"Girls in India report being less interested and engaged in politics than boys
and cite fewer opportunities to participate in politics, we found in a recent
survey of youth across India.
Further, although political interest and engagement was higher for older boys
(ages 18-22) than younger boys (ages 14-17), girls’ political interest and
engagement stagnated across age groups.
I study young people’s political development, and in the fall of 2022 I
collaborated on a study with Indian nonprofit Kuviraa. I am on the advisory
board at Kuviraa, which aims to increase girls’ engagement in politics. We used
an Instagram ad to survey over 600 youth ages 14-22 who lived in nearly 30
cities across India.
We found that just over half (51%) of boys considered themselves politically
engaged compared with less than a third (29%) of girls. We also measured the
survey participants’ level of political engagement based on five behaviors,
including sharing political posts online, attending rallies and contacting
government officials. We found that boys and girls age 17 and under had similar
levels of political engagement. However, boys’ engagement became much higher
than girls once they were 18 and older.
Further, boys had lower awareness than girls of the structural barriers women
face in Indian politics. For example, 74% of the girls surveyed agreed that “it
is more difficult in our society for women to become elected officials”
compared with 54% of the boys. We found that girls’ awareness was higher with
age, whereas boys followed the opposite trajectory, with lower awareness in the
older age group.
We also explored possible predictors of youths’ political engagement such as
public speaking skills or having a sense that they are able to affect politics.
We found that the two significant factors that shaped youths’ political
engagement were having parents who discuss politics with their children and
parents who encourage their children to engage in politics. The effect was less
for girls but still significant.
Finally, we analyzed over 430 open-ended responses to explore how participants
explained gender disparities in Indian politics. In these responses, we noticed
a pattern: Boys tended to attribute gender disparities in politics to
individual women’s choices. “Women don’t take the initiative to stand as a
candidate,” one 18-year-old boy explained. Meanwhile, girl respondents tended
to emphasize structural forces at play. “It is a common mindset that women
should work at home even today,” a 17-year-old girl wrote. “It’s clearly seen
even in my family despite their modern mindset.”"
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics