Supporting decentralised urban governance: Training women municipal councillors in Mumbai, India

Brigitte M. Holzner, Joop de Wit

Research output: Working paperAcademic


Having realised that the participation of women in local governance in India
would not come about naturally, India included a clause in its new 1992 decentralisation
legislation to the effect that women are to occupy 33% of all seats in all local bodies,
including rural but also municipal councils and the ward committees of large cities.
While this bold attempt to involve (or rather kick-start) women in governance through
radical positive discrimination has many supporters, the realities, implications and
impacts of such policy in the urban areas of India—in contrast to the rural areas—have
not been studied much. There is, however, agreement that it is too much to expect that
women will be effective and powerful councillors just by being elected. Indeed, there is
ample and increasing evidence that newly elected women municipal councillors in
India’s cities find it hard to establish and consolidate a strong position. There are many
reports that women only manage and survive with the support (or by following the
dictates) of husbands, fathers or other family members. There is wide agreement then
that these women councillors need professional support and strengthening of their
capacity, and increasingly training programmes are organised to this effect. This article
is about one set of such training programmes organised by a Mumbai training
institution, with the support of the Dutch based Institute of Social Studies. It sets the
general context of decentralisation and women’s involvement in urban governance and
depicts the characteristics and needs of women municipal councillors in Mumbai and
other Indian cities. In a preliminary way, it assesses, first, the extent to which the
training programmes met the needs of women newly elected into local bodies and
secondly, what their perceived impacts are in view of the logistical conditions and
constraints related to capacity building in India.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationDen Haag
PublisherInternational Institute of Social Studies (ISS)
Number of pages44
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2003

Publication series

SeriesISS working papers. General series

Bibliographical note

ISS-id: 6719


  • ISS Working Paper-General Series


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