This 66-year-old woman is a ray of hope for women

This 66-year-old woman is a ray of hope for women
BJP member Maya ji talking to TOB reporter on the issues of women and politics.

By Rupanshi Chitransh

Not a single woman was seen in the campaign trail of Union Minister of State for Tourism and Culture, Dr Mahesh Sharma. But some twenty minutes later, a tall lady in her mid-sixties walked into the tent where Dr Mahesh Sharma was addressing the villagers in Faleda Bangar. Senior party workers greeted her, and one got up and gave his seat to the lady. Meet 66-year-old Maya Kasturi, perhaps the only woman representative from the BJP in rural Jewar.

In an interview with Rupanshi Chitransh, first-year BJMC Times School of Media student, Kasturi talks about her journey into politics and the challenges women face in politics.

Q. You were the only woman in the rally, was is it difficult for you to join politics in the first place?
A. Yes, in this region ladies are not allowed to move around freely. My father-in-law was in politics, thus my family supported of me, but society did not accept me. Earlier, I did not travel far to attend party meetings or campaign trails but now I travel to Noida and nearby villages with men. Dr. Mahesh Sharma has also supported me a lot.

Q. What have you done for the women of Jewar?
A. Women don’t their share problems as they are very shy. I go door to door to listen to their problems. For example, the widows in the village were still not getting their pension. I resolved the pension problem. Gas cylinders weren’t delivered as promised, I ensured that they were. The thing is that women right from childhood are discouraged from speaking their minds and that’s why they are unable to express their issues. Now, other women have joined me and together we are educating women about their rights.

Q. Do rural women have a say in their voting decision?
A. Women are more aware of their rights than they were 10 years ago. Earlier they voted for the party the husband or the elders of the family told them to vote. Now they have started to think. Politics for them is simple: they want jobs for their husband, sons; they want water in their taps and basic facilities. They might not know much about the political party, but they would know if a

candidate has done some good work. Also, now, they show up to vote at polling booths more often.

Q. Have you tried to influence other women to join politics?
A. We recently had a meeting in Noida, I wanted to take 30 women along for that party meeting. Initially, even the ashaq behans were reluctant. They said: “humare admi itni door nahi bhenjenge” (our men will not allow us to travel that far), but they finally agreed. This is the start of a change. Earlier, women used to hate me because I travelled with men alone, now they respect me. More and more girls are now going to school; in fact, we have a few engineers in our village!

Q. What changes have you seen in yourself after joining politics?
A. I was scared at first, sometimes the meetings were held at night. Now, I have no fears. “Mujhe koi pakad bhi le aaj to kya bigaad lega, mere vichaar nahi badal sakta kuch bhi ho” (even if I get accosted by men, they can’t change my thinking). I have seen a lot now and I know how to handle any kind of work or society pressures

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