Goa‘s women voters outnumber men, yet they are hardly represented in the assembly . This is despite the fact that the state had a woman CM in 1973. Late Shashikala Kakodkar held charge for six years. Kakodkar held charge for six yea The outgoing assembly has two women legislators.The one to be formed after the February 4 polls is unlikely to throw up better numbers.Just 7%, or 17 of the 251 can didates in the fray, are women. Between the BJP and the Congress, they have fielded four women. Of the 40 constituencies, 29 don’t have women candidates. Even seats such as Nuvem, St Andre, Velim and Fatorda, with significantly fewer men voters, don’t have women contestants. “It does get lonely . Women make as good if not better administrators,“ says Alina Saldanha, the BJP nominee from Cortalim. She’s her party’s lone woman MLA and science and technology minister.CM Laxmikant Parsekar says it’s easy to give tickets to women “but getting them elected is a challenge…In Goa people want their MLAs at their beck and call -if they want their electricity fixed, if they want a tap replaced or if someone is sick in the family, the MLA must accom pany them to hospital at night… they expect the MLA to be present all the time. This is difficult for women.“ Parsekar reckons it’ll take another 10 years for women to make a mark in Goa politics.

Rights activist Albertina Almeida says things won’t improve if the CM doesn’t break stereotypes of how women should be. “All the stereotypes have been reinforced by him and his ministers -telling nurses not to protest in the sun because it’d make them dark, directing how women should dress.“

Sabina Martins, founding member of Bailancho Saad, a women’s collective here, says it just shows the extent of gender inequality . “What can women expect when parties don’t give their own women members due representation?“ The Congress has retained MLA Jennifer Monserrate and fielded two new faces. “We’d certainly have pushed for more women candidates if there were viable ones,“ party state unit vicepresident M K Shaikh says.

Nelly Rodrigues, ex-chairperson of the South Goa zilla panchayat and a four-time ZP member of Colva, contesting against BJP’s Saldanha on a Goa Vikas Party tickets, feels it’s difficult to fight the money and muscle power of men. “Candidates with no education and involved in illegal activities get tickets. Huge money is required here too,“ she says.

AAP’s Cecille Lee Rodrigues, who shot into fame as first runner-up of a dance reality show and one of five women fielded, says she’s got a taste of sexist social media comments. “I was ridiculed because I am a woman candidate and divorced,“ she says.