By Namita Singh:
Next year almost 800 million Indians would get the opportunity to cast their vote. This will be largest democratic election in the world till date. We as a nation will decide who should govern us. But do we actually decide? Do we really exercise our Right to Vote? Are we able to use the power that is vested in our vote?
Sadly, the answer for more than 40% Indians would be NO. Lesser number of women than men voted in the last general elections in 2009. It means that an astonishing 8.4 crore women in India did not vote! However, there were 6 states where women set the trend and outnumbered men. It is this trend that we at Haiyya want to further this election. While women’s issues have often been ignored by the politicians, we want to build a movement with women across the country to pledge to vote. In the current climate of the country, it has become more imperative than ever before that women’s issues take centre stage. We believe that women need to come out in huge numbers. Women need to show that they are not mere spectators of the democratic process. They need to affirm their power and they need to send out a strong message to the politicians that their issues cannot be ignored.
To bring the attention to women’s issues, Tata Tea’s JaagoRe initiative launched the Power of 49 campaign. Haiyya has partnered with JaagoRe for the on-ground action. The past 3 weeks Haiyya team worked hard on the field in Delhi to recruit citizens for this campaign. We started work in 4 constituencies of Delhi; Greater Kailash, Mehrauli, Model Town and Patparganj, where more than 60 volunteers joined hands with us.
These volunteers went to colleges, market places and door to door to spread awareness about the Power of 49 campaign, collect issues of women residents, register women to vote and to encourage them to come out and vote on the Election Day. The drive was hugely successful. Our teams in 4 constituencies engaged more than 10,000 people across Delhi in conversations about women’s Right to Vote and encouraged more than 5,000 people to become a part of this campaign.
The team leader in Mehrauli, Ramani, says about her experience, “When you first start talking to women it appears that they are not interested in the issue. But 5 minutes down the line, you see a spark in their eyes; you know they are thinking that they are important too, that their issues are important too, that there should be a difference. You know you have begun to make a change. That is what made my work so satisfying.”
Another team leader from Greater Kailash, Shivaranjini, recalled her experience of engaging men in conversation, “Sometimes men seemed more interested in this campaign and that was such an encouragement. They were passionate about women’s issues and they really wanted to help with the campaign. In fact, one such guy whom I met while street canvassing became one of the most dedicated volunteers we had on our team.”
All the teams had several such inspiring incidents, where men and women, young and old, rich and poor, left enthused and feeling optimistic that they can do their bit to change the situation. A wave has already started, where women recognize that their single vote makes a difference, that if more and more women come out, together they will be a power to be reckoned with.
We need more people to join this campaign and support women’s issues and their Right to Vote. Our work in Delhi continues, with an increased intensity. If you want to support this cause too, please join us. We are looking for people who can inspire their community into action. Follow this link if you would like to work with us in Delhi as a Team Captain or as a Volunteer.