Home > Daily-current-affairs

Daily-current-affairs / 22 Apr 2024

Empowering Women in Indian Electoral Politics : Daily News Analysis



The engagement of women in electoral politics in India has witnessed a remarkable evolution, indicating a closing of the gender gap in political participation despite initial challenges. We explore the transformative initiatives and strategies that have driven this shift, focusing on the role of programs like the Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) and the mobilization efforts involving female frontline workers and women's self-help groups (SHGs).

State of women in Indian politics

     The voting percentage among women in assembly polls has shown an increase.

     However, women's participation as candidates and their chances of winning elections remain significantly low.

     Notably, figures like Irom Sharmila and Najima in Manipur have resorted to campaigning on bicycles due to limited financial resources.

     Most of the women candidates considered 'winnable' come from political dynasties.

     Many women contesting elections from certain constituencies struggle to even retain their security deposits.

     India ranks 103rd in global rankings for Women in Parliament.

     In the Lok Sabha, out of 543 members, only 65 are women, while the Rajya Sabha has just 31 female MPs among 243 members.

The importance of women's participation in politics:

     The Constitution of India upholds equality for both men and women, emphasizing the need for women's active engagement in political processes.

     Women's participation is vital in policy formulation and regulation as they represent nearly half of the total population, bringing diverse perspectives to governance.

     Women leaders serve as role models for empowerment and can drive positive behavioral changes in society, fostering greater respect and opportunities for women.

     Increased women representation in decision-making can lead to more focused policies addressing crucial issues like women's safety, education, maternal mortality rate (MMR), child care, and domestic violence, leveraging their empathy and understanding of these challenges.

     Ensuring women's involvement in politics is essential for creating a nation where women can thrive, feel safe, and are respected as equal citizens.

     Areas with women representatives often experience lower corruption and improved efficiency in governance.

     Studies on local governance (panchayats) demonstrate the positive impact of women's reservation policies on empowering women and promoting inclusive development

     Examples like Radha Devi, a village sarpanch in Rajasthan focusing on girl child education, and Sushma Bhadu, a sarpanch in Haryana who challenged patriarchal norms by unveiling her 'ghunghat', highlight the transformative influence of women leaders in grassroots governance.

     Without gender equality and women's empowerment, human rights remain elusive and inaccessible, underscoring the urgency of women's participation in political decision-making.

Addressing the Gender Gap: The Role of SVEEP

In 2009, India's Election Commission recognized the gender gap in electoral participation as a critical issue, with women's voter turnout lagging behind men's. This recognition led to the launch of the Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) program. SVEEP aimed to enhance voter literacy and engagement across India, particularly targeting women through innovative grassroots campaigns.

SVEEP's Impact on Voter Turnout:

The SVEEP program's initiatives significantly influenced voter turnout in subsequent elections. For instance, the 2014 election witnessed a notable surge in overall voter participation, particularly among women, resulting in a substantial reduction in the gender gap. By 2019, female voter turnout surpassed male turnout, showcasing the program's effectiveness in empowering women politically.

Innovative Campaign Strategies:

SVEEP employed unconventional strategies to engage women voters. Initiatives like using female mascots, organizing women's rallies, and launching nationwide campaigns helped overcome social barriers and encourage women's active participation in the electoral process. The program's success in Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state with deep-rooted social norms, exemplifies the impact of targeted grassroots mobilization.

Mobilizing Female Frontline Workers and SHGs

A pivotal aspect of increasing female voter turnout involved leveraging the network of female frontline workers and women's self-help groups (SHGs) across India. These grassroots cadres played a crucial role in disseminating voter awareness and driving electoral participation among women.

Role of Frontline Workers in Voter Mobilization:

SVEEP strategically utilized female frontline workers such as ASHA workers, Anganwadi workers, and members of SHGs to reach women in remote and underserved areas. These workers engaged in mass rallies and informational campaigns during community gatherings, leveraging their credibility and influence to empower women with voting knowledge and awareness.

Empowerment through Self-Help Groups (SHGs):

India boasts one of the world's largest networks of women's SHGs, with over 100 million members under the National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM). SHGs not only promote financial inclusion but also serve as platforms for political engagement and empowerment. Members are more likely to participate in elections, attend community meetings, and influence other women, showcasing the profound impact of SHGs on women's political agency.

Empowering Women through SHGs: A Case Study

The transformative impact of SHGs on women's political participation is evident in various states, exemplified by Andhra Pradesh's self-help movement. In Andhra Pradesh, where 60% of women voters belong to SHGs, these groups are poised to influence electoral outcomes significantly.

Deepening Democracy and Governance:

SHGs have played a vital role in deepening democracy at the grassroots level. Women's increased participation in local governance, facilitated by SHGs, has reshaped decision-making processes and community dynamics. The experience of women's reservation in local bodies underscores the potential for meaningful political participation when women are empowered through initiatives like SHGs.

Future Prospects and Policy Implications:

The momentum of women's participation in electoral politics signals a shift towards more inclusive governance. As India considers the Women's Reservation Bill, there is an opportunity to draw lessons from the success of women's representation in local bodies. Understanding the achievements and challenges of local-level reservations can inform policies aimed at bridging the gender gap in broader political arenas.


The trajectory of women's electoral participation in India underscores a paradigm shift, propelled by innovative initiatives like SVEEP and the grassroots mobilization of SHGs and female frontline workers. These efforts have not only closed the gender gap in voting but also empowered women to engage meaningfully in political processes. Moving forward, leveraging the lessons from local governance experiences and sustaining programs like SVEEP will be pivotal in fostering a more inclusive and representative democracy in India.

Probable questions for UPSC Mains Exam-

1.    How did the Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) program contribute to closing the gender gap in electoral participation in India, particularly among women? What were some innovative strategies employed by SVEEP to engage women voters and increase their political empowerment? (10 Marks, 150 Words)

2.    What role did female frontline workers, such as ASHA workers, Anganwadi workers, and members of women's self-help groups (SHGs), play in mobilizing women voters across India? How did SHGs contribute to deepening democracy at the grassroots level and empowering women politically?  (15 Marks, 250 Words)

Source - ORF