As Goa gears up for the 2022 Assembly elections, efforts to woo the women voters in the state have already begun. The three contesting parties -- Congress, Trinamool Congress (TMC) and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) -- have come up with various schemes for women that they will implement if voted to power.
On her recent visit to Goa on 10 December, Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra promised 30% reservation in jobs for women. Her carefully crafted one-day visit involved interactions with women in different parts of the state. She addressed a women's convention at Costa Ground, interacted with Mahila Congress workers, and tribal women in the state.
Soon after Congress' announcement, the TMC came up with the 'Griha Laxmi Card' cash assistance scheme, which promises Rs 5,000 per month to each woman in every household as guaranteed income support.
Earlier, AAP made a similar offer, announcing that it will give Rs 1,000 per month to all adult women in the state.
In this story we will explore:
What role do women voters play in Goa's election arithmetic?
Key issues that the women in the state face, and how far can doles such as reservation or cash assistance schemes go in helping Goan women.
The Election Math
Goa is one of the 13 states and union territories in India where women voters outnumber men. As of 2019, Goa had around 4.4 lakh women voters and whereas 4.1 lakh voters in the state were men.
"Political parties are increasingly realising the importance of women electorate and this isn't just specific to Goa," said Sanjay Kumar, psephologist, and former director of Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS).
"Earlier, women turnout in elections used to be less as compared to men which meant that a large number of women never came out to vote on polling day. There is a big change now and women are coming out to vote. With more education and social media penetration, women are taking their own voting decisions. In fact, in states such as Goa, Manipur, Meghalaya, Kerala, and Arunachal Pradesh, women turnout is more than men."Sanjay Kumar, Psephologist
He further added that while more women are coming out to vote, the number of women who contest state or local body polls is still abysmally low.
For example, in the 2017 Goa assembly elections, less than 7% of the candidates were women. Out of 251 candidates who were contesting across the 40 constituencies across the state, only 17 were women.
As per findings of a survey of women voters across the country, conducted by the CSDS in 2019, at least 58% women would like to vote for a woman candidate rather than a male candidate contesting from the same constituency.
Doles as 'Patchwork'
The Quint spoke to several women journalists and activists based out of Goa who believe that the announcement of doles targeted at women voters ahead of elections is a mere patchwork to hide years of incompetence.
"Parties ought to address the fundamentals such as healthcare, education, transportation, employment, and price rise. Everything else is just patchwork, and patchwork coming from governments in power and those aspiring to be in power is a cop out, isn't it?" said independent journalist Pamela D'Mello.
D'Mello lives in Goa, and regularly writes for publications such as Scroll, Economic and Political Weekly, and The Caravan.
She further added that women from different socio-economic backgrounds are facing different type of issues in Goa and universal schemes such as promising job reservations or cash assistance cannot solve those issues.
Another senior journalist, on condition of anonymity, who has reported on gender and politics for around 15 years, said that it has become a trend in Goa to give cash assistance to women.
"Most of these politicians think that this is an easy way to win votes. They know that there is a lot of unemployment which means that there is a lot of pressure on women to run the household without much money in hand, and so they offer such schemes," she said.
The Real Issues
Several women rights' activists pointed out that schemes which are being offered now are old wine in a new bottle.
"Cash assistance schemes in Goa have been in place before but they never reach the beneficiaries on time," said Sabina Martins from Bailancho Saad, a women's collective which actively works across Goa.
"We've been raising several issues which are troubling Goan women such as domestic violence, active and passive victims of gambling, alcoholism, and drug addiction. None of these issues are being discussed."Sabina Martins, Women Rights Activist
She further added that probe in cases involving crimes against women is slow and there are several procedural delays. "We've been campaigning for appointment of independent protection officers in cases of domestic violence for several years now. The protection officers right now are Block Development Officers (BDOs) who have no time for these cases," she said.
D'Mello echoed a similar sentiment. "Political parties frame issues in a way they deem fit," she said. "Women from different economic and social background face different issues. Depending on where they come from they are impacted by price rise, unemployment or poor state of public transport in Goa. These issues, however, are hardly spoken about or discussed at length by political parties."
(This piece has been updated.)