As India holds its largest election in history, 10 girls discuss the issues that matter to them
Girls in India want to improve the country’s education system and increase opportunities for marginalised communities.
A wave of young voters is hitting the polls for the first time as India holds its largest election in history. Since the last Indian election in 2014, 45 million people have turned 18 and are now eligible to vote. For a country with 600 million youth under the age of 25, this moment is an opportunity for young voters to weigh in on the issues they care about and shape India’s future.
Ten girls from across India — four of whom will be voting for the first time — told us about the changes they hope to see in their country.
“I want a serious reform in our country's education system,” shares 21-year-old Stuti. 18-year-old Sohini from West Bengal also hopes leaders will address issues around education — she believes that “education for all” is the key to creating gender equality in her community.
17-year-old Khwahish from Maharashtra is concerned about income inequality. “What’s disturbing about the face of India is that people have gotten so used to seeing poverty everywhere that it doesn’t bother them anymore,” she says.
The election began on 11 April 2019 and takes place over five weeks to accommodate for more than 900 million eligible voters. Before it concludes on 19 May 2019, hear from girls and young women about their hopes for their country’s future.
“This will be the first time I cast my vote. I would want the winning party to focus on issues like unequal pay to women even when they are doing the same work as men. And in past year or two, the price of public transport has increased, specially of Delhi metro. The new fare is burning a hole in students’ pockets and travelling has become a lot more expensive, while the services we are getting are still the same. It makes no sense for travelling fare to get that high without getting anything better in return. And women’s safety has always been an issue in Delhi. I don't think much has changed in terms of women security and in the laws and punishments against the goons or the criminals. The upcoming party should definitely focus on these issues. This will be really very helpful.”
— Preeti, 20, Delhi
“A cause that is very dear to my heart is the expansion of feminism in India. I want Indian daughters to understand that they need to free themselves from the goal of being somebody’s ‘someone.’ A true leader must pave the way for girls and women to strongly establish themselves, not to be superior but to be equal. It is not enough to just moralize, measures must be taken to reach out to girls to make them realize that they have equal input to their lives as well as to their country. It is essential to reach out to boys and make them disregard the past philosophies of supremacy. This can be achieved by education for all.
Leaders must make sure that the resources of India are used for the development of the poorest section of society. I want every man and woman of India to pick a leader who they believe will always work for the people and make sure that everyone gets rightful dues. To sum it up, a leader must possess the strength of mind to choose right and wrong and the kindness of heart to never forget the pathos of the downtrodden. I hope the government of India will always instruct its citizens to uphold humanity, social equality, open-mindedness and harmony.”
— Sohini, 18, West Bengal
“I have always believed that India is capable of achieving great things, but there are social backdrops that hold us back. There's never been a shortage of talent in this country, so we not only need a leader who is accountable and accepting, but someone who is aware of the country's potential. We need a leader who won't only fill the gap, but also build a house on it.
While equality is important, we also need opportunities — specifically job opportunities — for we have one of the largest number of youth in our country. So I want job creation to be on the forefront of the new government's agenda. As James Madison had noted, the pursuit of happiness is a natural right of people — and one can only pursue a happy life in a country like India when one is capable of working and earning money.”
— Diya, 16, Rajasthan
“I hope that after the election, the new government will take steps to curb the growing number of statewide and nationwide shut downs. This deeply affects the country's productivity. Also, there hasn't been much of a decrease in the statistics of sexual abuse cases reported. I keenly hope that the new rule will lead to better living conditions for women and children. I also hope that the new rule will look into issues like unemployment and poverty rate, which are increasing day by day. I'm hoping the government will pay attention to detail regarding issues faced by farmers during natural calamities and financial constraints. The 2019 elections will indeed be very crucial for India considering the fact that people will probably be forced to vote on sectarian lines.”
— Angelin, 19, Kerala
“Elections are both a choice and a chance. It is a chance to be a part of decisions that will affect everyone for next five years. It is a choice to create political, national and environmental change country-wide. Changes like uplifting women in men-dominating fields like politics, sciences, and defense. Eradicating malnutrition, unemployment and poverty is also priority. Providing LGBT community with rights like legal marriage and adoption. To make all this possible, we need to choose someone who does not fear change, who can make bold decisions despite resistance. So let's make wise choices and give ourselves a chance to initiate change across the world's largest democracy.”
— Rashi, 17, Uttar Pradesh
“These upcoming months of April and May will be a race for a new leader to get added to India's history. What every Indian (especially the youth and the girls) seeks is a platform that gives them a place to speak freely. Though the last five years had been quite developmental, especially in the case of tourism economy and others, every Indian hopes for more development in education, economy, tourism economy, local communities, national affairs, climate change affairs, programs and related to the security of our valiant jawans and kisans (i.e. our valiant soldiers and sturdy farmers). I think that the villages and small towns are India's roots and when the roots will be watered enough, the fruit will be the most beautiful and scrumptious. So longing for the best and a progressive, more beautiful India with the forthcoming leader!”
— Pankil, 16, Rajasthan
"I envision the upcoming elections to be a deciding factor in the future development or dilapidation of our nation in this new era. As the youth of a transforming nation who are fighting prejudices every day, I want a serious reform in our country's education system, better healthcare accessibility, increased youth participation in governance and safer streets for the daughters of India."
— Stuti, 21, India
“I don't become an eligible voter till next year, but I'm looking forward to 2019's election season. I’m hopeful that when I will legally be allowed to vote in the next elections, I will do so in a country which has had progressed and grown in five years. I hope that the millions of new voters break traditional family loyalties if they wish to and vote for what they feel is right.
India is the world's fastest growing economy with a major young population, so I'm eager for a decisive result. We need to maintain a strong government which can tackle issues like poverty, women's rights, terrorism, education and sanitation. I wish for a large turnout, for people to realize the power of their vote and exercise it wisely.”
— Taapti, 16, Jammu and Kashmir
“What’s disturbing about the face of India is that people have gotten so used to seeing poverty everywhere that it doesn’t bother them anymore. It seems rather normal to them. It will be a great boost to the country’s status in the world market if the party elected eradicates poverty as a whole. A lot of time and money is being spent on glorifying the image of India. Efforts are being made so that the country stands out when compared to others and though that is good, it is not the immediate requirement as there is a plethora of more important issues to be addressed. In my opinion, I expect the forthcoming government to pay heed on resolving the basic issues like better roads, stricter enforcements of law and order and a higher pay-scale for the government servants (e.g. policemen) to mitigate corruption. It is very important for citizens to participate in choosing our government so that India can regain its lost glory.”
— Khwahish, 17, Maharashtra
“I hope that the outcome of the elections will help India grow and carry forward programs and other initiatives that have been put into action already. I hope that my country can not only grow economically, but overcome its extreme amounts of poverty as well as illiteracy that is devastating to hear about. Being an animal lover, I believe that products made in my country should be cruelty-free and abandoning pets like dogs and guinea pigs should be banned. Also, I would love my country to advance in technology as well as in their medical aid and be able to treat life threatening diseases so that the death rate due to sickness is decreased.”
— Anisha, 13, Maharashtra
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about the author
Emma Yee Yick is an editorial intern at Malala Fund. You can find her eating platanos, musing on urban spaces and chasing sunsets.