An all-women party, her mite to nation
Dr Shweta Shetty, founder of National Women’s Party talks about the idea of the first all-women’s political party, the journey so far, and the challenges ahead
She is a general physician with a successful practice, a mother of two kids, the younger one as old as just 3 years, family responsibilities, career goals – in short a life much similar to many other aspirational women; and like many she too harbours a parallel dream; a dream that became the foundation for India's first all-woman party that she registered in 2015.
42-year-old Dr Shweta Shetty, a successful physician chose to leave her career behind and launched the National Women's Party in December 2018.
"Indian political parties do not care for women. There are no women in policy making. After much pleading a few seats are given away to women, that too in constituencies where there is no chance for the party to win.
And when the women candidate loses, the failure is attributed to gender. No wonder, none of the parties think of women welfare in their manifestoes. And then they claim to empower women during their election speeches, which are nothing but empty promises.
For a long time, I have harboured this desire to start the party. I registered the party but could not work actively because I was pregnant.
However, this time around, l was worried that we are losing out on valuable time. We launched the party a few months ago, and began to support women candidates, from our party and also other parties. Our aim is to promote women in politics," shares Dr Shweta.
Originally from Kodangal in Vikarabad district, Shweta and her sister grew up in Shadnagar and received good education, thanks to their father, who believed in schooling of girls.
The family shifted to Hyderabad, and she began to study medicine at Deccan College. It is the discrimination of women and the denial of equal rights in every field that has bothered the doctor, who realised it is important to be the part of the system to change it.
Commenting on the almost non-existent women members in the State assembles of AP and Telangana, she mentions, "In Telangana even the women and child welfare department is being handled by a man. And, the situation is not much different in any state or party."
"It is important for women to be educated and there needs to be equal opportunity to study; women's safety continues to be a major issue with violence on women rising at an alarming pace, even with laws like Nirbhaya.
Despite strong laws being in place, none of them are implemented properly. How can all this change without women in the government," she asks.
She believes that it is only women in leadership roles that can bring positive change for women. And NWP is the step in the direction of the change.
"This time, our members are contesting from 283 constituencies. We are trying to campaign as much as possible. I have travelled across south India and a few states of north India.
We have been receiving tremendous response where ever we travelled to. Many women candidates from other states heard of us and invited us to support them.
One of the many challenges that women candidates face is the money they need for campaigning.
We support them wherever possible; we are also approaching some like-minded people to fund the campaign. We have mostly depended on social media for lack of time," she relates.
"Once the elections are over, we hope to reach out to people at the grassroot level, understand their issues and try and find solutions for them.
We will also be working on giving support to women in need of safety or counselling. We will connect with people and make them understand the objective of NWP," Dr Shweta adds.
There are many hurdles on the way. However, with conviction and a zeal to work hard and make a difference, Dr Shweta and her team are moving ahead. "By next election, I believe NWP will become a strong contender," she says.
"It has been proved time and again that where ever women are in lead roles there has been more development and less corruption.
And the amount of appreciation and encouragement we receive where ever we go keeps us inspired, " states Dr Shweta Shetty, who is currently in New Delhi meeting the women candidates of the party contesting for the elections.