In 2020, Karnataka witnessed the empowerment of women in its gram panchayats, with more than 50 percent of elected representatives being women, despite only 50 percent of seats being reserved for them. This success story includes individuals like Swathi Thippeswamy, a 35-year-old US-educated homemaker, and Bheemavva, a migrant worker, both serving as presidents in their respective gram panchayats. Many elected members even hold advanced degrees in fields like medicine, engineering, and law.
Vimala K.S., a social activist, acknowledged that Karnataka has shown progress compared to other states in empowering women at the panchayat level. However, patriarchal and feudal values still persist in society, hindering further progress. The reservation system introduced in 1986 by former Chief Minister Ramkrishna Hegde has made a positive impact on local governance but hasn’t fully eradicated these deeply rooted values.
Women’s presence in decision-making also brings a perceptual difference, with their priorities often focused on basic necessities like drinking water and streetlights. This underscores the importance of their participation in governance.
Despite challenges like financial constraints and gender dynamics, women’s reservation has significantly increased awareness and assertiveness among women in politics since the 90s. This transformation is gradually overcoming male domination and leading to positive changes in panchayat governance.
While the picture looks brighter at the local level, gender disparity persists in the Karnataka Assembly, with just 10 women MLAs out of 224 seats and only one woman minister in the 34-member cabinet, highlighting the need for further progress in women’s representation in higher political spheres.
Re-reported from the article originally published in The Bhaskar Live