Elevating Women’s Voices in Policymaking in India
Despite widespread policies aimed at gender equality, women remain poorly represented in politics and policy in India. Global attention on women’s political inclusion has coalesced around solutions that enable women’s descriptive representation — the guarantee of women’s presence in political spaces. But presence does not guarantee voice. Women’s voices — their demands, needs, and interests — remain poorly represented in politics and policy. This imperfect representation of women’s voices in political institutions contributes to persistent and intractable inequalities in policy access and social outcomes.
This inequity is particularly salient in India, where women continue to face chronic underrepresentation in politics despite the largest gender quota policy in the world.
National efforts to remedy political gender disparities in India have largely focused on gender parity in political institutions rather than the quality of women’s political inclusion. Presently, there are two institutions geared toward promoting gender equality that operate at a tremendous scale throughout India but are rarely conceptualized as working in tandem: electoral quotas and women’s groups known as Self-Help Groups, which have been shown to substantially increase women’s political participation. Where electoral quotas are a top-down institution that ensures women’s presence in positions of political power, SHGs are a bottom-up institution that creates the conditions for women’s demands to be mobilized.
In order to ensure that Indian women’s voices are represented in politics, the Inclusive Democracy and Development (ID2) Lab in partnership with the Transform Rural India Foundation (TRIF) will evaluate the efficacy of three existing interventions that link these top-down and bottom-up institutions as a means of catalyzing systemic change. These three interventions are: providing capacity-building and support to women elected representatives, organizing women-only citizen-representative political forums, and developing the networks of women elected representatives and bureaucrats. Ultimately, by evaluating the impact of these interventions in tandem on gender equality outcomes, the research team aims to identify a scalable strategy to transform the representation of women’s voices in Indian politics and policy.