<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Tribal districts of Gujarat can teach a lesson or two in gender equality to the rest of the state as far as voting is concerned. Analysis of the Assembly elections of 2012 reveal that the percentage wise voter turnout for women is equal to or in some cases more than that of men in these districts.Against this, more developed districts like Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar and Rajkot have a 3 per cent to 6 per cent gap in percentage between men and women.For example, take the voting percentage share of men and women in Panchmahals. The percentage turnout was 71.73 per cent for men while for women it was 71.32 per cent. In the case of Dangs, the voter turnout for women was 69.83 per cent against 67.70 per cent for men.In comparison Ahmedabad district had a voter turnout of 70.27 per cent for men against 66.63 per cent for women.People who have lived and worked in tribal areas attribute several reasons for the trend and primary among them is the higher status of women in tribal societies.Ramesh Makwana, HOD of the department of sociology at the Sardar Patel University in Vallabh Vidyanagar said tribal women live in more egalitarian societies.”They may be poor but in tribal societies, women don’t bow down to men. They are important decision makers and this appears in the voting trend. So while in a patriarchal society a woman may be prevented or may seek her family’s permission to go out to vote, a tribal woman does not have to bother about such things,” said Makwana.He said another reason was that though they were poor tribals, they also happen to be extremely aware about their rights. “For them the vote is the only power they have to get what they want and they decide to exercise it. This combined with a society that does not force its women to be secondary decision makers mean you see more women coming out to vote,” said Makwana.Agrees Arjun Rathwa, an AAP candidate from Chhota Udepur, a tribal district. “In a tribal household, often the decision maker is the woman and not the man. They also have a more consultative approach to decision making. This means women discuss and consult with family members unlike other parts of Gujarat were woman’s opinon is not often sought,” said Rathwa.Kishor Chaudhary a tribal who works with them in Vyara said there is also another important factor at work – bribe. “Almost all tribal districts and villages have self help groups of women. The politicians often target these SHGs and promise them loans and other stuff. SHGs are mostly made of women and they thus encourage their women members to come out and vote,” said Chaudhary.
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