Purdah and Politics: Women’s Participation in Local Governance

Aditi Surie, Marie-Hélène Zérah | 2 March 2017


This chapter explores the results of fieldwork conducted on municipal governance in tier-3 towns in the NCR-Haryana area. In an effort to gauge the nature of democratic decentralised governance in emerging urban areas, field-based knowledge points to avenues of effective participation for elected women representatives. Founded on gender-based affirmative action policies to increase the political participation of women, the 74th CAA delivers mechanisms to balance gender injustice and the non-participation of women in political decision-making. Tracing the social, cultural, economic, political and religious capital in select female representatives, this chapter illustrates the requisite forms of capital that allow effective participation versus a proxy status. To nuance the understanding of ‘effective participation’, the tasks of a political seat must be deconstructed and viewed from the perspective of the socially accepted actions that women can pursue, without facing barriers. This deconstruction makes it easier to understand what women can actually accomplish, which tasks they are less involved in, the dynamics of sharing these tasks with male relatives, and hence, the ways and means of augmenting their participation.