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Home > Mumbai > Mumbai News > Article > Exclusive I was never meant to fit in I was always meant to stand out says Priyanka Chaturvedi on being a woman in politics

Exclusive: "I was never meant to fit in; I was always meant to stand out," says Priyanka Chaturvedi on being a woman in politics

Updated on: 20 May,2024 09:55 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Jasmeen Ara Shaikh |

As the election season arrives in Mumbai in full swing, the Shiv Sena (UBT) leader spoke to Midday about her journey as a woman in politics


Priyanka Chaturvedi. Pic/X

Back in 2010, against all odds, Priyanka Chaturvedi entered the world of politics. Then a young woman with no financial backing or political background, today she stands as a Member of Parliament and the fierce spokesperson for Shiv Sena (UBT).

As the election season arrives in Mumbai in full swing and the air is buzzing with all things politics, Priyanka Chaturvedi spoke to Mid-Day about her journey as a woman in politics, the challenges of being in this male-dominated sphere and manoeuvring her way through it all to be where she is today.

Q. What made you enter politics?

Priyanka Chaturvedi: It was the 26/11 terror attacks. I was born and brought up in Mumbai, and seeing my city ravaged by a terrorist attack, I realized we needed to regroup, regather, and re-energize to build a resilient and safe city. Every member's contribution was important.

I started by supporting a few people along with women bloggers, helping some families. I understood that as citizens, we have a responsibility towards our immediate societies, cities, and states—that is how the journey began.

From there, I moved forward. I learned how I could impact policies and how I could participate in politics.

Around the same time, Mr Rahul Gandhi started the idea of bringing in people from non-political backgrounds to break down those barriers that exist in our mind that only those who come from political families or those who have that backing, who have a mentor, those who are connected politically would be able to make it.

He started that procedure which I used then and that became an instrument for who I am today.

Q. Do you feel it is easy for a young woman to enter into politics now the way you did with no financial assistance, or political background and make a mark?

Priyanka Chaturvedi: I think today political parties are more receptive to the idea of women entering politics for two reasons. First, women have emerged as thought leaders and vote in larger numbers compared to men. They decide for themselves who they wish to vote for, uninfluenced by family or surrounding noise. What matters to them is how policies impact their lives, their families, and their communities.

Second, the idea of having more women representation in parliament and assemblies is growing. Although the act has been passed, it will only be implemented much later, giving political parties the capacity to absorb more women. The same parties that created barriers for women are now having to grudgingly make space for them.

For any young woman who wishes to contribute to policy and politics, there’s no better time than now to be part of this change-making process.

Q: What did your family think when you joined politics, especially considering the difference of opinion with your in-laws being pro-BJP and you joining Congress?

Priyanka Chaturvedi: So when I became the national media panellist for Congress, there were many questions in their minds.

The biggest factor that made them question my choice was the perception of women in politics. Women are often seen in a negative light, portrayed as evil, villainous, or needing mentor support or compromising to succeed. This misconception is one of the biggest setbacks women face when entering politics. My family felt it wasn’t the best place for me, worrying it wasn’t safe and fearing I would never be acknowledged.

Secondly, there was the issue of my political party choice. We had many arguments and disagreements, but eventually, we reached a conclusion: “Okay, you have your ideas, I have mine. Let’s not mix the family relationship.”

My family is an important part of who I am, so even if they say something I totally disagree with, I do not counter them simply because it creates unnecessary friction. I continue to do what I have to do.

Q: Do you think your journey would have been less pressurising if you were a male politician?

Priyanka Chaturvedi: Throughout my career, I have felt motherhood guilt. It’s different for a man. They don’t have those guilt pangs. They might miss the family, but they don’t live with the guilt that a mother lives with in terms of getting space and breaking down barriers.

Men can network during non-office hours, late at night, etc., which are some of the handicaps we women face. Often, families live together while constituencies are away from the city. It’s much quicker for a male politician, who is in charge of the family, to decide to move the family to the constituency than it is for a woman politician. A woman thinks through everything before making a decision, taking the plunge, or committing herself to something like this.

Q. Do you feel that being a woman you have felt invisible or not acknowledged enough despite your accomplishments?

Priyanka Chaturvedi: It has occurred several times, especially within political parties. Women have often been marginalised in policy spaces relating to tech, fintech, and climate change. This makes it challenging for their opinions to be acknowledged.

At times, women are silenced or dismissed due to the perception that their views are too feminine. There is a lack of recognition that women can also hold valid opinions. Many conversations end with women feeling ignored or believing they lack sufficient information.

As I approach my fifties, I realise that I was never meant to blend in but to stand out. Despite potential criticism or ridicule, I will continue to express my opinions confidently. Laugh, mock, or disagree with them, but I will always have a voice.

Q. Does sexism exist across Indian politics or does it depend on a particular party?

Priyanka Chaturvedi: I believe sexism permeates politics globally, particularly affecting women. Our society remains deeply patriarchal. Despite the progressive vision of our Constitution’s framers granting women equal rights without quotas or reservations, today, 70 years later, we’ve had to implement quotas due to our failure to achieve that vision.

Sexism persists in various guises. Women are often perceived as political lightweights, lacking agency. However, I refuse to be treated as a doormat. I entered politics by choice and will assert my voice.

There’s a noticeable shift in how men interact with women in these spaces. Women are no longer passive victims (abla naris); they’re actively asserting their voices and fighting for their rights.

Q. In a room full of women politicians, are they women to each other first or are they politicians to each other first?

Priyanka Chaturvedi: I'd be lying if I said that we are women first.

When I first got a chance from my party to be a part of the Rajya Sabha, I was super excited about the idea that we would build a caucus of women MPs and we'll keep the talk of gender justice first, and then the rest, your political parties and your political barriers.

When I went excitedly to other MPs telling them about this idea they were not really receptive to the idea and that idea died its own death simply because we as women politicians have reduced ourselves to our spaces, our political parties, our political agenda and nothing beyond to ensure gender justice.

When our SDG goals are dependent on women's empowerment, and on how women are being brought into the system, then we are doing a huge injustice to have political appointees in gender welfare organisations who take a stance depending on the political party involved.

Q. Finally, what would you like to say to all the women reading this?

Priyanka Chaturvedi: Unless women advocate for a larger portion of the pie instead of merely contending within the currently allocated share, we won't create room for more women. We must expand the pie, aiming beyond the current 33 per cent reservation. Let's strive for 50 per cent representation, reflecting our 50 per cent share of the population.

Watch the full interview on YouTube 

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