Mere lip service to empower women is not going to hold water until followed by concrete actions, and this approach has received a major boost during the ongoing Lok Sabha elections with the setting up of polling booths entirely managed by an all-women electoral team.
‘Sakhi Matdan Kendra’, an initiative by the Election Commission of India to encourage more women voter turnout at polling stations to exercise their franchise, have been endorsed by many states including Maharashtra and Rajasthan.
Around 300 such polling booths were set up across all 288 Assembly segments in Maharashtra, while Rajasthan will have 262 all-women polling stations, according to poll officials.
The initiative has received appreciation from all quarters. The Jalna Road polling booth in Aurangabad, Maharashtra, on Tuesday saw as many as 10 electoral workers — all women — managing the voting process smoothly right from identifying the voter slips to handling the electronic voting machine.
In a first, the Election Commission has also decided to distribute sanitary pads to every woman coming to vote at the all-women polling centres.
The data on participation of women electors in polls is showing an increasingly narrowing down of the gender gap in voter turnout. Underscoring the importance of women voters in Indian elections, the 2014 Lok Sabha elections witnessed male voter turnout of 67.09 percent while female voter turnout was at 65.30 percent at all India level, which is marginally lower by just 1.79 percentage points.
Also, the Election Commission has found that women constituted more than half the increase in the number of voters, with 4.35 crore registrations before the 2019 parliamentary elections.
Therefore, it is high time that political parties take a note of the voter turnout trends and ensure that women are adequately represented in parliament to help India move towards a new direction.