As Rajasthan goes into elections, SheThePeople puts the spotlight on Women and the Vote. Shaili Chopra travelled to Matoon a small village off Udaipur to know more about what women wanted from these elections.

It was an hour-long bus ride and nearly half of it was rickety. We entered a dusty village, with patchy land holdings, a stream as their part source of water, mostly pucca housing and toilets and schools. 2000 people live here. There are about 200 households. Most women keep their heads down and covered. Am told they won’t even sit on a chair when men are around.

Key Takeaways:

  • The lady sarpanch of Matoon village feels there has been a shift in focus on the election issues.
  • Women in the village feel more needs to be done keeping them in mind and not club them with common issues.
  • Many popular schemes in the state had turned sluggish in the past one year. And now that elections are coming up they have picked up pace, again.

Even as the village deals with its patriarchal traditions there are more than a few good things. The sarpanch was a lady and she was proud of the village. She has had the school maidan partially tiled, something she said was important to strengthen the structure. She spoke to me about elections ahead. “Matadaan ke main issues mein badlav hai,” saying that there was a shift in election issues for this village. “Shauchalya ban gaye hai,” she said that enough toilets were built and working. Although I didn’t check on the number of toilets, I used a random women’s toilet and it was very clean. She was expecting more homes to turn pucca as the government schemes were helping in turning soft mud huts into proper homes.

women vote rajasthan village
Pictures By pictures by SheThePeople

She was expecting more homes to turn pucca as the government schemes were helping in turning soft mud huts into proper homes.

Village To Village

I also met a lady from Tonk on this trip. Her insights were little different. She said while the issues for women were not different from those for men – like sanitation, education, and jobs, she felt more needs to be done keeping women in mind and not club them with common issues. Ranji Chopda travels for work trainings now and then and she earns from being a rural sales agent for non-stick pans and other products. Commissions on sales are her income. “Jab projects hote hain then I get more aamdani.” She asked why women’s jobs wasn’t a specific issue. It was clear to me she was digitally savvy and wanted to find more means to earn. We took a selfie because she insisted Chopra and Chopdas were from the same community. I don’t know if we are but it was great to take a selfie with an empowered girl on a mission. She also took these pictures because they acted as proof of who she met and what she did for her folks back home, a few hundred kilometres.

While the issues for women were not different from those for men – like sanitation, education, and jobs, she felt more needs to be done keeping women in mind and not club them with common issues.

There are many popular schemes in Rajasthan but ask any voter and they will tell you many schemes had turned sluggish in the past one year. And now that elections were coming up again the schemes had suddenly started. My driver for the day was a man from Eklingi and he was happy benefiting from a scheme to educate young girls where the government was paying a 1000 rupees for fees per month. He said this encouraged parents to put the children to school.

Women Rajasthan Upcoming Elections
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In many states, there is a conditional cash transfer scheme for the girl child to ensure survival of the girl child and assuring a better life for her. The direct and tangible objective of the scheme is to provide a set of financial incentives for families to encourage them to retain a girl child, educate her and prevent child marriage.

In Matoon too we saw a poster:

2500 reward for birth of a child
2500 for her first birthday
4000 when she moves to a school
6000 when she crosses Class 7

And so on. These schemes vary in cash component depending on whether have insurance or not.

From Chawandiya, I met Indira who is a chef and runs a food business. She says the rather popular Virida scheme for pension (where people under 50 years get 500 rupees per month and those older get 750), the scheme had slowed down. She said in principle a great scheme last one year there were hiccups in money dissemination in her village.

With her daughter Ayushi, the two women run the household. Her daughter is a postgraduate and finished her MCom. It didn’t start like this. Indira learnt how to use a smartphone and the Internet and trained other women on behalf of tech companies and non-profits working in this sector. She is empowered and what she wants is more work so she can put her skills to use.

Indira learnt how to use a smartphone and the Internet and trained other women on behalf of tech companies and non-profits working in this sector. She is empowered and what she wants is more work so she can put her skills to use.

For all the women I met they wanted more work. They had a fire in the belly now that they had the skills. Going forward, as more women head to the polling stations, leaders would need to start addressing their specific needs and looking at them as a constituency that needs more than basic schemes. We have 200 million plus women between 18-35 and that group is impatient for jobs, mobility and opportunity.

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