The number of female electoral candidates registered with the Chin State Election Commission (EC) to contest the 2020 general election is down from the 2015 elections. Out of 211 candidates for this year’s election, only 18 are women, representing only 9 percent of the total candidates. During the last election, 22 women contested seats in Chin State.
Lin Kyaw, secretary of Chin State EC, blamed women’s low participation in politics this year on the pandemic, which he says has caused parties to hastily choose their candidates. “I expected the numbers of female candidates to increase during this general election, but it decreased a little bit because of the impact of COVID-19.” During these times of uncertainty, he said “women want to be close to their families.”
Mai Len Neih Cer, director of NiNu Women’s Group, said it’s critical for Chin women to start seeing themselves as leaders by taking an active role in politics. “Women’s participation is weak. I think women need to change their mindset.” They need to take more interest in political affairs, she said, but at the same time, political parties are also responsible for “persuading women to participate” and not just to “call them up to select them as electoral candidates when an election is coming.” There are also cultural obstacles to overcome, Mai Len Neih Cer said.
Of the eighteen female candidates running this year, two are independent, with the rest connected to twelve parties in Chin State. Of the candidates fielded by political parties, five are contesting seats in the House of Representatives (Lower House), six for seats in the House of Nationalities (Upper House) and seven for Chin State Parliament.