As a woman who believes in empowering of all women, it is always wonderful to see so many women contesting the General Election this time. All parties have women on their ranks – the UNP is fielding some old and some new faces and so does the JVP. The UPFA too has women on board. As in other countries, women seeking the vote of other women, must be ideally be able to answer the questions we female voters would have.

Other than seeing their faces smiling down on cut outs, ads and leaflets, it would be wonderful to hear these ladies spell out specific plans they have formulated for the women of Sri Lanka. They do play a key role in the national political stage – but I as a woman need specifics and I’m sure so do other women. Can they address those issues and assure us of the kind of change they can bring?

Just addressing women’s issues would amount to lip service – can they go beyond it and promise change for women when they do get elected? Or they, as before, would put women’s issues on the back burner once elected, as we have seen many a time before, and let them be there?

Sri Lankan women have burning issues. From reliable child care to domestic violence, from supporting entrepreneurship at home so that they can bring in an additional income while taking care of the children and the home front to ensuring adequate support for Middle East returnees, women have to deal with these issues on a day to day basis. They struggle with economic and social issues. When all the political ha hoo has died down after the 17th, these issues will still exist for millions of Sri Lankan women. Are they going to be able to deal with those better because of the women who would have been elected to parliament by then?

The women in parliament can start with a major issue before going any further. They can attempt to make an attitude change towards women. They can start in the parliament itself – initiate change in how women are perceived in society. Take a bus ride and educate the commuters on why sexual molestation in buses is rampant and must be stopped because it violates the rights of women travelers. Encourage women to come out with their stories of abuse and rape so that the perpetrators can be dealt with. Ensure the gaps are closed in gender discrimination and abuse. Close the doors to the powerful politicos who abuse the system for their own ends. The list is endless but we can start somewhere.

Or will these women who are now seeking our vote forget the female voter once they are in? What all those seeking re-entry or first time entry to parliament must understand is that the voter of today is one who is very different from the one whom they faced at the previous general election. January 08th heralded in a new age for the Sri Lankan voter ; today, we know what is going on. Thanks to new technology and social media, voters cannot be duped anymore with fancy stories and promises from the skies. The facts cannot be concealed anymore – citizen journalists are empowered with their camera phones and nothing goes unrecorded. The politicians seeking the votes must understand this fact – unless and until they do, they are not likely to win. On the brighter side, they can now engage more efficiently almost one to one with the voters on social media. They can truly make a change that we can take note of.

The women contesting on behalf of all political parties must include women on their agenda – they will not have my vote until they do and I’m sure they should not have yours. We no longer believe nor trust in empty promises that sound wonderful but lacks the credibility of a plan that backs it up.

So, let me know – what plans have you, female politician, for us women?

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