Programs and Events
More Women in Government = Lower Level of Corruption
CHENNAI: There is a growing body of evidence proving that women’s full political and economic participation in society is critical to economic development and sustaining peace and stability, U.S. Consul General Jennifer McIntyre said in her opening remarks at the Digital Video Conference with Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus Executive Director, Priti Rao, at the Stella Maris College on October 16, 2012.
The other panelists included Bharatiya Janata Party National Executive Member Lalitha Kumaramangalam and National Secretary of the Indian Youth Congress Jyothimani Sennimalai. Public Affairs Officer David Gainer from the U.S. Consulate coordinated the program.
“At the country level, according to the World Bank, higher rates of female participation in government are associated with lower levels of corruption; a goal for which we should all strive,” Consul General McIntyre said.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Poverty Action Lab studies show the impact of women’s leadership on policy decisions. In India, for example, women leaders invest more in infrastructure that is directly relevant to the needs of not just their own gender, but the needs of their communities. “That is the kind of investment that creates sustainable change, and provides better results for all of society. It’s certainly true that we have come a long way,” the U.S. Consul General noted.
Women are leading countries - and leading companies, and they are making a mark in every field, but women probably all agree there is room for improvement. Globally, although women comprise 40 to 50 percent of members of political parties, they hold only about 10 percent of party leadership positions. As of 2011, women account for 18 percent of members of South Asia’s legislatures, up from more than 13 percent in 1995. Women’s representation exceeds 25 percent in just four countries: Nepal, Timor-Leste, Afghanistan, and Lao People’s Democratic Republic.
The United States is committed to working for the advancement and empowerment of women, with political participation as a cornerstone of that work. Advancing women’s empowerment is an important goal for President Obama and Secretary Clinton, and the U.S. government and people are really focusing on how we can be supportive of women around the world, said CG McIntyre.
The U.S. government has made significant progress in our efforts to specifically address gender-based violence, including through the development of the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security, which is a part of our international commitments to UN Security Council Resolution 1325.
Ms. Kumaramangalam stressed the need for women to be educated and to strive hard to overcome resistance. “Women have to be educated about their chances in politics. Once you prove yourself at the grass roots, there will be massive resistance,” she said.
Ms. Rao highlighted the challenges faced by women politicians in the U.S. and the role of her organization in making sure that more women participated in politics and political processes in the U.S. “One of the biggest challenges for women is often being not seen as politically viable,” she noted.
Ms. Sennimalai speaking from her own experience outlined the problems faced by young women wanting to enter politics in Indian villages. “In India the patriarchal and caste systems are so strong that women find it physically, mentally and emotionally very difficult to enter politics. At 21 when I wanted to enter politics, people thought it was a romantic idea. When I persisted, they thought something was wrong with me and branded me as notorious. Politics have no gender, but for a woman to succeed she has to be politically correct and forceful,” she added.
Students in the audience asked questions focused on the “indifference of the Indian youth and women” to politics and the preparation that Indian women politicians get in comparison to U.S. organizations, such as the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus.