• India- Women in Leadership Programme | Sumeeta Banerji

    08 Aug 2012

    India- Women in Leadership Programme | Sumeeta Banerji
    Inaugural Speech by Rajasthan governor Margaret Alva. [PHOTO: IIM-Bangalore]

    I was recently invited to speak at the inaugural session of the India- Women in Leadership Programme being held at IIM-Bangalore.

    This powerful course, jointly designed by IIM-B and CSR, has an equally apt abbreviation - the i-WiL programme. That captures the motivation of the course designers, the intent of its partners and the potential transformation that the students of the course have signed up for.

    As a woman myself, I have often pondered over the obvious paradox in India – between the empowered women who have occupied numerous seats of power in the country and how this has failed to impact the status of women more generally in the country. Over the centuries, indian women have made a mark for themselves – as administrators, politicians, artists, writers and poets, philosophers, activists. However, disempowerment and its many facets and consequences continue to affect a majority of women even today.

    The 10-week, first ever certificate course in political leadership, India-Women in Leadership Programme of the Centre for Public Policy, IIM-Bangalore and Centre for Social Research, New Delhi, was inaugurated by Rajasthan governor Margaret Alva.

    Women constitute 19 percent of the members of parliaments around the world; an increase from 11.3 percent in 1995. In India, the percentage is much lower with only 10% of seats in parliament held by women. An important element of influence on women’s representation in elected office is the use of affirmative action strategies within parties and Parliaments. India has made positive strides through affirmative action and quotas for women in panchayati raj with 50% reservation and there are now over 1 million elected women representatives in the local self government.

    This course will equip aspiring women leaders with specialized knowledge, skills and strategies required to contest elections, lobby for women’s rights and to pursue pro-poor human development oriented policies. UNDP is supporting this course with funding and technical support, particularly through inclusion of UNDP’s flagship Human Development learning modules into the curriculum.

    Inaugurating the conference, Alva said participation of women in politics is a pre-Independence reality but that hasn't in anyway brought about equality or justice to women. “Political parties and men at the helm consider women as mere vote-banks. They encourage women to mobilize people to vote for the party but when it comes to giving women tickets for elections, they have various reasons not to allow the so-called weaker sex to contest," she said. Young aspiring women leaders need to remain grounded in the party and its structure which is the only way they can win elections. "Women need to have support from the party and its voters to be able to win elections," she said.

    UNDP has been a partner of both, IIMB and CSR for several years. In the year 2000, UNDP contributed to the creation of the Centre for Public Policy in IIM (B) to fill a gap in public policy making and leadership development. UNDP has also partnered with CSR through the UN Democracy Fund to build leadership capacity of 1000 women leaders from panchayati raj institutions.

    Sumeeta Banerji is Assistant Country Director & Head (Democratic Governance), UNDP India