Fed up with all the hemming and hawing over the women’s reservation bill by male-dominated mainstream political parties, some politically active members of the fairer sex launched the country’s first all women’s party—the Womanist Party of India (WPI)—last week in Maharashtra. Its founders feel that it’s the only way the persistent gender bias in politics can be done away with. The much-maligned choodi
(bangles) is its proposed poll symbol. Says party president and social worker Varsha Kale: "Bangles are a sign of our strength." The party hopes to wrest political space for women and bring issues relating to them on to the agenda. "Women have been demanding political equality but mainstream political parties have just been playing around with the women’s reservation bill. Parties don’t want to give women tickets for the elections," says Kale, who has been based in Sangli district for over 10 years. Vice-president Shobha Karande is a homemaker who would like to see mainstream parties be more responsive to women’s concerns.
It may be just a fledgling group at the moment but the WPI hopes to enlist 5 lakh members by next year. And it intends to field candidates in the gram panchayat polls as well as the Lok Sabha elections. So far its members are restricted to Maharashtra but it hopes to draw in women from all over the country. The WPI is, however, uncomfortable with being labelled as a feminist organisation. "We are not feminists. We believe in womanism," its president clarifies.