Recently I saw a T.V. ad, a very homely, docile looking wife requests her politician husband to prepare tea. He looks at her with disdain and absolutely aghast, wondering how she could even imagine something so ridiculous. She smiles and says “you may forget me, but try forgetting us, the women who represent 51% of voting population this election”
She is bang on right, as in this Lok Sabha elections, it seems as if women have played a critical part and have outnumbered men in many states when it came to casting of votes. The catalyst may be many, but the brutal gang rape of the medical student which brought the question of safety of women to the forefront, made the entire nation revolt in one voice, really motivated the younger lot to come forward and choose their candidate responsibly – someone who cares to provide the basic right to live, to safety to every women. Pushing the change has come at a very dear cost but it was high time that we did.
This election season, Manipur saw the highest voter turnout while Jharkhand had the lowest. This year, it is one of the major achievements of the Election Commission to shorten the gap between the men and women voting turnout as compared to 2009 Lok Sabha elections. According to a report compiled by the Election Commission, women have outnumbered men in 5 states including Chandigarh, Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Sikkim and Lakshadweep.
Our Constitution has guaranteed us “Right to Equality” as one of the Fundamental Rights which, when it comes to women – has been, in most cases, forgotten, overlooked, surpassed and suppressed. After all these years of Independence, today women are rising to demand their rights of freedom and equality.
Voting gender gap is a serious issue and this year the Election Commission has gone a step ahead to create awareness among the voters, especially those who will be voting for the first time. There have been a series of advertisements and also movies which have taken up the issue and tried in their own way to create awareness among the voters. The ECI has also started a voter educational channel and can be accessed here: https://www.youtube.com/eci. So much so that they have even developed a mobile app called the National Electoral Search. The app helps you find voter information online. Or think about the very informative website launched by ‘Association of Democratic reforms’ – http://myneta.info/. Simply enter your constituency name and you get the entire bio data of all candidates contesting elections from your area – educational background, property details, criminal records etc. All means enabling you make the right choice. Internet has brought an information revolution and it was high time that the biggest democracy in the world started using it for its own electorate.
Recently, I went to watch the movie ‘Bhoothnath returns’ and I was surprised to find that the entire theme of the movie was based on the importance of casting of votes and also casting of votes responsibly. The movie depicts a mass movement where common civilians started to turn deaf ears to everyone who doesn’t have a voter ID card and hence doesn’t exercise their voting right – it showed formation of a social norm which persuaded people to go and cast a vote. Bollywood has always played a vital role in influencing people, be it style or be it mood or be it social issues. It mirrors the current social & political reality of the society and also sometimes acts as a big catalyst in shaping it up. This time and rightly so, it has taken up the role of actively raising awareness among people, on the importance of choosing their leader responsibly.
The Political parties have also developed their strategies to woo the women voters. They have promised women a zillion things in their manifestoes. From setting up of more schools for girls, to earmarking more funds for the “development of women and children,” and also working towards securing land rights for widows and women whose husbands have migrated to find work in cities.
It is ultimately we who decide. Everyone, especially young women should pause, think and then decide who represents them in these election. A minister is not the ruler of a country, we, the common people are. We should take the ownership of running the country. It is as important as running our families, our businesses and our finances. The day we collectively have the realization that, the entire political & government machinery is dependent on us and not otherwise, that day we will take the first successful step towards taking our country to a better future. We will truly make the government ‘of the people, by the people & for the people’. We will win. India will win. We will truly be free. Women will be free. Our mothers, sisters, daughters will be free. I want to end by a quote by Jane Addams (1860-1935), Mother of social work and Nobel Peace Prize Winner, 1931
“I do not believe that women are better than men. We have not wrecked railroads, nor corrupted legislature, nor done many unholy things that men have done; but then we must remember that we have not had the chance.”