votes of dependency

“Voting has become an empowering act for women. It gives women the feeling that they are independent to do what they want.” The words came from Smita Gupta, deputy editor at The Hindu, right after the five state elections in India 2012. The five states were Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Uttarakhand and Goa, and all of them had one thing in common: more women than men had gone to the ballot boxes across all the states. The biggest difference was seen in Goa with 85.97 percent women voting in comparison to 79.67 percent men. As I have mentioned earlier, Goa is on top when it comes to literacy rates and standard of living compared to rest of India. No one was therefore very surprised that they took the lead in voting. I read the statistics some months ago and concluded that “oh, education must be the answer”. Five months later I am not so sure about that any longer.

The political parties in Goa are very effective in the work of setting up self-help groups for women. This might sound creditable and according to the politicians themselves it is an act of empowering the women. Unfortunately, that is not the whole truth. For the time being I am in Goa seeking an answer to the high voting ratio and it seems as if I there is a tragic connection between voting behavior and self-help groups. Self-help groups are not formed for empowerment – they are formed as vote banks. By promises a vote is easily bought by the politicians from the most vulnerable people in society – the poor women. After the elections (when they have brought the whole family to vote for the candidate) they are all left with unfulfilled promises. Voting should therefore not only be seen as a sign of independence, it might instead be a proof for dependency.

votes of dependency 2

Nevertheless, political parties that are exploiting women in an effort to get their votes should not make us critical to self-help groups in general. Last week I was in Karnataka visiting a village on the countryside of Gulbarga. The self-help groups were set up by an NGO some years ago but they had now stopped coming out to the village since the groups were considered to be self-managing. All work was done by the village women, without any vested interests from outside. That is probably the only way to go if we want to make Smita Guptas words about voting real and give women: “…the feeling that they are independent to do what they want.”

Share your thoughts

4 Responses

  1. I enjoyed reading your findings and hearing more. It’s frustrating when “development” is just for show and isn’t really benefiting the lives of girls and women. In India, I’ve often experienced situations just like what you are describing in your post. On paper it make look like there is gender inclusion but in reality there isn’t. I agree that even just one woman can inspire others!

  2. There are quite a few women on the local level who’s involved in politics thanks to the 73rd and 74th amendment to the Indian constitution which grants 30 % reserved seats for women. On higher levels there are however almost exclusively wives to male politicians who are involved and they are therefore often seen just as rubberstamps… But slowly, there is a change taking place. Sometimes just one women is needed for inspiration to many more.

  3. Very interesting! India is a fascinating place and i have seen several successful and not successful empowerment groups. I’m excited to hear more about your findings as well. Good questions, Julia. We need to give a voice to women. It is also frustrating to see how much corruption still exists in politics in so many developing countries.

  4. This is so interesting! It is so easy to just look at the surface and believe that people are empowered. It is studies like the one you are doing that actually gives awareness. What about political participation? Are there many women who are actually involved in politics themselves, and does that have any effect on the empowerment of other women?
    Thanks for sharing! I look forward to reading more about your findings about the high rates of women’s participation in elections in Goa.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Coming Soon!

Subscribe and be the first to
know when we launch.

The content on Girls’ Globe is created by our members – activists, advocates and experts on gender equality, human rights and social justice from around the world.