India’s political system does not encourage women to get into politics. But thanks to gender equity training delivered via the Australian Greens, a new generation of Indian women are being empowered to get involved.
By Michelle Sheather, with input from Anita Nautiyal
The India Greens Party (IGP) held its first annual convention in Noida Uttar Pradesh near Delhi in November 2019. I was fortunate to attend this conference, having worked with the party founders over the past three years and watching their achievements in pulling together the first pan-India Green party.
In many regards, this conference was a historic event in that the party now has branches and local groups across 11 of India’s states and growing. The party officially received registration on 18 July 2019 and is now in a position to stand candidates for elections into the future.
The national Greens party is an exciting development on a global scale in a country that boasts the world’s largest democracy by population and a country continually emerging on the world stage. At the same time, political conservatism is being felt – for example the Citizenship Amendment Act on Immigration, which resulted in large scale protests last December. Youth and women in particular are drawn to a new way of doing politics, which is what the Green party is putting forward with specific measures on outreach to all sectors and beliefs in India.
Following the IGP’s first annual conference, a two-day gender equity training for key women members of the IGP was held. This was a pilot project to start up gender equity training initiatives – the first of their kind globally for Greens parties throughout Asia, the Pacific and Middle East Green parties as part of the work of the Australian Greens International Development Committee.
The gender equity training commenced with a joint half-day session with men from the party to increase common understanding of the issues women face in India, which is ranked 95 of the 129 countries on the United Nations Gender Index. A further training on GE sensitisation for men within the party was identified as a one-day training program for the future.
The IGP has a comprehensive set of policies for supporting women within their party, including a set quota of 50% women on their national executive through to village level and a rotation of male, female and other gender convenors. These targets are yet to be achieved.
The political system of the country does not encourage women into politics. In 2018, 11.8% of parliamentarians were women. Neighbouring countries such as Nepal and Bangladesh have seen marked improvements in women’s representation but India has continually lagged behind.
At the gender equity women’s training in Noida, the IGP formed a women’s group within the party with their own executive including a women’s convenor, deputy convenor, and treasurer; and a road map highlighting key steps such as active recruitment of women into the party. Feedback was resoundingly positive on this initiative. It will have a long-standing impact within the IGP and its positioning as a party where women can participate at an equal level. As part of this training program, I provided training to two further trainers: Anita Nautiyal from IGP and Rachana Shrestha from the Nepali Green party.
The next gender equity training is scheduled for Bangladesh in May 2020, which Anita and Rachana will run. In turn, they will provide training to a Bangladeshi Greens woman.
At a national level, this program subsequently trained further trainers and plans to hold a training program in the state of Chhattisgarh to train IGP women members, including to run for local government. The IGP women’s network has received further requests for women’s training programs from other states including Karnataka, Telangana, and Jharkhand.
This work is part of our wider work with the Asia Pacific Green Parties Women’s Network (APGWN) on gender equity, which includes mentoring and online training programs. It is made possible through a commonwealth grant the Australian Greens receive from the Australian Political Parties for Democracy Program.
Michelle Sheather is the Australian Greens‘ International Development Coordinator. Anita Nautiyal is the India Greens Party and APGWN Mentoring Program Coordinator.
Hero image: supplied by Michelle Sheather.