They are optimistic that their message will reach every male-dominated political party.

news Kerala Polls 2016 Tuesday, April 26, 2016 - 09:47

The message is loud and clear from this women’s group in Kerala - “If you treat us as mere vote banks by not giving us more women candidates, our vote goes to NOTA!”

For Women Integration N Growth Through Sports (WINGS), a women’s organization working towards self-development of women through sports with 500 members just in Thrissur, Kerala polls 2016 have thrown up the opportunity for a new campaign – they don’t want politicians to take women for granted, they want equal political representation.

Though the aim of the organization is to bring out the dormant skills of women, especially housewives, and bring them to the public domain by empowering them through sports, the organization has started this novel protest in the state.

Fed up of societal pressures that kept them within the confines of their homes for years, they see women representation in the legislature as means to implement the long pending measures for women’s development.

“We were shocked to learn that very few women candidates received party tickets to contest elections this time. This is unacceptable, considering the population of women in the state and women members in every political party,” says Shobha K, President of WINGS.

Upset with the turn of events, the organization has decided to support women candidates across constituencies, irrespective of which political party they belong to. In the constituencies where there are no women candidates, the group has decided to punch in NOTA.

Poster declaring to vote for NOTA in the absence of women candidates/ WINGS, Facebook

“We have no political affiliations. Our concern is that very few women candidates are fielded by parties, even though there are plenty of women who have the potential to contest, win and work for the people,” says Sunitha PG, secretary of WINGS. “If we don’t raise our voices now, there will come a day when no party would be willing to field a woman candidate,” she adds.

The intention of this protest is to exert pressure to ensure that at least in the next elections, the number of women candidates is not restricted to a handful. The organization is determined to make their voice heard and has started campaigns on social media, by urging women to vote NOTA in constituencies that has no women candidates. Notices and pamphlets would be distributed to reach out to women outside of their organization and the group would accompany women candidates for campaigning.

From being housewives to forming an organization in which they play volleyball every evening and compete in volleyball tournaments across the state, the women of the organization have found their voices. “There were initial restraints from our families when we began this organization, but eventually, they began to support us. What we gathered from that is that until and unless we voice our needs, we would not get them. And all it takes is that one step, rest will follow,” said Susheela, who is the coach of the volleyball team.

Proper implementation of laws meant to protect women, safety in public places, an environment free of social stigma when reporting on sexual crimes are some of the demands that the organization expects from their women leaders. “Women are not able to go out post 8 in the evening in this city. This situation must change, and it will change only when women, as a collective, come forward to break the system,” Sunitha says.

Shobha (President), Sunitha (Secretary) of WINGS

Everything needs a beginning, Shobha says, and adds, “If our basic demands aren’t fulfilled by the women candidates who get elected, there is no looking back- WINGS will contest in the next election. We’ll bring our women to the forefront.”

With the women candidates of different political parties extending their support to the group, WINGS is optimistic that their message will reach every male-dominated political party.

 

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