A UN report noted the increasing participation of women in politics and governance in India and lauded government policies for reserving up to a third of seats for women in local-level administration to promote gender equality and empowerment. However, the UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children report, 2007 also expressed concern on the lower number of women at the national level much lower at 8.3% than neighbors such as China (20.3%), Pakistan (21.3%), and Bangladesh (14.8%).
The report noted that in West Bengal, the villages run by women had achieved twice the investment in drinking water, a higher number of visits by health care workers, and a 13% decrease in gender gap in school attendance. Despite such positive indicators, India continues to have a gender disparity in 80% of all districts with nearly half of the girls being married before the marriageable age of 18, high infant and maternal mortality rates for easily curable conditions.
While reservation of seats in Panchayats is seen as a major success, in many cases, husbands run the village by using their illiterate or passive wives as proxy and are evident in many economically developed states such as Tamil Nadu.