International Women’ Day has very little meaning if it is not followed by state action which gives women their space in decision-making particularly in politics. The newly formed Meghalaya Democratic Alliance Government is an all-male club. This time out of the 31 women candidates that contested the state assembly elections only three could come through. And while the outgoing ministry had three women ministers this time there is a blank. This is the irony of matrilineal Meghalaya which still considers women more suited for the domestic and social space. Interestingly, all male candidates relied heavily on their women supporters to go from door to door to campaign for them. Most polling agents in nearly all polling stations were women. So too the volunteers who stood guard outside the polling stations and helped voters with their polling identity slips.
It would appear therefore that women will still have to play a subordinate role to men in politics although women here have broken many glass ceilings. Agatha Sangma former Lok Sabha MP and Union Minister could not secure a berth although she is the only woman in the ruling dispensation because she had to make way for her brothers. And the fact that the present dispensation did not even consider it important to have at least one woman minister shows how gender unequal and iniquitous this society continues to be. Hence it is pointless to observe International Women’s Day when women have not made progress in key areas of decision-making.
Elections in Meghalaya and elsewhere have become a power game where men set the rules of the game. If women join this game they have to play by these same rules. So its money and muscle all the way. In fact elections in India are very women-unfriendly. They are a patriarchal bastion where women can only play secondary roles as elections demand limitless resources of which money tops the list. Until the rules of the game are changed through state action women will continue to remain out of the realm of political decision-making.