It has always been difficult for women to create their own space professionally and work without being subjugated. There is no surprise element in the fact that in almost all professional cultures men dominate the leadership posts and this is due to the prevalence of gender bias. Women are not only perceived to be weak physically as compared to men but also mentally, to be able to take complex decisions. They are assumed to be guided by their emotions and are seen as inferior to men.
In the 21st century, women are no longer confined within the walls of the house. They have taken control of their rights and openly demand the freedom to exercise them. To strengthen their position in the society, digital technology can be used as a tool to empower women. It can be used to increase women participation in their roles as citizens, voters, political leaders, activists and elected officials. Digital technology acts a level playing field, providing equal access to information to both men and women, while also attacking the existing ‘Digital Gender Gap”.
It is essential for political parties to reserve leadership positions for women and push for equal participation in decision making structures. Political parties are the direct vehicle for candidates to gain access and participate in the policy making process. Thus, appointing women as elected party officials would not only empower them but, also inspire the women of the country. Local government leadership positions must be strengthened and efforts must be made to increase women’s participation at the grassroots level itself.
Current forms of communication technology such as mobile phones, internet and social media platforms have proved to be useful for women voters to start dialogues online and seek greater representation for the issues that concern them. Similarly, elected women officials in the parliament can use various communication tools and crowd sourcing techniques that information and technology (ICT) platforms offer, to implement political campaign strategies.
Women often suffer discrimination on traditional media and have realized the importance of technological platforms that help them mobilize support and allow them to be “the news makers”. Political activism has shot up through podcasts, blogs, twitter, Facebook, and Instagram which serve as an equalizer for women activists and politicians. It enables women to interact and gain support of the voters thus, breaking their dependency on mainstream media. Social networks can be used create online petitions and online platforms can be used to organize personalised events to not only disseminate information but, also facilitate communication between citizens and the government
Technology has the power to increase women’s visibility in the affairs concerning the country. The “Women’s Reservation Bill” has been sitting on the table for eight years in the Lok Shaba. The bill is focused on uplifting the position of women in Indian politics by providing 33% reservation in the lower house of the parliament, Lok Sabha, and in all state legislative assemblies.
Women’s participation can be measured in three dimensions: as a voter, elected representative and in the actual decision-making process. All three dimensions must encourage greater women participation. Women’s participation in politics is necessary as their views and opinions on social and political issues are different from men and thus, need to be incorporated into governance. Women’s interests if included in the decision-making process will lead to gender sensitive policies.
To help women overcome challenges of gender discrimination, adequate steps must be taken by the electoral management bodies. Electoral management bodies are often not aware of the impediments that women face, limiting their participation. In order to encourage women’s participation in elections, the electoral management bodies should ensure they have fair and equal opportunities to organise campaigns, are able to register and exercise their right to vote and are not subject to any form of gender discrimination. Electoral gender quotas are the best way to mitigate structural discrimination against women and allowing for greater diversity in the political sphere.
Social media platforms have real life effects on political participation, it stimulates both online as well as offline political participation. The proliferation of internet and social networking sites (SNS) has a positive impact on individuals especially women, as it eliminates barriers preventing their participation. It leads to sharing of opinions and discussing issues related to politics.
Lack of women participation is also a direct reflection of lack of inclusive policies and laws which lead to a collapse of the political structure of the country. Women who are otherwise politically disadvantaged, can use technology and social media platforms to facilitate online communication, create an online forum for political activities and for networking with other women. Technology has the potential to advance female participation and can be used as an effective strategy to garner votes and implement political strategies, thereby elevating the position of women in the society. It is important for a democratic country like India, to have adequate representation of women in politics.