They are often dubbed as the mouthpieces of their husbands or proxy councillors taking policy decisions only after consulting their family members. This stereotype image had become synonymous with the 95 women councillors of Delhi and breaking free was a difficult task.The last MCD elections, however, proved to be a big step forward in this direction — the total number of wards was increased from 134 to 272. This in turn raised the number of seats reserved for women.
The upcoming municipal elections are also going to be historical. The reservation of seats for women has been brought up from 33% to 50%. This effectively means that out of the 272 seats, 138 will be reserved for women candidates. Due to the inclusion of SC women candidates, the percentage totals 51%, which means there will be four more women candidates than men.
In the last five years, women councillors have consolidated their image, forcing political parties to take note. They have remained in the forefront by taking bold policy decisions and also taken active part in meetings of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD).
Take the case of Geeta, who became a councillor at the age of 22, and came to House meetings accompanied by her father. This, however, changed after a few months when Geeta not only started coming alone, but also took active part in the discussions.
The current five-year tenure of the MCD saw women mayors leading the corporation for three terms. BJP senior leader Arti Mehra was elected as mayor for two terms (2007-2009), while the current mayor, Rajni Abbi, a Delhi University professor, was elected last year.A number of these women councillors have been instrumental in introducing schemes for women. First-time councillor from Pitampura (north), Rekha Gupta, 35, launched a helpline in 2008 to address sexual harassment cases within the civic agency.
“As a woman councillor, I felt the need to create a medium through which such issues could be raised and answered. A number of women employees would complain about their colleagues sexually harassing them, but didn’t know what to do about it,” said Gupta.
During her term as mayor, Arti Mehra laid the foundation to the first Mahila Haat in the city at Asaf Ali Road that will be thrown open to public after the elections.
Many councillors even took up controversial issues that no male councillor was willing to talk about.
Malti Verma, a BJP councillor from Naraina, tabled a proposal to dole out pension to eunuchs in the MCD House that was passed by the entire corporation.