Pink Booths Go Unnoticed By Women Voters: What Went Wrong?
Several states set up pink booths or polling booths exclusively for women with an aim to pull more women to come out of their houses to vote in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. In phase six of elections that concluded on May 12, pink booths in New Delhi which were also staffed by women workers showed a rise in women voters particularly from Muslim communities to cast votes.
Delhi committed to having 17 all-women-staffed pink booths for the first time in seven of its constituencies. These polling booths displayed women staff right from presiding officer to ground workers. In four of the seven districts, election officer-cum-returning officer were also women, and they claimed to see the positive result of this initiative.
Pink Booth = Women Empowerment
Chandni Chowk Returning Officer Tanvi Garg said the Delhi Chief Electoral Officer had planned this effort to instill a sense of women empowerment and the “message has been sent”, reported Economic Times.
“We have set up two such booths, one each Matia Mahal and Model Town Assembly segments. All our polling staff has worked very hard, and these women staffed here they are also quite happy to be part of an all-woman team. While women voters were pleased, male voters were also pleasantly surprised,” Garg told PTI.
While it is no secret that women voters have outnumbered men voters in several constituencies across states in this Lok Sabha elections, pink booths acted as a catalyst in this trend. North East Delhi Returning Officer Shashi Kaushal said the initiative was “very successful” and would “definitely contribute” to push the voting percentage of women in this election.
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“We have set up a pink booth in Zeenat School in an area which is a very Muslim-dominated one. And, in the morning a large number of ‘pardanasheen’ (in veil) women came to vote. It was so enthusing to see the women in ‘burqa’ queuing up to exercise their franchise and celebrating the democratic exercise,” she told PTI.
The 17 booths were distributed among seven constituencies in the city in a way that 10 were set up in East Delhi constituency, two in Chandni Chowk and one each in rest of the constituencies—North East Delhi, West Delhi, South Delhi, New Delhi, and North West Delhi.
Four Out Of Seven Returning Officers – Women
Apart from Garg and Kaushal, the other two Returning Officers are Besides Garg and Kaushal, Pooja Joshi of New Delhi and Needhi Shrivastav of South Delhi. The ROs said that they saw a lot of female polling staff during the time of training and it was a nice coincidence to have four of seven Returning Officers as women too.
“It’s is good to have an all-woman polling station, but what’s the use of it when one doesn’t know what is it for,”
Delhi showcased a total of 164 candidates of which 18 were women. There are over 1.43 crore voters on Delhi’s electoral roll. Out of the total electorate size, 78,73,022 are male and 64,43,431 female, while 669 belong to the third gender.
Lack Of Awareness Around Pink Booths
While this initiative did largely succeed, it may not be promoted well because several women were unaware of its existence and it did come across as a surprise to them. “It’s is good to have an all-woman polling station, but what’s the use of it when one doesn’t know what is it for,” said Ritu Bahl, 46, a resident of Janakpuri.
Devinder Anand, 43, said the words ‘women empowerment’ came to her mind when she first read about all-woman booths in newspapers, but she didn’t know the polling booth she visited was such a facility.
The presiding officer, Manju, 50, said the responsibility of creating awareness about all-woman booths lie with the Election Commission and the media. “We have done our best to highlight it. This is the first time such booths have been set up in Delhi. More people will become aware of such facilities with time,” she said.