Bamini Kheta – Mauritius

Bamini Kheta – Mauritius

Date: May 29, 2012
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The more we work with women the more we know about the different forms of violence. There are some forms of gender based violence that are so subtle that they go beyond emotional, psychological and physical violence. As a Village Councillor I have to deal with daily problems of women in my village. They have different challenges from men, and I’m responsible for ensuring that everyone lives in a safe and clean environment.

I became a politician through a very unusual circumstances. When my friends and my family told me that they saw my name on the official list of candidates for the village election of Morcellement St. Andre, I thought they were joking. They insisted and said they would accompany me so that I could see with my own eyes. Some of them even added that they have known me as a good person always doing my best to help others, while others added that they have known me as a voluntary social worker but not as a politician. They even said that they did not know the hidden face of Bamini, having no trust in friends and keeping secrets so well. How can people trust you when they think you are not trusting them? They rightly thought that I just decided to stand as candidate without letting them know; not even my own family. I insisted that I never gave my name as a candidate, while they insisted that they can prove the contrary. So, I went to the primary school where the official list of candidates was posted. I could have fainted when I saw my name there. I rushed back home to confirm this to my husband. He then said he was the one who did all the formalities so that I could stand as candidate and be on the official list of candidates. A long discussion followed, and he told me that since I was a social worker already helping so many people, that being a councillor would be an extension of this work. He promised to help me in my campaign and to accompany in meetings. I counted my blessings and thanked God that I had such a caring husband who wanted to see me shine in society.

I was tricked by my husband to go into a field that I would have never of dreamed of. Little did I know that in the process of doing this work I would nearly lose everything, including my children. The promises of my husband turned out to be lies. He never supported me, let alone came with me on the campaign trail, even when I had meetings at night. In fact, he used me. During my absence while I was campaigning he was going out with all sorts of women. It was only then that I came to know the other side of my husband – a playboy having sexual relationships all over the place who did not care about family life.

I turned this psychological violence into a challenge and decided that with or without my husband I would step up and get elected. It was not an easy job at all. An Indian woman in a village doing door to door campaigning. Some people were asking how a woman dressed in a sari could knock at people’s door to present her programme? Others were saying they were seeing an Indian woman candidate for the first time. I had my own challenges with people calling me names. I counted my blessings every time anyone said I have given them so much while doing my social work that they wanted to help me. When I had to go to meetings at night my brother in law would accompany me.

My survival was also the survival of my community, as it was on the ground that I realised how women are in more need than men. The everyday fight was sometimes too much for me to take. My husband began calling me names in public, and even my own children started to lose confidence in me. But I knew what I was doing and raised my head even higher. Our relationship ended on a bad note and we lived separately. He died last year.

It was such an affirming experience being elected as a Councillor. I proved to people who were not supporting me and trying to give me a bad name that I am a good Councillor.

The 2012 COE workshop on Leadership Skills for Women in Politics was an eye opener for me. This was the first time that I had a platform and was encouraged to tell my story in front of such a big audience comprising of participants from 10 villages in the North of Mauritius.

Throughout this battle, I am so grateful to Gender Links. I came to this workshop to learn, but I had already decided not to stand as a candidate again. But after two days of having had the opportunity to participate and contribute on different gender issues, including a gender awareness manifesto, I can confirm that I will stand as candidate for the next village election.

After the GL workshop I was confident enough to be able to train women in my region. Though the media literacy and analysing articles and advertisements, I started to take advertisers to task on advertising downgrading women. I became comfortable with Gender concepts and stereotypes as well as how to become a good leader.

Being able to tell my story in public has empowered me even more. With my experience as a village councillor, I helped to develop a gender sensitive electoral manifesto. I managed to turn such a negative experience into a positive one, and I have used all that I have learned to become a good Councillor. Having the support of the entire Gender Links organization behind me really gives me confidence in my work.


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