By Shaili Chopra
Women will be an important vote bank and voice in the current election season all the way to May 2019.
We are 600 million women in India, that’s 9 percent of the global population. We aren’t just people, we are a force. When you look at those who are entering the voting population, you realize how important women can be to any election, national or state level.
here’s also a shift in the way women perceive themselves. They are more aware of their rights and want to exercise their right to vote and they certainly want attention to their specific demands from safety to jobs. What else could be a better way to make this point than get out and vote in big numbers?
Let’s look at some of the numbers by breaking them down further:
As many as 133 million young adults will get to cast their vote in 2019 of which 63 million will be young women. Of these new voters, 73 percent live in India’s villages.
That women matter is no longer the debate. The question is what they want and what political parties are offering. Rates of participation among women in 1962 were 46.63 percent for Lok Sabha elections and rose to a high in 1984 at 58.60 percent. Male turnout during that same period was 63.31 percent in 1962 and 68.18 percent in 1984.
For the first time, in Madhya Pradesh, the government produced a separate manifesto for women. Its highlights include:
2. Improved healthcare
3. Better women’s access to education
4. Opportunities for better jobs
In Chhattisgarh, BJP talked of loans up to 200,000 rupees for women planning to establish any business and 500,000 rupee loans to women’s collectives working as self-help groups. In 2017, some states like Goa, Manipur, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh also saw political parties offer doles to women voters like, pressure cookers, pension and bicycles.
Not only are political parties thinking of ways to attract women to vote for them, there is a general encouragement by authorities to get more women to get out and vote.
The Election Commission set up Sangwari, a special booth for women to vote, has increased the female voter turnout. In Chhattisgarh’s local dialect, ‘Sangwari’ means friend or dost. These booths had all-female staff including presiding officers, supervisors and security personnel. According to a report, nearly half the voters in Chhattisgarh are women. (Of the 18.5 million voters, more than 920,000 are females.)
Such women-friendly booths will be set up in Madhya Pradesh, Astrakhan, Mizoram, and Telangana as well.
A report titled SAMVAD published in 2016 shows that a significant jump in female participation in 2014 in Delhi, Goa, Jharkhand and others — a jump of 22 percent over the female voter turnout in 2009.
The report says the 1962 Lok Sabha election saw a gap of 16.7 percent between the male and female voters. This was reduced to 4.4 percent in the election of 2009 and further narrowed down in 2014.
Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state of India, saw a higher women turnout than men during the last state assembly election which took place in 2012.
Although the voter turnout has been almost steady (in the range of 50 to 60 percent) in the past 50 years or so in the national elections, it is the state assembly elections which have witnessed an enhanced female participation and there have been instances when the women have outnumbered the men.
Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state of India, saw a higher women turnout than men during the last state assembly election which took place in 2012. The women outnumbered the men 60.29 percent to 58.82 percent.
Whether it’s one political party or the other, in the elections from 2018 through 2019, women will be an important conversation. What’s a good sign is how in the last four-five years women have not only come out to vote and seek their right but also be more visible in political positions.
(Shaili Chopra is an Indian business journalist, author and entrepreneur. She is the founder of SheThePeople.TV, a platform to empower women with stories of role models and inspire them with a changing conversation on women and what matters to them. This analysis appeared in shethepeople.com on November 27, 2018.)