Additional Chief Secretary (Home), Chandra Iyengar, led the team that drafted Maharashtra’s women’s policy in 1994, which provided for 33 per cent reservations for women in local self-government bodies.
To say it is a dream come true will be an understatement.
The women’s Bill getting cleared is a historical step, and a triumph for many of us who worked hard for this.
This takes me back to 1994 when we were framing the women’s policy. Then chief minister, Sharad Pawar, formed a department for women and asked for such a policy.
We met stakeholders and discussed issues, and decided to form a policy that looked beyond health and education. The objectives said there was a ‘need to view women as productive members of society’ and to ‘rectify the imbalance’ in viewing gender. Issues that were never talked about--violence, women’s equality, economic independence and women’s representation in governance--came to the fore.
When the Bill was cleared, we had diverse reactions--from scepticism to encouragement. Critics said this would encourage the ‘bahu-beti [daughters-in-law and daughters of politicians]’ brigade. But the past four elections have shown that women elected at a local level have made a huge difference.
Even bahus or betis who come in are qualified and passionate about their work.
Women bring in a change in the perspective in which issues are viewed. A panchayat gave a village money to build a road. The men said they would build it to the market. But the women wanted it to lead to the public health care centre or the school.
We are looking forward to the day when the Bills cleared by the Lok Sabha and becomes ground reality.
(As told to Sayli Udas Mankikar)