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New survey finds stark gender gap in young Indians’ political aspirations
As India celebrates its 73rd Republic Day, #WomenLead looks at the political perceptions and aspirations of the young
As Kamala Harris made her victory speech after being named the USA’s first woman vice president in November 2020, several Americans tweeted photos of their children - often daughters - silhouetted against TV screens listening to her. Our Twitter feeds were lit up with an infectious joy as hundreds of parents documented such an iconic moment from such an important - yet often overlooked - vantage point: that of their children.
The socialization of children to see politics as a man’s world starts fairly young, a US-based study found in 2021. Children surveyed by researchers perceived politics to be a male-dominated space, and with age, girls were more likely to see political leadership as a “man’s world”. No wonder then, they also expressed lower interest and ambition in politics than boys.
But this is not true only in the USA. Young Indians’ perceptions about politics get impacted by gender too, a new survey has found.
The survey was conducted by Kuviraa, a non-partisan initiative, and is based on responses from 419 young people aged 11-24 across 24 states. (The survey, disseminated online in English and Hindi, may not be based on a representative sample).
Girls and young women were less likely than boys and young men to aspire for politics, the survey found. They were also less likely to report familiarity with India’s political processes and local leaders. There was also a gender gap in young people’s perceptions of political leaders. Male and female respondents also had slightly different ideas on what were some of the most pressing challenges for political leaders to focus on. #WomenLead brings you some of the major findings.
Young men and women equally likely to vote but political aspiration has a gender gap
“I'm a little concerned about how I would be treated as a politician” (An 18-year-old female respondent from Tamil Nadu )
Eighty four percent of both young women and men surveyed said they were likely to vote when they would be eligible. However, when asked if they were likely to get involved in politics in the future, only 19 percent of young women expressed a high likelihood as compared to 32 percent of the young men.
Girls and young women were less likely to have a positive perception of political leaders
“Politics can sometimes get very dirty and power, if not used properly, can affect and risk our lives in many many many ways. And not just our lives but also that of our families so I'd like to refrain from getting into politics.” (A 15-year-old female respondent, from West Bengal)
Only nine percent of the girls and young women surveyed had a positive perception of India’s political leaders, as compared to 16 percent boys and young men. There was also a difference in how likely young people were to associate certain words with politicians, based on their gender. Here’s a look:
Male respondents reported more familiarity of political processes and leaders than their female peers
“Entering politics is like tying both your hands behind your back and trying to bring change.” (An 18-year-old female respondent from Maharashtra)
More than half of the young men surveyed (51 percent) said they were familiar with India’s political processes and institutions (such as Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, elections etc). Almost a third (31 percent) said they were familiar with local leaders. But these shares dropped significantly among young women. Only 40 percent of the female respondents expressed familiarity with India’s political processes, while 22 percent said they were familiar with local leaders.
Young women were also less likely (37 percent) than boys (44 percent) to be discussing politics with their friends and families. They also seem to rely on different sources to get information about politics. Young men were significantly more likely to get their information from newspapers and audio formats, while young women from social media and family.
Environment big issue of concern for young women, skill development for boys and men
“We need good, hard-working, kind-hearted leaders who listen to people's problems.” (A 13-year-old female respondent from Karnataka)
Both female and male respondents selected “poverty and inequality” as the most urgent challenge that the next generation of political leaders must focus on. They also chose “healthcare” in similar numbers. However, young women were more likely than young men to name the “environment” and “women’s issues”, while young men were more likely to name “skill development” among the challenges for future leaders.
As India marks its 73rd Republic Day, those findings should give us all some food for thought. If we want to achieve a more representative politics, where women can participate and lead on an equal footing, we really need to be more thoughtful of what young girls in the country are learning and internalizing when it comes to politics and leadership. If they can be equally interested in and willing to vote, there is no reason why they should not aim for more!
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