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Making Room For More Indira Gandhis: The Evolution of Women Leaders in Local Elections

Global Education Colloquium

Speaker: Supriya Baily, Ph.D., George Mason University
Date: Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Supriya Baily
Supriya Baily, Ph.D.

India’s experiment with democracy has been fraught with good intentions, yet the manifestation has been far more complex.

The reservation of legislative seats for historically marginalized groups highlights the desire for change through national policy, yet local level implementation does not always provide the expected results. The fact remains that though women still represent a small minority of elected officials in India, there are national laws promoting both the empowerment of women and the mandated representation of women in local level governance.

Extending the research on women’s empowerment, which has its roots in practice, pushing against society’s oppression of women towards their own self-development, I seek to unpack social relations within the arena of local politics and broaden the discourse emerging from within this cadre of local women leaders.  How do women frame their professional roles as local leaders and national representatives?  In what way do their experiences, status, education, and family support enhance their capacity to navigate through the daily responsibilities of elected representation? What impact do their actions have on the local community, gatekeepers, national level policies and their own development? 

The presentation focuses on these questions using a critical, qualitative framework to better understand the ways in which female elected officials in India perceive of their power; the impact of their voice and agency on the people with whom they work and represent; and the role education takes in making space for them in the realm of public politics.  

About The Speaker

Supriya Baily is assistant professor in the College of Education and Human Development at George Mason University.  Dr. Baily's research focuses primarily on the effects non-formal education on women and the communities within which they live.  Working primarily in India and Indonesia, Dr. Baily has spent time in rural regions of these countries to better understand how women and the people around them understand the changing nature of women’s power and identity.  She also studies the role of internationalization in teacher education and policy issues affecting secondary and higher education in emerging countries. Before joining academia, she spent fifteen years working in peace, justice and development organizations and has served as a consultant for the Teachers Foundation, a nonprofit organization in India working to transform teacher’s pedagogy and practice.  Additionally she serves as the Co-Chair of the Gender and Education Committee of the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES).  She is the co-editor of the 2012 book Internationalizing Teacher Education in the US. 

Access archived discussion here.