April 01, 2012

Women councillors of Chennai and their men

You call your local Ward councillor on the phone. A male voice answers. The man refuses to hand over the phone to his wife, the councillor.

"You can talk to me, its alright," he insists.

You take the call.

So why do parties choose to select the wives of local area politicians when it comes to giving tickets and respecting the reservation policy for women in our local bodies like our Corporation Council?

Is the situation so bad that these parties do not have women who have taken part in rallies and agitations or addressed local issues, women who could better qualify for this job?

I was looking for answers at a discussion held at the American Center last fortnight. The United States celebrates Women's History Month each March and among the events was this discussion on 'Women and Politics'.

The panel included former state minister in the DMK, Dr. Poongothai Aladi Aruna, Bader Sayeed, senior advocate and former AIADMK MLA, Lalitha Kumaramangalam, senior member of the BJP and Dr. Wendy Singer, Fulbright Nehru senior researcher.

It was a refreshing experience because all the women were, outspoken, warm and had some character.

This was a 'limited' public event and hence the candid nature of their conversation - they could not have said many things in a public space, much less in their own political space.

The discussion touched on how being in political families helped an aspirant, how party cadres treated and respected women in their midst, what it took to be in and survive electoral politics and how women leaders and colleagues treated each other.

For someone who has followed grassroot politics and electoral systems closely since the time we started our neighbourhood newspapers, much of what was said was not new.

But when I did ask the question that is at the top of this column, there were a few unconvincing replies from the panel.

"Perhaps parties think wives of their local leaders are winnable."

"These women will also be party members, so there is no harm selecting them."

"It's a start, at least a woman has found a space, she will do better as she learns down the line."

Some women ward councillors have got down to business with experience. Some have turned corrupt. Others have remained mum or played puppets.

If the ward community can work alongside, if the women are given skills training, then our neighbourhoods would stand to gain.

1 comment:

V Shankar said...

This is typical of our attitude generalizing things and always finding fault. Why can’t the name of that councilor be mentioned in this article or this article be written in Tamil so that common man can read. Most of our councilors are doing their best, answer phones directly (not their husband), and also return their phone calls. I have called our councilor at 126 several times and she always answered. Mr. Sakthi, Chairman of Zones is always accessible on phone or he will return phone calls. This is my personal experience.
I also wonder why MT should be attending such high profile meetings and writing about it as a show off while it’s not even contributing to cover basic events involving garbage mess in our neighborhood. For example, in the simple town hall type meeting organized by Ramky, in association with the Kalyana Nagar Association on March 24, which was ignored by MT, our local councilor Tmt. Vijayalakshmi brought along another councilor and could be seen taking notes. This simple low profile meeting was attended by our Worshipful Mayor, Chairman of Zones, and various Corporation officials.
These are the events MT should focus which would serve some purpose as other councilors would like to create such awareness in their area by reading this.
Our Mayor and Councillors are doing their best in clearing our garbage mess which is not an easy job. We need to encourage Ramky and organize such meetings so that people understand their responsibilities in keeping the city clean instead of always finding fault while urinating and spiting in public places, and throwing garbage as if it’s their right.
MT which claims to be a community newspaper should focus on such issues and contribute.....