In the most recent Gender-Equality Index, India ranked 95th out of 129 countries, based on issues ranging from health, gender-based violence, climate change, and decent work. India continues to disregard the need for a feminist approach to leadership while the gender gap exposes us to a downright grim reality. When it comes to women’s representation in parliaments, India ranks 142 out of 193 countries according to a report by Inter-Parliamentary Union released on 1st January 2020. Women are grossly under-represented in Indian politics. To add to this, most women leaders often hesitate to use the label ‘feminist’ while they do emphasize on the need for equality. It is based on the misconceptions about feminism and the negative connotation the word has garnered over the years.
Studies have proven that women politicians are more effective at delivering health and primary education, and hence in creating human capital, and evidence suggests that the impact of women leaders on long-term growth maybe even larger. There is no evidence of negative spillovers from female-led constituencies. A considerable body of evidence has demonstrated that women politicians more effectively represent the interests of women and children as well. Studies from India show that women politicians are more likely than men to promote education in their constituencies. The representation of women in state legislative assembly seats reserved for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe representatives was significantly and positively associated with several investments in primary schooling amenities and teacher quantity and quality. Having more women in the Indian state legislatures leads to improvements in infant mortality rates. As pro-female and pro-family policies are often associated with welfare payments, opposing expectations tend to be that widening the representation of women in government compromises growth, at least over a period as short as an electoral term. However, the results of investigation reject such concerns, establishing that not only is growth unharmed but it is enhanced under women’s leadership.
Consequently, there is a need for a feminist approach to leadership in our country. The feminist model of leadership is inclusive and participatory, keeping intersectionality at its core. It believes in affirmative action and equity for all the marginalized classes. It doesn’t discriminate and is against patriarchy, racism, communalism, extremism et al. Indian politicians need to recognise feminism for what it is – an inclusive way of life.
To end this, Femme First Foundation developed a Gendered Leadership Course which consists of a series of lectures delivered on various facets of gender and its associated inequalities. The course is an embodiment of the organisation’s vision of a world where bodies of leaders are an accurate representation of the diverse people they lead. It recognizes the absence of a gendered lens in policy-making and leadership and aims to educate prospective leaders of our country on gender issues and help in unlearning many preconceived biases. The course intends to educate and inform how gender practices play out in everyday life, the history and waves of feminism, concept of intersectionality, mainstreaming gender in policy-making, and gender in leadership. This is the first step towards building a world where our leaders are our true representatives.
(This article was first published on Youth ki Awaaz)