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Updated: March 8, 2010 12:47 IST

‘Women change when they come into power'

Deepa Kurup
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Former Minister for Panchayat Raj and Rural Development Shobha Karandlaje.
The Hindu Former Minister for Panchayat Raj and Rural Development Shobha Karandlaje.

Shobha Karandlaje feels that young women must not be averse to politics

This Women's Day we stand on the threshold of a new Union law that promises to change the face of national politics, a field where women representativesare conspicuous by their absence.

Having recently lost her ministerial berth to inter-personal politics, former Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Minister Shobha Karandlaje has not lost heart. Conceding that allegations and controversies are amplified in the case of women politicians, she has taken the setback in her stride.

“Our society, that is undoubtedly male-dominated, is abound with examples of women being short-changed — competent advocates not being appointed as judges and teachers denied promotions. Men are threatened by women who are strong leaders,” she says.

However, it is important to fight, she emphasises.

Be it Dalit leader Mayawati, AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa or her own party leader Sushma Swaraj; she points out that each one has fought it out in the murky world of politics.

She is excited about the Women's Reservation Bill to be tabled in Lok Sabha today.

“It will usher in a new era in national politics and policy making. I've seen 20 years of reservation in panchayat bodies slowly transform the social fabric of rural Karnataka,” she says.

She believes that women — as a product of their conditioning — empathise more, have a better understanding of real social issues and, more importantly, are far less corrupt.

Often people are dismissive of women representatives, particularly in villages where family members tend to control decision making. “I won't say that those days are over. But social change takes time, and I have seen docile women change when they come into power, and make a difference,” she says.

Watching women call the shots in villages, where many are bound by deep patriarchy, is heartening, she adds.

Ms. Karandlaje herself stepped into politics when she felt there was something amiss in her chosen career of social work in the non-governmental organisation sector.

“Though gratifying, it restricted my work to a district or two, and larger issues I thought needed better policy interventions.

“It wasn't the power or the chair (the position) that I was then drawn to; it was just the ability to make a difference,” she says.

She laments the fact that most young women she meets are qualified and better educated but are averse to politics.

“When they ask me, I tell them that systems can only be reformed from within,” she adds emphatically.

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