When in 2015, Justin Trudeau was asked to explain his reasons behind a gender balanced cabinet, his response was, “Because it’s 2015”. Two years down the line although we are still far from achieving a gender balanced cabinet, and much needs to be done about gender equality as a whole in this country, steps, no matter how small, are being taken. One of these steps towards empowerment of women has been the election of Nirmala Seetharaman as the first full-time female Defence Minister in the Central Cabinet.
While going through the articles on the internet following this groundbreaking announcement, I came across one where the writer had criticised her appointment. The writer points that Ms. Seetharaman, an M.A. in Economics, a degree she received from JNU, isn’t fit for the role for she lacks the required experience in the field. If we look back one realizes that mostly all her predecessors, including Former PM Indira Gandhi (held the post during her term as the Prime Minister), have had no qualification or experience required for the post.
While the appointment of Ms. Smreti Irani as the HRD Minister can be considered a failed step by the Modi Government, a new era for women in the Armed Forces can be expected with this appointment. What we need to realize is that this appointment can help us achieve the dreams of seeing women in combat roles in the Armed Forces, as Ms. Seetharaman promised in her swearing-in speech. A field that has been dominated by men since the time of our independence will now see a woman at one of the leadership positions.
Those who question Ms. Seetharaman’s ability to hold this office need to rethink their reasons for doing so, since apart from her gender, nothing goes against her that wasn’t faced by her predecessors. No one can guarantee the success or failure of a political leader, yet everyone is given a fair chance to prove themselves just the same. While a retired Army General might sound better qualified for the post, we have never seen one in the past and yet India has a great record as far as the Defence Ministry is concerned.
With the hope for a better future and pride in the empowerment of women in my heart, I hope that Ms. Seetharaman’s term proves to be the most peaceful for the country.