Activists Wednesday lauded the passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill in the Rajya Sabha but said that it was just one of the many hurdles it will face before women get true representation in governance.
Manorama Bawa, patron of the All India Women’s Conference (AIWC), said she anxiously watched the proceedings in the Rajya Sabha Tuesday where the bill was passed by an overwhelming majority after two days of pandemonium.
‘There were many uncertain moments when the bill met with stiff opposition from a few people. But yesterday (Tuesday) evening when the bill was passed, we were all very happy,’ Bawa told IANS.
‘The bill will face many problems, especially when it comes to the Lok Sabha. A few days back when we were interacting with women in a Haryana village, they knew about the bill and saw it as a positive step,’ Bawa said.
Sunitha Chauhan, Delhi’s first woman auto-rickshaw driver who also contested the Lok Sabha election in 2009, said she would contest again if the bill becomes law.
‘I am very happy as this bill is being passed in the face of such harsh opposition. This will bring about a change in how Indian women are perceived. I will contest elections again,’ Chauhan told IANS.
Women’s rights activist Ranjana Kumari, who heads the Centre of Social Research, feels that the main challenge was to get political parties pass the legislation.
‘It was heartening to see all parties support the bill. Even BJP’s (Bharatiya Janata Party) Arun Jaitley spoke very passionately about the bill. I feel it will get through the Lok Sabha as well,’ she said.
The main challenge after that would be to get true representation of women from Dalit and other groups, she said.
The CSR in collaboration with an NGO, Women Power Connect (WPC), has selected 1,000 women from across India and is grooming them to contest elections under a UN project called ‘Enhancing the Role of Women in Strengthening Democracy’.
‘Women have less than 10 percent representation in India’s parliament even though they make up 44 percent of the voting population. We need more women in politics. It has taken 62 long years… Our voices are now being heard,’ Kumari said.
WPC executive director N. Hamsa said: ‘We want to congratulate all political parties. We look forward to the passage of the bill in the Lok Sabha now. All parties need to resolve their differences.’
Bawa, however, undelined some of the problems.
She said that the AIWC had faced many teething problems while training women in rural India over a decade ago when seats were reserved for them in village panchayats.
‘In many cases, it would be the woman’s husband who made the decisions. But after four years of reservation, women emerged stronger as examples to others in taking decisions.’