of: Doctor of Philosophy
Department: Political Science
Title: Women's Participation in the Panchayati Raj (Local
Government Councils): A Case Study of Maharashtra, India
Friday, May 14, 2004 10:00-12:00 p.m.
Dr. Jim Butterfield, Chair
Dr. Sushi Datta-Sandu
Dr. Nancy Falk
Dr. Elisabeth Jay Friedman
In April 1993, the Parliament of India passed
the 73rd Constitutional Amendment, reforming the structure of local
governments. The amendment mandated that the composition of local councils
include at least one-third women.
This study deals with the effects of the 1993 Indian women's reservation
bill in changing policies at the local government level in ways that
address women's interests. This research will address two related questions:
1) Are women really participating in panchayati raj (local government
councils) politics, or are they merely present? 2) Do quotas (as institutional
mechanisms) make a difference in agenda setting and policy outcomes?
Although it may be early to judge the effect of quotas on policy outcomes,
the focus of the study is primarily on agenda setting. I examine agendas
before and after the introduction of quotas in order to measure their
I analyze women's participation at all three levels
in the panchayati raj in the Sangli Distric, in Western Maharashtra.
I argue that while institutional mechanisms such as quotas are a necessary
step, women's participation, while successful in some cases, is hindered
by the influence of other variables such as caste, party politics and
the lack of support from the family.
Drawing on literature from instintional design and feminist theory,
I posit that successful participation is the result of the balance between
formal institutional design and its compatibility with existing informal
institutions. The research design is qualitative and I utilize multiple
methods such as interviews, non-participant observation, and analysis
of proceedings and records.
I conclude that successful participation by women in panchayat politics
is a result of a combination of various factors. Successful formal institutional
design must consider the role of informal institutions. Reservations
for women in India are the first and necessary step, however, not a
sufficient condition for women's empowerment.
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