Shashikant Nishant Sharma
Editor, International Journal for Social Studies
Women's participation in politics and in the exercise of political responsibilities should be encouraged and facilitated by action to promote awareness, comprising civic and political education, which helps women to know their rights and to become conscious of their capacity to have a direct hand in political life.
Parliament, political parties and organizations, trade unions, non-governmental organizations and the media can all contribute to this process. However specific they may be, women's issues are questions that concern society as a whole. All governments should thus take the necessary steps to ensure that the interests and specific problems of women are explicitly taken into account and dealt with, in a permanent and thorough manner and in all areas pertaining to governmental jurisdiction.
It is absolutely essential that the necessary material and human resources are earmarked for this purpose. Part of these resources should be devoted to promoting women's participation in civic life as an integral part of the process of strengthening democracy and the Ministry of Education should specifically see to it that proper civic, political, moral, and legal education is disbursed from early childhood.
Government action in this respect could include educating women to participate in and manage public affairs (see also the section on non-governmental organizations below). One of the priorities of the Government should be to inform the public of all the legal provisions which establish the principle of equality between men and women and to ensure that these are respected. It should also regularly propagates figures and other data on women in public life as well as in political life.
The governmental policy promoting participation in civic life should be designed and implemented in close consultation with the political parties and professional as well as social community based organizations. The Government should further rely on the media to inform the public of its objectives, its activities and its achievements. The Government should offer to administrative personnel (men and women) a different type of training so as to promote a positive change in the image that governmental institutions have of equality between men and women.
b) Political parties and organizations and trade unions Political parties and organizations should carry out public information campaigns on the need for and importance of women's participation in political life as an integral part of the process of strengthening democracy. In this connection, wherever women's branches exists, they could play an effective role.
By analyzing election results, the parties could assess the advantage of choosing women candidates as well as men candidates who are active in promoting women's participation. Women should be encouraged to become involved in trade unions as these organizations are powerful informal levers for the control of political power. c) Non-governmental organizations Non-governmental organizations should also carry out public information campaigns on the need for and importance of women's participation in political life as an integral part of the process of strengthening democracy.
They should undertake campaigns to encourage the population, especially women, to vote. In doing so, they could draw special attention to those candidates (female or male) who are active in promoting women's participation. They could organize training courses for women in public speaking, communication, negotiating techniques and strategy, leadership, techniques of moderating groups, management of public affairs, contacts with the press, etc.
Women should be encouraged to set up organizations to defend their status or multispectral associations where they could discover the force of feminine solidarity. d) Media The contribution which the media can make towards the promotion of awareness is undoubtedly crucial. They can help to install among the public the idea that women's participation in political life is an essential part of democracy.
They can also make sure to avoid giving negative false and minimizing images of women and their determination and capacity to participate in politics, stressing the value of women's status and roles in economic and social life and in the development process in general. Any hackneyed presentation of the image of women by any media should be strictly prohibited by law.
The media can play an important role in such endeavors as removing discrimination and prejudice against women and encouraging them to improve their personal qualities and actively participate in management and decision-making. They should widely publicize the contributions that women have made to the development process of human civilizations and history, introduce to the public positive images of women's characters, encourage women to build confidence, raise women's participation awareness and deplore discrimination and any other conduct detrimental to women's interests.
Basic texts it is proposed that the basic texts, for example, those which define the party's basic policy, its hierarchy and the rules of procedure, should be reviewed in order to eliminate any provision which explicitly condones or could justify discrimination against women. b. Political parties' programmes it is suggested that, when drawing up their programmes, parties should pay special attention to the principle of equality between men and women. The programmes should focus on the advantages of active partnership between men and women based on recognition of their difference and complementarily. In this spirit, it is also recommended that parties should aim to eliminate from their programmes any terms or wording which could directly or indirectly imply the notion of superiority of men over women.
Decision-making bodies It is proposed that measures be taken to give equally qualified men and women equal opportunities to belong to decision-making bodies at all levels in the party's structure: local, provincial and national. There should be expansion of Political Reservations for Women at National and State levels, ensuring that it is not seen only as ‘ quota system’ .Also Ensure that women are not just given challenging seats d.
Women's branches in the parties Women's branches (where exists) in the parties should have the following as their objectives:
(i) To constitute a forum for discussing the special problems encountered by women in carrying out their party activities;
(ii) (To organize grassroots activities to make women especially those with a low level of education - aware of their civil and political rights and of the importance and effect of their active participation in political life;
(iii) To prepare women - including those with scant education - to take part in elections by informing them of the issues and explaining how the elections are held in practice;
(iv) To train women to become candidates in local, provincial and national elections; this training could include courses on various aspects of electoral campaigns and preparation for contacts with the media;
(v) To establish networks for support for women candidates at elections and for women elected.