Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi began her debut speech in Gujarat with ‘meri behnon aur mere bhaiyo’ (My sisters and my brothers). If you’ve been privy to political addresses in India, you would know that usually, politicians start their speeches the opposite way, addressing their listeners as bhaiyon aur beheno (brothers and sisters). This is how it has been for ages, the acknowledgement of male listeners before women. So when someone alters that order, it feels both refreshing and empowering.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • A video of Priyanka Gandhi beginning her address with ‘meri behnon aur mere bhaiyo‘ is doing rounds on Twitter. 
  • This is such a rare phenomenon that we are cheering for this gender reversal in her address.
  • Often, women voters are treated as additional vote banks by politicians and political parties. 
  • However, this could all change in the 2019 general elections as women may end up sealing the fates of political parties.

The order in which these two genders are usually addressed in a speech may seem insignificant to many.

According to The Hindustan Times, Congress MP from Silchar, Assam, Sushmita Dev tweeted a video clip of Gandhi’s speech, pointing out how she had reversed the order in her address. “The speech of @priyankagandhi ji in Gujarat stood out for many reasons. I loved the fact that in her address she changed the order most people follow by referring to women before men i.e. behnon aur bhaiyon & not the other way around,” she wrote in her tweet.

This is such a rare phenomenon that we are cheering when a politician makes an exception and puts women first. It mirrors the state of affairs in our country, of how despite being almost fifty percent of the electorate, politicians treat women as the additional vote bank. The secondary treatment is also the reason why most political parties do not have solid propositions for women empowerment in their election manifestos. Most of the times, the promises made to us are added as an afterthought.

Women are no longer an additional vote bank. Their opinion matters. Their vote matters.

Which is why Gandhi giving women precedence over men is a sign of the changing times. Women are no longer an additional vote bank. Their opinion matters. Their vote matters. With the two leading political parties running neck to neck this general election, Indian female voters could end up sealing their fate. Besides, in recent years politicians have finally opened their eyes to the neglect of women, both as voters and as members of the society. They have realised that development in this country can’t become a reality unless empowerment of women is a part of the process.

Putting women first in an address or acknowledging their presence tells them their role in running this country is vital and it serves as a motivation to draw them to the voting booths. This is because women often neglect exercising their voting rights as they think it is of no value to them. They look at voting as a part of the world run by men and thus it is a chore for men.

But in 2019, that doesn’t hold true. The world and this country are opening up to women, and it is easier for them to cross that line and step into the outside world, than it was before. All they need is some confidence to realise how valuable they are to the society and the language of the speeches can give them that sense.

Picture Credit: NDTV

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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