Civil society encompasses a diverse array of non-governmental and not-for-profit organizations actively participating in public life, representing the interests and values of their members and society at large.
Despite India’s democratic setup, the representation of women in legislative bodies remains low, with only 8% of women MLAs in various state assemblies.
Contribution of Civil Society Groups:
- Advocacy for Gender-Responsive Policies: Example: Bharat Jagruthi, led by MLC Kalvakuntla Kavitha, has been persistently advocating for the tabling and passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill.
- Encourage Participation from Local Women Leaders: Civil society groups can actively encourage and mentor local women leaders, empowering them to take on more prominent roles in politics.
- Educating and Training: By providing training and guidance, civil society organizations help women build confidence, acquire necessary skills, and comprehend the intricacies of political engagement.
- Addressing Violence Against Women in Politics: Civil society can create a safer environment for women in politics by addressing and combating violence against them, ensuring their active and secure participation.
- Overcoming Social and Cultural Barriers: Civil society plays a pivotal role in challenging and transforming patriarchal norms that hinder women’s political participation.
- Research and Data Collection: Notable institutions like the Centre for Social Research engage in data collection and research to highlight gender disparities in politics and suggest effective remedies.
- Legal Support: Civil society groups raise awareness among women about their rights, entitlements, and responsibilities in politics, empowering them to seek legal recourse when needed.
- Community Mobilization: They mobilize specific constituencies, particularly the vulnerable and marginalized sectors, to encourage fuller participation in politics and public affairs.
- Lack of Resources: Many civil society groups struggle with limited financial and human resources, hindering their efforts to promote women’s political empowerment.
- Political Interference: Political interference can impede the autonomy and effectiveness of civil society organizations in advocating for women’s rights.
Way Forward to Strengthen the Role of Civil Society in Women Empowerment:
- Enhancing Funding: Government and private sector support for civil society initiatives can significantly boost their capabilities.
- Autonomy and Independence: Ensuring the autonomy of civil society organizations in their operations is vital to prevent undue political influence.
- Broadening Outreach: Expanding efforts to reach remote and marginalized communities is crucial to ensuring inclusivity.
- Collaborative Partnerships: Collaborations with government agencies, international organizations, and other stakeholders can amplify the impact of civil society initiatives.
A recent example of Nagaland’s first women MLAs highlights the progress made in women’s political representation. Civil society, with its multifaceted contributions and the ongoing efforts to address challenges, remains a vital force in advancing women’s empowerment in the political arena.