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International Women’s Day: 10 powerful women in Indian politics

8 March 2024

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Celebrate Women’s Day by learning about 10 influential women in Indian politics who broke barriers and made a difference in the political landscape.

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International Women’s Day is a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. It is also a day to raise awareness and take action for gender equality and women’s rights. Women’s Day is observed every year on March 8 and has a history of over a century.

Origin

The first Women’s Day was organized by the Socialist Party of America in 1909, in response to the garment workers’ strike in New York, where women protested against poor working conditions and low wages. The following year, the International Socialist Women’s Conference declared March 8 as a day to honor the working women of the world.

Russian Revolution

In 1917, Women’s Day became a turning point in the Russian Revolution, when thousands of women took to the streets to demand bread and peace. The protests led to the abdication of the czar and the granting of women’s suffrage. Since then, Women’s Day has been celebrated in many countries, especially in the communist and socialist blocs.

International Recognition

In 1975, the United Nations officially recognized March 8 as International Women’s Day. It marks a global celebration of the achievements and contributions of women across various fields, including politics. In India, women have played pivotal roles in shaping the political landscape despite numerous challenges and barriers. As we commemorate International Women’s Day, it’s essential to recognize and honor the achievements of these influential women who have made significant strides in Indian politics. Here are 10 powerful women in Indian politics who have left an indelible mark:

Indira Gandhi: No discussion on influential women in Indian politics can begin without mentioning the Iron Lady of India, Indira Gandhi. She served as the Prime Minister of India for a total of four terms, making her the longest-serving Prime Minister in the country’s history. Her leadership during critical moments such as the Bangladesh Liberation War and the Green Revolution reshaped the nation’s political and economic landscape.

Sonia Gandhi: As the widow of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and the president of the Indian National Congress, Sonia Gandhi has been a formidable force in Indian politics. Despite initial reluctance, she emerged as a key figure in guiding the Congress party through challenging times and played a crucial role in coalition politics.

Sushma Swaraj: Sushma Swaraj was a prominent leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and a trailblazer for women in Indian politics. She served as the Minister of External Affairs, becoming one of India’s most respected diplomats. Her compassionate approach to diplomacy and her adept handling of crises earned her widespread admiration both domestically and internationally.

Mamata Banerjee: Mamata Banerjee is the first woman Chief Minister of West Bengal and the founder of the All India Trinamool Congress (AITC). Known for her fiery rhetoric and grassroots political activism, Banerjee has been a prominent figure in Indian politics for decades. Her landslide victory in West Bengal elections solidified her position as a key regional leader.

Mayawati: Mayawati, popularly known as the “Dalit Queen,” is the founder of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. Breaking numerous societal barriers, she has been a staunch advocate for the rights of Dalits and marginalized communities in India. Her rise to power symbolizes the empowerment of marginalized voices in Indian politics.

Jayalalithaa: Jayalalithaa, fondly referred to as “Amma,” was a charismatic leader and the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. Her journey from a successful film actress to one of the most influential political figures in Tamil Nadu is legendary. Jayalalithaa’s welfare schemes and populist policies endeared her to the masses, making her a revered figure in Tamil Nadu politics.

Mamata Shankar Banerjee: Mamata Shankar Banerjee is a prominent politician and the current Chief Minister of West Bengal. Her leadership style, characterized by grassroots activism and inclusive governance, has garnered widespread support among the people of West Bengal. Under her leadership, West Bengal has witnessed significant development and socio-economic progress.

Nirmala Sitharaman: Nirmala Sitharaman is India’s first full-time female Finance Minister and a senior leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). With a background in economics and finance, Sitharaman has been instrumental in steering India’s economy through various challenges, including the recent global economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Smriti Irani: Smriti Irani, a former television actress turned politician, is currently serving as the Minister for Women and Child Development and Minister for Textiles in the Government of India. Known for her dynamic personality and strong leadership skills, Irani has been actively involved in implementing policies aimed at empowering women and children across the country.

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra: Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the daughter of Sonia Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, is a prominent figure in Indian politics and a member of the Indian National Congress. While she has largely operated behind the scenes, her recent foray into active politics has sparked considerable interest and speculation about her potential role in shaping the future of the Congress party.

These women have defied stereotypes, shattered glass ceilings, and paved the way for future generations of women in Indian politics. Their leadership, courage, and resilience serve as a beacon of inspiration for women around the world, reaffirming the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment in building a more inclusive and progressive society.

Gender Equality

Women’s Day is not only a day to celebrate women’s achievements, but also a day to challenge gender stereotypes and discrimination, and to call for action to achieve gender parity in all aspects of life. According to the World Economic Forum, it will take another 135.6 years to close the global gender gap at the current rate of progress.

Women’s Day is also a day to show solidarity and support for women around the world who face violence, oppression, poverty, and injustice. According to the UN Women, one in three women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, and 243 million women and girls aged 15-49 have been subjected to sexual or physical violence by an intimate partner in the past year.

Women’s Day is a day for everyone, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, or background, to join forces and work together for a more equal, inclusive, and sustainable world. Women’s Day is a day to celebrate the past, present, and future of women, and to inspire the next generation of changemakers.

Vinay Kumar is Marketing Professional turned Entrepreneur, believes in turning ideas into reality.

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