Jitendra Kumar Jha/Republica Women from Sakarapur village, Saptari participate in a discussion program in this recent picture.
SAPTARI, April 4: Sanju Yadav of Rajbiraj - 8, is one of the few educated women in Saptari district. She keeps track of current affairs. Despite her interest in current affairs, she is not aware about the provisions that the constitution has made for securing representation of women in local level bodies. “Earlier we were not sure if the elections would be held. Now it feels that they will be held. However, I was not aware of the provisions that the constitution has made for increasing women’s participation in the elections,” she said.
The electoral law has ensured 50 percent candidacy of women at the local level executive bodies. Either the president or vice president candidate of Ward Office should be a woman. Similarly, of the remaining four members, two should be women of which one should be from the Dalit community. Yadav said, she was not aware about it.
“Let alone the details, I was not sure what percent of candidacy are reserved for women. It sounds really great. Maybe because of ignorance, women here are not that excited,” she said.
“Even if they are aware, there are only few women around here that are empowered to field their candidacy. Without the support of their family members or say without being forced by their family to run for elections, we may not be able to have the required numbers of women candidates,” Yadav further said.
She accused the government of not communicating the provision as it should have and also blamed political parties of not training their cadres about women’s mandatory participation in the elections. “When it was so, why has the government not shown interest to publicize it? At least political parties should have publicized it well so that women and men at the local level could understand the matter well,” she noted.
Sunita Sah, leader of Sanghiya Samajwadi Forum stated that the recent Tilathi incident where five persons lost lives, has affected polls preparations in the district. Because of the incident political parties have been campaigning discreetly, she informed. “People know very less about the election laws and details here because political parties have not been able to launch election campaigns in full swing here. Because of the deaths, the district has not been able to open itself for the polls campaign fully,” Sah said.
Apart from that, Sah shared that election campaigning would be launched massively as soon as the government and the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) reach understanding and reconcile their differences. “Right now, the relationship between them is not cordial. Once they reach an understanding and resolve all contentions between them, political parties will reach out to women, door to door, and call for their active participation,” she added.
According to retired professor Meena Thakur, stressed on educating and promoting women through election campaigns. Until and unless, women are educated about the election process, meaningful participation of women is not possible, she notes.
“Political parties only think about winning elections. Their election campaigns are focused on that objective only. But for good participation of women, women-centric campaigns are a must,” she said. “Women must understand the value of their choice, of their vote,” she added.
Fifty percent of reservation for women candidates is a welcome move. However, in lack of women’s independent approach towards elections, we cannot take pride over the matter, she opined. “When women are aware of their options and make an informed choice, it makes sense. They can discuss their choices with family members, which in itself is good. But if they are casting their votes without realizing the value of their vote, that’s not meaningful,” she remarked, while adding that most of the women in our society cast their vote to candidates decided by their male family members.
Liliya Khanga of Sakarapura village does not deny it. She admitted that she is going to vote for candidates recommended by her husband. “It depends on him. Whoever he names, I am going to give my vote to them,” she said. “Even in the earlier elections, I voted the same way. My husband decides it,” she added.
Her neighbor Shova Mukhiya’s case is no different. She has also never voted without the consent of her husband. “He takes the decision. He tells us which election symbol is ours to vote,” said Mukhiya.
Gunjan Jha of Tilathi - 7, a B.ED student does not take it otherwise. She is also looking forward to vote for the candidates that her family members support. “Our father takes the decision,” she said.
For women rights activists Thakur, this is a discouraging sign. She feels that such blind submission affects women’s leadership and empowerment. “Women themselves are quite submissive. On the other hand, political parties also do not try to bring them to the fore,” she noted.
For the local election scheduled for May14, a total of 33,965 voters have been registered so far in the district. Among these, 17,374 are women.