I have always been amazed how women all over the world make a strong commitment to vote.
I continue to be fascinated by the fact that across generations, even in countries where women are perceived to have a low profile in public life, women make the effort to make their way to the polling stations, and often stand for hours to make their voices heard.
My thoughts on this issue were awakened when I thought of my grandmother and grandaunt. Like many women from their generation,they were not highly educated and their lives revolved mainly around domestic concerns.
But when elections came around in Singapore, they were tremendously eager to participate.
On election day, you could feel the excitement in the household early in the morning. I remember watching my grandmother prepare for the event in the same manner as though she was going to a wedding. She would carefully select a kebaya (traditional Malay blouse) and a sarong from her cupboard. And before she left the house, she would don a matching selendang (scarf), and a dab of her favorite cologne. I imagine her friends did the same. At any rate, they were always the first to arrive at the polling station, well groomed and fresh.
Many years forward, I watched clips of Iraqis voting in 2005. I am against the war in Iraq, but I was still amazed at the womenfolk’s dedication in going out to vote, in what was said to be the country’s first democratic election in 50 years. And this week, the world saw the same enthusiasm from the women in Iran.
I believe the reason for this dedication is that for some women, voting is the biggest, or in same instances, the only chance for them to impact public life, or to have a say in it.
In general, women take part in the bluster and intrigue of politics in much smaller numbers than men. But women are experts at running daily lives, including navigating the nooks and corners of life that are not glamorous but necessary for normal functioning. Perhaps intuitively, they know that whatever decisions made by the elected government will have repercussions that seep deep down into these nooks and corners. And they will have the main responsibility to deal with them, away from the public eye.
And so, to all women voters in the world, past, present and future, and especially to those who have to walk longer or harder to get to the polling stations, we salute you.