In 2009, the Centre for Social Research along with WomenPowerConnect and supported by the United Nations Democracy Fund, designed and implemented a training program for women leaders across India. In the world's largest democracy, women hold a mere 10% of seats in India's parliament. Women’s slim percentage in Indian Parliament also reflects their lack of participation in decision-making process. The goal of our project, "Enhancing the Role of Women in Strengthening Democracy", was to enhance the capacity of women to contest elections, sensitize state and national political parties in order to remove barriers for women, and strengthen the network of women across India in order to advocate for women's issues. Drawing on expertise from seasoned women politicians, as well as our own in-house gender experts, CSR prepared a substantial and thorough training module which was executed by 108 trainers in 30 trainings across India. The training was comprised of 13 modules covered over three days. In addition to the in-person trainings, the CSR team designed and launched an online certificate course in leadership, which can be found at www.womenleadership.in
The core strategy of the project was “Train, Contest, Win”. Women’s leadership capacities were built in order to reduce the gender deficit by imparting training to create a pipeline of 1,000 women leaders who would be motivated to contest elections for state legislatures & national parliament. Participant women were selected from across India, with proportional regional representation. Special emphasis was placed on building leadership amongst the marginalized women belonging to Scheduled caste/Scheduled tribe and backward classes.
It is only a matter of time before the Women's Reservation Bill is passed, reserving 33% of seats in state and national government for women. When this day comes, the need for programs to build the capacities of women who want to contest will become even more urgent than it is today. We are proud to have helped 1,000 women in their preparations for contesting elections and we will continue to provide support and encouragement for these women leaders as they pursue their careers in the years to come. But the work can't stop there. Our goal is to provide training and support to as many women as possible at local, state, and national levels, across party lines, and regardless of caste or class. If the serious issues facing the women of India are to be confronted, women themselves must take their rightful seat at the table.