Penn and Politics: Society will be happy only when women are, says LDF’s U Prathibha Hari

Prathibha was Alapuzha District Panchayat President during 2010-2015 and the president of Thakazhy Grama Panchayat during 2005-2010.
U Prathibha Hari
U Prathibha Hari
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Penn and Politics is a series where we bring you the voices of aspiring women political leaders and politicians contesting in the 2021 Assembly elections, in a move towards better representation of women in politics.

In 2016, advocate and CPI(M) member U Prathibha Hari created history in the Kayamkulam constituency by winning by more than 11,800 votes in the Assembly elections. This was, in fact, the highest majority any candidate from any front got in that constituency ever.

Prathibha was the Alapuzha District Panchayat President during 2010-2015, and the president of Thakazhy Grama Panchayat during 2005-2010. She is quite popular among the people at the grassroots as she worked as panchayat president. This time, too, she is contesting as the Left Democratic Front (LDF) candidate from Kayamkulam.

U Prathibha Hari will be contesting against 26-year-old Aritha Babu, the youngest candidate of the Congress party. Aritha, too, was elected to the Alappuzha District Panchayat, in the 2015 local body elections, when she was just 21. Prathibha, however, is confident that her people-friendly approach and her focus on the development of women and children in the last five years will help her retain the seat. She spoke to TNM during her campaign.

Why do you want to contest? And why should people vote for you?

I was one among the people, and was always with them, and understood their pain. Even in a crowd, if somebody is upset, I would approach them and enquire about them. In the last five years, changes have been visible here. A lot of basic development has been brought. This time, there were no media reports about bad roads or bridges, because we did that well. I have also tried to ensure the welfare of women.

What is your biggest contribution to the welfare of people, so far?

I was able to provide funds from the Chief Minister's Disaster Relief Fund to many in Kayamkulam. The highest amount of CMDRF was distributed in this constituency. I was also able to create women-friendly spaces in public places, including police stations, which could be used by breastfeeding women to freshen up. Above all, I was very proud to present a Private Member’s Bill for the welfare of widows in the Assembly. That is my dream project.

If you win, as an MLA, what laws do you plan to bring in or change?

I would like to advocate for the change of certain norms. For example, if one person got Rs 75,000 from the government five years ago to construct a house, he may not get further financial assistance. He won’t be able to complete building the house if he has faced other tragedies, or due to an increase in the cost of construction due to the passage of time. During the LDF government’s tenure, 36,000 people in Kerala, who had to stop their house construction years ago, were able to restart and complete it after receiving further assistance from the state government.

Similarly, people who are in the Above Poverty Line Category don't receive any help even though they face a severe financial crisis. Our government distributed food kits irrespective of these categories. More such changes should come.

Why do you think women MLAs are important for the state?

This is not to be discussed only during elections. Let the Parliament pass the bill for 33% reservation for women, then I am sure that Kerala will make it 50%. Being a woman, I was able to understand the pain of people with more empathy. I am a common woman who gets emotional easily. So, I know my people and their situations. I also focus more on women and children’s issues. I believe that only if women are happy can society remain happy.

What are the top issues in your constituency that will be your priority if you win?

I have a dream project for the rehabilitation of underprivileged widows in my constituency, including their mental, physical and economic upliftment. Children who live with struggling mothers will also suffer, so women have to be strengthened. I wanted to work on drugs and alcohol addiction among youth because these issues also bring tears to a mother’s eyes.

I also want to aim for the beautification and maintenance of water bodies here and prevent waterlogging.

What is your pitch as a candidate, beyond your party?

I am a woman and child development-oriented person and give a special focus on that. I also uphold the principles of the party too. Apart from the infrastructure development, I also concentrate at the grassroots level. Representing the CPI(M) party, I worked as a panchayat president and that's how I got to know so many people and learn of their problems. As the party says, the people and I are equal, we all are the same.

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