India Webinar Series Part 2: Understanding Federalism in India From a Gender Perspective

Gender inequality is perhaps the most enduring and pervasive expression of inequality around the world. Discriminatory practices, attitudes and social norms limit women and girls’ ability to reach their full potential and contribute to their societies on equal terms with men. While in recent decades, some limited progress has been made towards gender equality as a result of concerted efforts by women’s rights organizations, national governments, and the international community, many substantial challenges remain. These include issues of violence against women and girls, and a deficit of women in positions of political leadership. Moreover, the COVID-19 crisis has halted or even reversed advances in gender equality worldwide. The repercussions of the pandemic on advancing gender inequality in the South Asian region are demonstrably highlighted in the World Economic Forum’s report on the Global Gender Gap Index 2021. As per the Gender Gap Index 2021, South Asia has regressed more than any other region of the world in achieving gender equality. This has resulted in a significant delay in the projected time needed for this region to close its gender gaps. At the current relative pace, it will take South Asia more than 30 years longer than any other region of the world to close the existing gender gaps.

In this context, federalism might play an important role in closing the gender gap in South Asia. It is a form of govennance predicated on power sharing, cooperation, and coordination, attributes which stand against the concentration of power, intolerance, and regressive socio-cultural practices, often seen in patriarchal systems. Federalism, both as a concept and in practice, can lead to less patriarchal and more gender inclusive policy-making. This Forum of Federation’s webinar will explore how federal or decentralized governance models affect gender equality dynamics and what opportunities they provide for advancing gender equality. Professor Rekha Saxena will discuss federalism’s role in closing the gender gap in India.


Rekha Saxena is a Professor of political science at the University of Delhi and Convener for the Comparative Federalists Research Group at the University of Delhi. She is also the honorary Vice-Chairperson for the Center for Multilevel Federalism in New Delhi, as well as a Senior Advisor for the Forum of Federations. Professor Saxena has authored and contributed to many publications on Indian governance and federalism such as Indian Politics: Constitutional Foundations and Institutional Functioning; Federalizing India in the Age of Globalization; India at the Polls: Parliamentary Elections in the Federal Phase; Indian Politics in Transition: From Dominance to Chaos.

Diana Chebenova is the Senior Director of the Forum of Federations. She currently manages and oversees the Forum’s Policy Programs and partnership relations and is responsible for the Forum’s programs in South America. She has also managed many of the Forum’s international projects, including in India, in a variety of policy areas, such as local governance, intergovernmental relations, fiscal management, education, and health care. Diana co-manages the Forum’s policy program on Gender Equality and Federalism and co-hosted the Forum’s three-part podcast (ForumFedCast) series on Gender Equality.