Dr. Medha Nanivadekar
Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow
With comments by
Dr. Karen O’Connor (watch remarks)
In India, quotas have been hailed as an essential mechanism to ensure representation of disadvantaged groups in the workplace, educational institutions, and government. In 1993, a 33 percent quota for women was introduced into local government, and three years later the Women’s Reservation Bill proposed similar quotas in Parliament and state legislatures. While this Bill has remained engulfed in bitter controversy for the last fifteen years, nearly ten states have adopted fifty-percent women’s local quotas, and two constitutional amendments have been introduced in Parliament for reserving “not less than half” of local government seats for women, which would unfairly impact male representation. In her presentation, Dr. Medha Nanivadekar examined the contradiction between an excess of quotas for women at the local level and their deficit at the state and national levels. She argued that equal access to power at the highest levels would not only boost perceptions of women’s political power but would ultimately result in reduced individual vulnerability to gender-based violence and discrimination. Dr. Nanivadekar put forth a win-win formula to ensure equal gender representation without reducing male membership in the Indian Parliament. Her presentation was followed by comments by Dr. Karen O’Connor.
Dr. Medha Nanivadekar is director of the Center for Women’s Studies at Shivaji University in Kolhapur, India, and the president of Bharatiya Stree Shakti, an Indian women’s organization. A staunch proponent of women’s equal representation in politics, Dr. Nanivadekar testified before India’s parliamentary committee in 1996, to support a women’s reservation bill proposing a 33 percent quota for women in parliament, and again in 2008, to propose a formula to resolve the deadlock over the controversial bill. In addition to her work as a United Nations Expert on Women and Politics and as the gender expert on several committees for the government of India, she has authored a number of research reports, articles and book chapters on women and politics.
Dr. Karen O’Connor is Jonathan N. Helfat Distinguished Professor of Political Science at American University, as well as founder of the Women and Politics Institute.