We recently met with Sheila Dikshit, the three-term Chief Minister of the state of New Delhi. The prime minister was a bit distracted at the meeting, given that the state Congress voted ‘no confidence’ in the government the night before. However, Mrs. Dikshit perked up when one of our classmates asked her what it was like to be a woman in politics in India. She said that it was much like the US, and that women were decently well represented in government but that there was still much room for improvement. The Delhi state government recently passed legislation dictating that 50% of all elected officials and administrative state employees must be women. Mrs. Dikshit laughed as she said, “Men don’t give their space easily anywhere in the world”. This type of legislation makes Americans uncomfortable because ‘affirmative action’ is a somewhat dirty word, but I think it’s a positive step as long as they ensure that the women who are elected are qualified.
This discussion got me thinking about the role of women in India. Mrs. Dikshit also pointed out the irony that though some men are uncomfortable with women in positions of political power, many of the most powerful goddesses are women. Thus, having women in positions of power is actually quite consistent with Hindu beliefs. (This includes the Goddess of Knowledge, Goddess of Power & Valor, Goddess of Wealth and Goddess of Culture)
I also learned that women have always had the right to vote since independence from the British in 1947. Indira Ghandi – the prime minister of India from 1966–77and 1980-84 — was the 2nd national political leader to be a woman after Sri Lanka. The last four majors of Mumbai (over the last 20 years) have been women. All of this makes me think that US politicians could learn a lot from the Indian system.
– Regina Lee ’13