‘Ladki Hun, Lad Sakti Hu’: On Priyanka Gandhi And Her Fight For Women In UP

UP Assembly Polls: In Uttar Pradesh, the campaign this year has seen growing prominence for women-centric efforts as the assembly elections approach.

‘Ladki Hun, Lad Sakti Hu’: On Priyanka Gandhi And Her Fight For Women In UP
Priyanka Gandhi

Dear Priyanka,

Thank you for reminding us, “Yes, we are women, and we can fight!” Thank you for focusing on women in your UP-election campaign. It’s been 20 years since the beginning of the 21st century and we are yet to have equal women representatives in the assembly halls.

Abysmal Women’s Representation In India’s Parliament

The women reservation bill was first proposed 25 years ago. It seems the male dominance and ego will never let it pass. If these men think women aren’t capable enough, they should look back at Shaheen Bagh and remember the farmer’s protest.

There is no point in debating whether women are capable or not. After aspiring for 50% and more women in the assembly for decades, we have 14.4%, the highest so far. The joke is on us. UN Women says, “Women’s equal participation and leadership in political and public life are essential to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.”

With the above numbers, India is nowhere to achieve SDGs. But I am glad you have started a fight to change that. However, I am not sure if you can get many great candidates given the state’s socio-economic development, where UP sits at 35 in the list of 36 states/UTs in the Human Development Index (HDI).

But there is a ray of hope. Of all the current politicians, only 60% are well educated and 40% have education up to school only. So it should not be difficult to bring in 161 women from 5,62,88,147, i.e. 59.26% literate women of the state.

A woman with empathy and an attitude to learn should suffice. Not discouraging the importance of education, but encouraging inclusiveness, being open and creating an agency for women.

And here, I agree when you express your openness to bring in wives/daughters of existing political leaders because I want to believe that among the women of UP, there will be Jyotiba holding hands with Savitri, helping her pave her way on this less travelled road of politics.

Women need to see women in power. Initially, they might not be the decision-makers, but eventually, they’ll learn. I want to believe in it. We are okay with letting them go through this process. Processes are always important to learn and grow. It’s about having a sort of relaxation until we empower them enough.

So, my dear Priyanka, your “Pratigya” is important because when your party (one of the largest in the country) demands and secures a minimum 40% representation in UP, you set a benchmark and raise the expectations from other comparatively developed states. So, if UP can thrive for 40%, others can do so too.

Bringing Women Into The Political Fold

Dear “developed states” and progressive political parties, it’s time to unveil your subtle discrimination against women. Something to learn from UP elections. Kudos to you, Priyanka.

There is a perceived belief that women candidates have a low rate of success, which is not true. As per an analysis by The Print “performance by women candidates is mostly a reflection of how their respective parties fared overall”.

It might be a good time to reflect on campaigning strategies that can be pro-women. However, it’s also about designing campaigns to have more women take part in electoral activities, show up for and listen to candidates’ speeches. To ensure this, you may also have to create awareness among women on how political parties work, help them identify their leadership qualities etc.

However easy it might seem, it is not, we all know. You definitely have to invest more in bringing out the best sides of having women politicians in the decision making. You can emphasise their innate skills of being more empathetic, inclusive, the values of care and unconditional love.

If some multitasking qualities are already being romanticised, no wrong in actually doing so if it helps get more women in the picture. Another study says, “Conditional upon contesting, women exhibit somewhat stronger chances of winning than men.” You are betting on winning horses; congratulations.

Tweaking Certain Policies

You are distributing mobile phones in a country where girls aren’t allowed to spend their time on the phone either for entertainment or education. We do not know if that phone will remain in her hands or be snatched from her by her father or brother. But you can ensure that it stays in HER hands.

Work a little extra on that front, maybe. Why not engage a few of the not-for-profit organisations working with young girls? They can teach them various functions of a smartphone, teach them what they can do using a smartphone and widen their scope of dreams. Create ways where they can work as per their capabilities and earn to recharge their smartphone every month.

The same applies to the Scooty. Only distribution won’t suffice, and here you can do more things than you could with smartphones. There can be a group of these scooty owning girls like SHGs (Self-Help Groups).

You might like to consider the facilitation in getting a licence, learning how to drive and then also create avenues which require them to drive, use their scooty to reach their university, workplace, independently go out and buy things for themselves or even go out for a movie with friends and run away in case need be. It all contributes to their empowerment.

Let them be free and have options to choose what they want to do with their life. It might sound controversial, but you are not just handing over her a key to scooty but a key to freedom.

It would be better to ensure they earn their own money to fuel these scooties. It would be better if they could use it because data says 46% of women in rural India require permission to even go to nearby places such as a friend’s house.

We need to change this scenario. All your efforts will only help if you consider other factors that have been there for ages keeping women behind the bars of patriarchy.

P.S. I hope while you are working on bringing women into the picture, you also consciously break the stereotypes, e.g. pink as a feminine colour and blue masculine.

P.S.S. even if all of this is a political-vote bank gamble, I want to believe in the best intentions behind it.

Best wishes,

A citizen of India