Empowering the Women Electorate in India
An intensive pre-election process in India increases the visibility of women through the entire electoral process.
To encourage voter participation among women and the election of women leaders to all panchayat seats, The Hunger Project conducts intensive pre-election SWEEP (Strengthening Women’s Empowerment through Electoral Processes) programming during the fifth and final year of a state’s panchayat election cycle. The objective of SWEEP is to increase the visibility of women through the entire electoral process – as citizens, voters, candidates and electoral officers and agents. The Hunger Project aspires to have SWEEP programming influence women to contest every seat, beyond the one-third reserved for women.
SWEEP programs include meetings to identify potential leaders, campaigns, film screenings, street plays, door-to-door engagement, trainings and distribution of educational posters and pamphlets. Campaigns are designed and implemented according to state-level social and political contexts. These campaigns result in increased participation of women, with greater awareness across communities to their role as responsible citizens and voters during elections. After women are exposed to SWEEP campaigning, women contest in larger numbers both in reserved and unreserved categories, when compared to the previous years.
In 2013, Elected Women Representatives (EWRs) participated in SWEEP and prepared to contest elections for both reserved and unreserved seats (reserved seats are those guaranteed by the 73rd amendment to be held only by women; for unreserved seats, women run against men). This is a major step forward for the program, and demonstrates the successful efforts to bring women into the general electoral process.