Sonia Gandhi says gender imbalance in Parliament must go

UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi delivers the Commonwealth Lecture on "Women as Agents of Change" in London on Friday.

UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi delivers the Commonwealth Lecture on "Women as Agents of Change" in London on Friday.  

Congress president and United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi has said that her government will continue to “persevere” with its efforts to redress the gender imbalance in Parliament.

Delivering the 14th Commonwealth Lecture here on Thursday on “Women as Agents of Change,” Ms. Gandhi said that while at the local level women had emerged as important catalysts of change since the introduction of 33 per cent quota for them, they remained hugely unrepresented in Parliament.

“Women's representation in Parliament has hovered between 9 and 11 per cent, a figure that is considerably lower than in many other democracies. Legislation for a 33 per cent quota in Parliament and State assemblies has been passed by the Upper House. We shall persevere in our efforts to get it approved by the Lower House as well,” she said.

Voices shut out

Ms. Gandhi regretted that globally women's voices were not being heard in important areas. Women had been virtually shut out from the debate on climate change despite their contribution to raising consciousness about the environment.

“The Chipko movement in the Himalayas in the 1970s, in which village women hugged the trees to protect them from being felled, gave a new meaning and momentum to environmental activism in India. In other parts of the world too, women have taken an inspiring lead in protecting the environment, such as Wangari Maathai in Kenya, Rigoberta Menchu in Guatemala and Marina Silva in Brazil, to name just a few,” she said.

Yet, much of the debate on climate change had tended to be “gender-blind.”


“Among all the challenges facing humankind in the 21st century, few are more pressing than climate change and global warming. Unfortunately... most of the climate debate so far has been gender-blind,” she said.

In 2007, the Commonwealth Heads of Government agreed on a Climate Change Action Plan and called upon the support of women to ensure effective action, but how could “such support be extended if women's voices and concerns hardly figure in the global climate negotiations, or in national and local climate management plans?”

“Perhaps it is time for a fresh Commonwealth initiative to help the world bridge this gap,” she said.

Ms. Gandhi said Indian women were today making a difference in many areas through individual and collective action “transforming their own situations and indeed transforming the broader social context itself.”

Looking ahead, she hoped that the 21st century would take to its “logical conclusion” the “victories” achieved by the women's movement so far.

“May this be not the century of any particular country, but the century when women finally come into their own, the century when representative democracy is re-imagined to give women their due share, the century when the vocabulary of politics and culture is re-engineered fully to include that other half of mankind,” she said.

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Printable version | Mar 31, 2020 4:44:03 PM |

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