Lok Sabha Election

Voting in women’s health in Assam

Hard at work Keerthi Jalli interacting with the voters. So far, 250 packs of sanitary pads have been distributed.

Hard at work Keerthi Jalli interacting with the voters. So far, 250 packs of sanitary pads have been distributed.

One of the responsibilities of a district electoral officer during the poll process is to ensure systematic voters’ eduction and electoral participation, or SVEEP.

Keerthi Jalli, the first woman Deputy Commissioner of southern Assam’s Hailakandi district since its birth in 1989, has packed in other campaigns too – such as promoting menstrual hygiene.

It turned out to be a ‘SVEEPing’ success, especially among women in some Muslim localities in the district.

Myths broken

“We branded some sanitary pads in SVEEP material and distributed them to Muslim women who came out in the open breaking myths on menstrual hygiene besides deciding to cast their votes,” Ms. Jalli said from district headquarters Hailakandi, about 310 km southeast of Guwahati.

According to the 2011 census, Muslims account for 60.13% of the total population in the Bengali-dominated Hailakandi, one of three districts comprising the Barak Valley. Though the district has a literacy rate of more than 75%, it is skewed against women, many of whom are caught in conservatism.

The district authorities have so far distributed 250 packs of sanitary pads.

Bangles, sunshades

The district administration hit upon other ideas too for inspiring people to vote. One of them was presenting shakhas to married Hindu Bengali women in the slums and some villages of the district. Made of conch-shell, a shakha is a traditional bangle married Bengali women wear along with pola made of red corals.

“We distributed approximately 300 pairs of shakhas, each printed with the message for voting on the 18th,” Ms. Jalli said.

Hailakandi falls under the Karimganj Lok Sabha constituency which goes to the polls in the second phase on April 18 along with Nagaon, Mangaldoi and Autonomous District constituencies in Assam.

“The bangles were a pleasant surprise. I will vote but will probably keep the bangles in safe custody as a trophy,” Seba Sabdakar, of Tempur village under Matijuri Paikan gram panchayat, said.

Sourced from SHG

At North Narainpur village, the likes of Shuba Rani Das and Hafsa Begum received shitalpati sporting the Election Commission’s logo. Made from the reeds of a marshy plant, shitalpati is a mat so named because it has a cooling effect on the user.

The mats and gamosas (cloth-towel) were sourced from a Muslim self-help group in the district’s Algapur.

The authorities also presented tea-plucking women in the district with jaapi or cane-bamboo sunshades branded with SVEEP material.

“About 300 such jaapis were distributed. Our campaign was focussed exclusively on the womenfolk as we firmly believe that if a lady votes, her family votes, the society votes and thereby the nation votes,” Ms. Jalli said.

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Printable version | Jun 25, 2022 3:52:20 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/lok-sabha-2019/voting-in-womens-health-in-assam/article26837534.ece