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From the Times of India
'Even with quota, 21st century may not belong to women'
Times of India, New Delhi: June 19, 1999
Despite the 33 per cent reservation for women in the panchayats in the
country and a like-wise proposal for parliament, even if implemented,
the 21st century may not belong to women. And that politics today is yet
to offer them a dignified space.
This concern was voiced by a section of a panel at a public discussion
on the theme, Women and Political Reforms: How to make politics worthy
of women, at the India International Centre jointly organized by
Manushi, Women Rights and Welfare Association of Burma (WRWAB), and the
centre itself, on Saturday. The occasion being the 54th birthday of
pro-democracy leader in Myanmar and Nobel Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
The panelists were senior Congress person Mani Shanker Iyer, former
Union Minister and environment activist Maneka Gandhi, Samata Party
functionary Jaya Jaitely and Union sports minister Uma Bharati. Raja
Sabha Deputy Chairperson Najma Heptullah was also invited but did not
Thin Thin Aung, General Secretary of WRWAB, who has been living in India
for the last 11 years and participated in the students' revolt in
Myanmar, opened the discussion. She said in 1997, Myanmar women in exile
along with other organizations had decided to observe Suu Kyi's birthday
as the "Women of Burma (Myanmar) Day.
Madhu Kishwar, who edits a journal 'Manushi' and was moderating the
function, said she proposes to celebrate Suu Kyi's birthday as Asian
Sending a message "to mark the Women of Burma Day", Ms. Suu Kyi herself
conveyed her greetings to Myanmar women and 'to honour those women who
are making so many sacrifices for democracy and human rights' in her
Ms. Kishwar said the pro-democracy movement in Myanmar, in a way, closed
to what we are seeing in India. She said 'all is not hunky-dory' with
the political system and the women's role in panchayats.
Ms. Gandhi said in her view what keep women away from politics is
basically the fact that women are over-worked and 'do not have the time
or energy'. She explained with the thinning forest cover in the country,
women have to walk further for water and fuel. Since they have to manage
the homes single-handedly and bring up several children, they become far
too over-worked. Their source of information become men. She felt with
every year the participation of women is falling.solving basic issues
and provision of basic facilities can give women more time and the drive
to join politics.
On the other hand, Jaya jaitely said, women will have to prove
themselves worthy before they can be invited by political parties. Since
'every party wants women who can win over people" with their hardwork.
Speaking along the same lines Mani Shankar Iyer said the panchyatri raj
system has attracted more women than the reserved 33 per cent seats
could accommodate - an indication of more women joining politics.
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