Number of women MLAs in Delhi Assembly in 1993 was 3; 1998- 9; 2003 –7 and in 2008 - 3

They are few and far between and the Capital is sadly no exception. The number of women politicians, who actually make it to office and get to participate and have a say in the day-to-day running of the government, according to women activists “is still dismally low’’.

In the 70-member Delhi Assembly, there are only three women representatives. They are Sheila Dikshit (Chief Minister), Kiran Walia (Minister for Social Welfare/Women and Child Development) and Barkha Singh (Chairperson of the Delhi Commission for Women).

“It is not that the women are not given tickets to fight elections. In the last election the Congress party gave tickets to over eight women candidates. It is true that not many women make the cut, but I feel that hard work pays. Women leaders bring along sensitivity and accessibility which helps them connect better with the masses,’’ said Prof. Walia.

She added that while the Congress has been pushing for 33 per cent quota for women in Parliament and State Assemblies, currently the Delhi Assembly’s count of women leaders is poor.

“Thirty-three per cent reservation is welcome and we are trying our best to ensure that this is brought about to empower the women candidates,’’ she added.

Pointing out the urgent need to bring in reservation for women in Parliament and State Assemblies, secretary of the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) Annie Raja said: “The Women's Reservation Bill – which seeks to reserve 33.3 per cent seats in Parliament and State legislatures for women -- has been a political raw nerve for nearly a decade now with the issue triggering intense debate and reactions. We, however, believe that the Central Government is not keen on passing this Bill. We have heard of opposition to the Bill with some groups claiming that the move will allow only women of elitist groups gain political power. Though it has been introduced in Parliament several times we believe that it is the lack of political consensus that has kept the Bill pending.’’

“Increased political participation of women will help them fight abuse, discrimination and inequality they suffer from,’’ added Ms. Raja.

Women activists have long said that the Bill would encourage “gender equality in Parliament, resulting in the empowerment of women as a whole’.’

“We feel that it is the sheer lack of political will and social commitment to half of the country’s population that is keeping political parties from bringing the Bill. This is a historic Bill which will have far reaching positive impact on the lives of women in the country,’’ said Ms. Raja.

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