With Power, Indian Women Make A DifferenceJanuary 26, 2012 2 Comments
Small changes in legislation can positively affect women’s lives.
Take India for example. In 1993, a law was implemented requiring that a third of all local government council seats be held by women. The hope behind the legislation was that “women’s status might improve” by putting them in positions of influence and power where they could spend government funds on schools and wells to the benefit of all young women.
It may have taken awhile to see the real impact of this law, but it’s now clear that it has significantly helped Indian women. Meeting the one-third quota has “dramatically changed the beliefs of young girls – and their parents – about what they could and should do with their lives,” according to new research.
After conducting over 8,000 interviews with young people and their parents in 495 villages in the state West Bengal, it was found that gender ideologies had shifted in the villages run by women. Young girls are now able to see firsthand that women are capable of much more than childbearing and domestic duties, and women from the lowest “untouchable” caste can have academic opportunities they never believed possible.
In villages that have had a female pradhan, or chief councilor, young women aspire to be police officers and teachers. They want to put marriage on the back burner so they can stay in school longer and reach their academic and professional goals.
Experts call it the “role model effect.” With powerful women to look up to, young girls open up to a whole different world of possibilities. What’s more, “girls raised in villages with a female pradhan were more likely to score higher in school exams than girls from other villages.” And if a village was lucky enough to have a female leader twice, the results are that much better.
Thankfully, seeing women as leaders is also making a difference in the mindset of young boys. Though their situation remains unchanged (they were always encouraged by their parents to dream big), they’re now equipped with a much more favourable worldview where the light of opportunity shines on both men and women.
There may still be room for growth considering some villages have never seen a female chief and there’s still disparity in social class, but this study is hopeful for the future of Indian women.
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