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Woman Power

Maya John, the third woman President of St Stephen’s Students Union gets candid about the challenges she had to face through the run up of the elections.

What prompted you to stand for the elections?
Towards the end of my second year we got an overwhelmingly negative response to our pamphlets asking for another (there were only two) women’s residence block. In March I met a few students who felt strongly about this issue and then I decided to give it a shot. By contesting for elections we could raise this issue and get people talking about it.

What was your campaign strategy?
We concentrated primarily on the women vote bank. In fact we conducted a survey and concluded that nearly 90 women wanted residence facility in college. So, yes, the campaign strategy revolved around ensuring a third women’s block. But there were other issues like, reduction in the prices of food in the college café, lowering of rates in the internet resource center and bringing about certain reforms for the convenience of the blind students as well.

Did you face any form of intimidations from the opposing camps?
Yes, of course. There were open attacks during campaigns. Some people also restricted junior members from attending my meetings. There was a lot of negative publicity. A notion that “Maya wants to kick boys out of residence” was created. I was projected as an aggressive pro-active individual who was out to make a noise about non-issues. Questions were raised about my capabilities of putting up the college cultural festival. It was said that being a woman I wouldn’t be able to function well as president as it requires putting in late hours. Me supporters faced a sort of social boycott in class, which they face till date.

How did you deal with it?
We made it clear that we will put forward our demand, negotiate and work with the authorities but we as a union will always be on the student’s side. Nothing can be achieved by remaining silent. But the minute you start demanding you are perceived in negative light-as if being pushy and pro-active is wrong! We basically went ahead as planned and assured students that we will try our best to deliver what we believe in.

How did you react to the infamous impeachment flyers “Go back to the kitchen”?
I would call it an unfortunate mistake. We actually wrote a response but because of a consensus between the members we decided against its circulation. Instead we worked harder to give the students a great festival. I can safely say that this year the festival was the handiwork of 30 odd people who went all out to make it a grand success.

Since the elections, have you lived up to your expectations?
Pretty much. However we are going a bit slow on the women’s block front. We are going to push tooth and nail for it and by July/August will reach a feasible solution.

– Kavita Cherian

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