There is a substantial gender gap in political participation between women and men in India that has persisted despite decades of targeted policy interventions. For example, one survey in rural Madhya Pradesh showed that men were ~50% more likely to attend a village meeting and ~40% more likely than women to contact a local leader to receive government benefits.
To address this gender gap, local NGO Pradan collaborated with researchers to design and implement a training program to help more than eight thousand women visit local council meetings, and understand their rights and women’s under-representation in politics. By randomly selecting which women’s Self Help Groups (SHGs) would receive the civics-oriented training, the researchers identify the impacts of this approach on women’s political participation, and whether that increased participation affects election outcomes and policy decisions of local leaders.
Results show that women substantially increase their political participation: women in SHGs who received the training were twice as likely to attend village meetings, petition for government benefits or services, and participate in campaigns than women in SHGs who did not receive training. However, preliminary analysis of administrative data from local elections suggests that these impacts do not appear to translate into significantly more women getting elected to local office (beyond the 50% of reserved seats they are entitled to by national policy). The next step for this research is to link administrative data from local elections with data on public service provision, to see whether female participation impacts the public goods provided by local leaders.
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