Safety is the biggest concern of Punjab’s women voters.
Cutting across generations and professions, 80 women, many of them first-time voters, who gathered at Government College for Girls here at the HT Conclave on ‘What Women Voters Want’, on a sunny Friday afternoon , spoke in one voice on safety and dignity being their prime concern as voters.
“I’ve gone through the manifestoes of all major parties but don’t find women’s issues a priority in any. We want to feel safe at home, on the road, at school and at our workplaces,” says Mona Singh, principal of Guru Nanak Public School, Sarabha Nagar, Ludhiana. Looking at the “super-excited” rows of students seated behind her, she says, “These youngsters seem to know their mind. All they need is a role model.”
Local yoga instructor Shivani Bajwa senses the restlessness among the students and says, “We know the problems but we want solutions. Today’s generation wants to know which door to knock to enter politics.”
BACK TO BASICS
But there are some who want to ensure the basics. “I want women safe at home. They have the right to walk on the road with their head held high. I want to be heard and not dismissed. Men should be taught to talk clean,” says Deepika Dhir, a sports commentator, singer and alumni.
Manjula Jain, an alumna and educationist, wanted to know why the onus of safety should be on the woman alone. “We are unsafe because of the medieval male mindset. I wanted to join politics but stepped back because politics here is only about toeing the line. Independent thinking is not encouraged.”
Anu Sood, a tarot card reader, has a simple solution. “If a man doesn’t back a woman’s dream, change him not the dream.”
Ruchi Bawa, who runs a dance academy and was elected general secretary of the town’s Sutlej Club, says, “Men should stop imposing their choices on women. I went through a lot to reach here in this male sovereign society. Once in the chair, they try to find ways to fail me even targeting my family.”
Aditi Sharma of the department of law at Panjab University regional centre believes that this is a global phenomenon and adds that even the US failed to elect a woman president this time.
Political scientist Kanwalpreet Kaur says politics needs networking and most women are unable to do it as family is their priority. “Marrying into a political family is perhaps the easiest way a woman can enter Punjab politics,” she says.
“Gender sensitisation should be made a must in formal education. Our legislators too need to undergo it,” says Dr Jatinder Gulati of the department of human development at Punjab Agricultural University.
Aurat toh aadmi se do kadam aage hai (A woman is always a step ahead). It doesn’t matter in which field a woman is, she should be bold enough to raise her voice
Narinder Sandhu, a former principal of Ramgarhia Girls College, Ludhiana
Criminalisation of politics is why women shy away. It is the last resort of the scoundrels, at least till the profile of a politician changes
Apinder Sodhi, a management professional
The time has come for ordinary women to join politics. Otherwise even 50% reservation won’t help.
Satbir Kaur, an associate professor at GCG, Ludhiana
Women are vulnerable to character assassination and avoid entering politics. Men also have a problem accepting a woman as their leader
Meera Nagpal, history professor at Panjab University’s regional centre in Ludhiana
The use of debased language against women by male politicians in a land where the woman is venerated is a shocking recent phenomenon and must be checked.
Sushil Verma, retired principal of SD College, Ludhiana
Women’s empowerment in politics begins with her casting her vote independently. Every woman should vote.
Mohinder Kaur Grewal, principal, GCG
Before choosing who to vote for, find out how the candidate treats the women in his family. Is he progressive?
Manjit Sodhia, former principal GCG
In a leader, look for how he sums up the needs of every section of society. He should not be just lusting after power.
Himanshi Jain, a second-year BA student
Say no to any candidate who has a criminal background or is not educated.
Harsimrat Chawla, BSc third year student and head girl of GCG, Ludhiana
Every family has its favourite party. It’s my life, my rules, so I’ll vote my way.
Japneet Kaur, BA first year
We may have modernised outwardly but many are still puppets in the hands of men. Education is the only way forward
Sabeeha, BA final year student from Malerkotla