Politics in India is severely male-dominated. No one can doubt that. This is even more evident in the sexist jibes and misogyny that women politicians of India face on a regular basis. That’s why it’s so important to highlight the women who fight prejudice and contest elections in India. Two such women are Lalthlamuani of Mizoram and Jarjum Ete of Arunachal Pradesh, both busy creating history. This is the first time that two women are fighting the parliamentary elections from Northeast India.
One woman taking on five men
Sixty-three-year-old Lalthlamuani is the first woman to contest parliamentary elections in Mizoram. She runs one of the three synagogues in the state and also leads the Chhinlung Israel People Convention, an NGO for Mizo Jews.
“It feels awesome to be the first woman candidate from Mizoram contesting for Lok Sabha,” the grandmother of five told Hindustan Times. “As a woman, I would like to show that even a simple woman can take on male candidates.”
An Independent candidate, Lalthlamuani is fighting against five men in these elections. Part of her agenda as a potential MP is to strengthen India-Israel ties and to work for the upliftment of women in her state. Being a devout Jew, Lalthlamuani believes being involved in politics for the right reasons is one of the best ways to serve your faith.
“Mizo women are yet to gain interest in politics. I believe it is high time women played a significant part in politics with the conviction that it is one of the best ways to serve God. My candidature will put a big challenge before women,” she says.
For a state where women voters outnumber men, it is alarming that it has only had two women ministers in the last 32 years. It has never sent a woman to the Lok Sabha. Lalthlamuani is now hoping to change that.
She isn’t the only woman, however, trying to improve the participation of women in politics in the northeast. Joining her in creating history this year is Jarjum Ete from Arunachal Pradesh.
Fighting political giants
In a first for Arunachal Pradesh, a woman is contesting the Lok Sabha elections. Jarjum Ete, sister of late Chief Minister Jarbom Gamlin, will be taking on political heavyweights like Kiren Rijiju, Minister of State for Home Affairs, and Nabam Tuki, former Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh.
“For young people, for the discerning voters of the state, getting a candidate who delivers good governance has been a challenge,” Jarjum Ete said in an interview to The Wire. “I am basically giving people in the Arunachal West constituency an option to vote for such a candidate.”
A renowned women’s rights activist, Jarjum Ete was earlier with the Congress, but she resigned earlier this year. She is now with HD Deve Gowda’s JD(S).
Like Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh has not had any female representation in the Lok Sabha so far. Also like Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh too has minimal female representation in state politics. Another similarity that the state shares with Mizoram is that there are more women voters on their electoral rolls than men.
“Though we have come a long way in the last 34-35 years in Arunachal in exposing our women to various opportunities, but socially, perhaps we are yet to raise our young girls to aspire to be leaders. This intrinsic habit has not been nurtured,” Jarjum Ete says.
A long way to go
Lalthlamuani and Jarjum Ete make significant points on women in politics. Not many families encourage their daughters to go into politics. Not many families even think of raising daughters to be political leaders. And that shows in the dismal percentage of female candidates in this General Election. According to Reuters, women constitute 12.8 percent of the total candidates fielded by Congress. The statistics for BJP are even worse. Only 11.8 percent of the total candidates from the ruling party are women.
There may be a long, long struggle ahead for women in politics in India. These statistics leave no doubt about that. However, determined women like Lalthlamuani and Jarjum Ete are among the few leading the way.