Global Resources

Engineering Elections: The Experiences of Women in Panchayati Raj in Karnataka, India

Author: N. Kudva
Publisher: Springer Netherlands
Publication Date: Mar 2003
The term empowerment entered the development lexicon some three decades ago. Since then it has been used widely in various contexts, losing in the process some of its edge and efficacy. Nevertheless, it continues to be useful as one of the few ideas that capture the notion of acquiring social, political and economic power as both a dynamic process and its end result.
Setting quotas for women in elections is a crucial component of strategies that seek to empower women through increased participation in the political system. In the south Indian state of Karnataka, this experiment has seen mixed results: it has made women more visible, decreased levels of corruption in Panchayati Raj institutions (village councils), and increased the abilities of women representatives. It is more difficult, however, to claim a substantive change in institutional priorities and state accountability. As important is the fact that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) often provide significant training and support in successful cases. Setting reservations for women in elections thus highlights possibilities for change through increased participation by women.