagar panchayat as an independent candidate from a reserved seat for women. From the grassroots levels, she steadily rose up the ranks to be the Governor of Jharkhand and is now the President of India.

However, her story is the exception. The percentage of women drops significantly from the panchayat levels to the upper echelons of government.


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