The vote of women is crucial

by Zanita Careem
This Christmas season takes on a special significance as it gets interwined with the general elections of December 5.

Christmas festivities will go on as usual despite the majority of women voters being disillusioned with the high cost of living.

To make matters worse the present govt. has also failed to deliver on the economic front with the trickle down effect heaping burdens on the housewife by way of high cost of living. Prices of essential consumer goods are soaring sky high and this December 5 election may well be a ‘kitchen revolt’.

Across the spectrum of the women’s world in Sri Lanka the majority are smarting under the abject neglect of women.

Rape, violence against women goes on unabated.Women cannot walk safely and those who work night shifts are subjected to harrassment in buses, workplaces etc. Women's International Days is celebrated with much fanfare but nothing tangible has been achieved.

It is the women the world over, who are a barometer of a nation’s mood. Come election time and they one segment of society politicians of all shades hanker after for their vote. Whether liberated or not the working women and the dowdy housewife collectively speaking, are the real kingmakers. Today they constitute nearly one third numbering 3-4 million of the registered voters. Hence a sizeable proportion of their votes for one of the two contenders could be decisive. The women of the kitchen, the world over an intergral part of the vote bank politicians are keen to tap. She far surpasses the scientifically conducted opinion polls as a barometer of a nation’s mood. Nobody is more qualified to make a realistic assessment of a political party’s performance than those women in the kitchen.

It is the housewife who manipulate the purse strings. No rhetoric or polemics, however rational could sway her thinking. Double digital inflation, high interest rates, fluctuating prices in the world market are of no concern to the Sri Lankan housewife.

She epitomises the head of the family, so her first concern is nourishing food, not necessarily luxury items that are available in the supermarkets. She is concerned about the health care system, public transport, electricity, gas all of which is needed for the everyday life.

All this essential items were increased, (right now the gas price has decreased) and the housewife had to grapple with the high cost of living. According to a recent survey 55% of pre school children suffer from malnutrition and 65% of mothers are anaemic. The prices of milk foods went up, so are vegetables. Naturally she is the most vociferous critic and she is the final decision maker.

In view of the forthcoming election, we spoke to a certain cross section of women. Mrs. Silva my immediate neighbour gripes about the high cost of living: "Everything is expensive nowadays you know what a struggle I had to go through to have three meals a day".

"We voted for the present government to bring down the cost of living but our hopes were dashed, as now prices go up every day," lamented Mrs. Liyanage.

"The politicians promise us the moon and stars. Come election time they promise so many things but nothing is done and we have to struggle to live," said a teacher with three school going children.

"The prices are terrible. A kilo of beans is Rs. 20 and just see the price of coconuts", said Mrs. Ismail.

To most housewives going in search of reasonably price good commodities have become a nightmare. The war in the North-East is also to be blamed. But wastage, the spending sprees on all ill-strategy projects, jaunts by politicians and the apathy of the government departments are the chief culprits.

It is a truism that election are won and lost in the kitchen. Corruption in high places, wastage of public funds are some major allegations touted about against the ruling party . Whoever comes to power on December 5, corruption must be curbed with stringent laws and condign punishment. Priorities, perspectives and perceptions have to totally recast. It is a daunting task ahead for the party that comes into power next.

So when women queue up at polling booths on D-day all that candidates vying for political power should hope for the best while expecting the worst. Thus this election represents a ‘hope for change’ for Sri Lankan women.