Skip to main content

'Fewer opportunities': Why Indian girls appear to be less engaged in politics than boys

By Sara Wilf* 

Girls in India report being less interested and engaged in politics than boys and cite fewer opportunities to participate in politics, we found in a recent survey of youth across India.
Further, although political interest and engagement was higher for older boys (ages 18-22) than younger boys (ages 14-17), girls’ political interest and engagement stagnated across age groups.
I study young people’s political development, and in the fall of 2022 I collaborated on a study with Indian nonprofit Kuviraa. I am on the advisory board at Kuviraa, which aims to increase girls’ engagement in politics. We used an Instagram ad to survey over 600 youth ages 14-22 who lived in nearly 30 cities across India.
We found that just over half (51%) of boys considered themselves politically engaged compared with less than a third (29%) of girls. We also measured the survey participants’ level of political engagement based on five behaviors, including sharing political posts online, attending rallies and contacting government officials. We found that boys and girls age 17 and under had similar levels of political engagement. However, boys’ engagement became much higher than girls once they were 18 and older.
Further, boys had lower awareness than girls of the structural barriers women face in Indian politics. For example, 74% of the girls surveyed agreed that “it is more difficult in our society for women to become elected officials” compared with 54% of the boys. We found that girls’ awareness was higher with age, whereas boys followed the opposite trajectory, with lower awareness in the older age group.
We also explored possible predictors of youths’ political engagement such as public speaking skills or having a sense that they are able to affect politics. We found that the two significant factors that shaped youths’ political engagement were having parents who discuss politics with their children and parents who encourage their children to engage in politics. The effect was less for girls but still significant.
Finally, we analyzed over 430 open-ended responses to explore how participants explained gender disparities in Indian politics. In these responses, we noticed a pattern: Boys tended to attribute gender disparities in politics to individual women’s choices. 
Just over half (51%) of boys considered themselves politically engaged compared with less than a third (29%) of girls
“Women don’t take the initiative to stand as a candidate,” one 18-year-old boy explained. Meanwhile, girl respondents tended to emphasize structural forces at play. “It is a common mindset that women should work at home even today,” a 17-year-old girl wrote. “It’s clearly seen even in my family despite their modern mindset.”

Why it matters

Women’s political representation is important to democracy and societal progress. Studies of India’s local councils have shown that having more women political leaders leads to more policies catered to women. More women representatives also improves child health and education indicators and can lead to more lasting peace negotiations.
With India’s general elections coming up in 2024, a conversation about the importance of increasing women’s political representation is particularly timely. India’s Parliament recently passed one of the most progressive bills in any democracy to reserve a third of seats for women. Currently, Indian women vote in high numbers but make up just 14% of Parliament.

What’s next

Our findings suggest that parents simply talking to their children about politics, and encouraging them to engage, can have substantial effects on girls’ political interest and engagement. Yet more resources are needed to teach parents how to have these conversations, particularly with younger children.
It is also critical that boys understand the structural causes of gender inequities in Indian politics. That way they can be enlisted as allies in overcoming obstacles to women’s political engagement.
---
*PhD Candidate in Social Welfare, University of California, Los Angeles. Source: The Conversation

Comments

TRENDING

Lip-service on World Environment Day vs 'watered-down' eco-safeguards

By Shankar Sharma*  Just a few days ago, the world remembered the routinely forgotten global environment on the occasion of World Environment Day, briefly though, maybe just for the day. There were reports of a few high profile ceremonies in different parts of the country, including a few in New Delhi. Prime Minister Narendra Modi reportedly asked the people of our country to plant one tree per each person as a mark of respect/ gratitude for our mothers.

'Attack on free expression': ABVP 'insults' Udaipur professor for FB post

Counterview Desk   People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Rajasthan, condemning what it called "insult of Professor Himanshu Pandya" by students affiliated with with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarti Parishad (ABVP) in Udaipur, has said he was evicted from the class where he was teaching after raising "ugly slogans", forcing him to "leave the university".

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Pellet gun fire severely injures Dalit worker off Bangladesh border

By Kirity Roy*  This is regarding an incident of firing pellets by the Border Security Force (BSF) personnel attached with Panchadoji Border Outpost of ‘E’ Company of 90 BSF Battalion on a Schedule Caste youth of village Parmananda under Dinhata Police Station of Cooch Behar district of West Bengal. The victim was severely injured and one portion of his face became disfigured due to pellet firing by the BSF.

Moving towards sustainable development? Social, environmental implications of HCES data

By Dr Vandana Sehgal, Dr Amandeep Kaur*  Sustainable development, the high time agenda, encompasses economic, social, and environmental dimensions, aiming for a balance between all these aspects to ensure long-term well-being and prosperity for all. One of the crucial aspects of sustainable development is consumption patterns. Consumption patterns refer to the way individuals, households, and societies use resources and goods. Sustainable consumption patterns entail using resources efficiently, minimizing waste, and considering the environmental and social impacts of consumption choices.

Heatwave in Bundelkhand: 'Inadequate attention' on impact on birds, animals

By Bharat Dogra, Reena Yadav*  While the heat wave and its many-sided adverse impacts have been widely discussed in recent times, one important aspect of heat waves has not received adequate attention and this relates to the impact on birds and animals.

High on aesthetics, this 'pro-Naxal' Punjabi poet shunned sloganeering

By Harsh Thakor*  Surjit Patar, one of Punjab’s top progressive poets, whose life journey symbolised crusade against oppression, died of cardiac arrest at his residence on Barewal Road in Ludhiana, on 11 May 2024, at the age of 79. In Barnala, on June 9th, a gathering of around 10,000 persons for all walks of life was staged in his memory, by the Gursharan Singh Lok Kala Salam Kafla. An award was presented to members of Patar’s family.