Ignore the city's women at your peril
Anyone else feel we are being treated like a spoiled brat? Hearing pledges from would-be Bangkok governors during the election campaign could make you think so. As Bangkok voters, we get a lot of promises that are tempting to believe. You name it: free buses, free air-conditioned buses, free-flowing traffic, footpaths that anyone can stroll along, and even the first electric bike scheme. Candidates have promised it all. We feel privileged until we do a reality check on whether the pledges are practical within the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.It's a shame that the Pheu Thai candidate is Pongsapat Pongcharoen instead of Sudarat Keyuraphan, otherwise we women in the capital would hear campaign pledges focused on women's issues. Don't get all women voters wrong, for they will surely not vote for a candidate just because she is a woman. But it is proven in our male-dominated society that male candidates fail to see the needs of women.
A quick look around the campaign fanfare shows that none of the candidates specifically targets woman voters. So far, candidates gain publicity by posing with children and elderly people. But let all candidates be reminded that when they appeal to women, this spreads to all other voter profiles. What women voters care about is what everybody cares about. There are those who take buses to work, walk on pedestrian flyovers, drive, take care of the elderly at home, raise and send children to school, and go to markets.
It would be useful for candidates to note that out of the total 5.67 million voters, women comprise the majority. There are almost 3 million female voters against 2.7 male voters in Bangkok. Surprisingly, none of the women's interest groups demand anything special as wannabe Bangkok governors roam the streets. So let's point out some things the next governor should consider:
Safety, safety and safety first.
Few candidates realise that some pedestrian flyovers are not safe after sunset. Just check the police files for the usual crime spots in Bangkok. If you, a Bangkok governor, are able to point out the most dangerous spots, you can start providing safety for women voters.
Give us back the footpaths.
Every candidate should go to Siam Square or any roadside market and see if the footpath is good for pedestrians. You can assume that women love shopping, but believe me, we can follow any shopping route and we have enough places to tear open our purses. Nowadays, a pedestrian walkway is rarer than a place for shopping. Women have the right to shop but that right should not override the right of other pedestrians, especially the disabled and elderly. There are hardly any space to stroll in Bangkok.
More public parks and free entrance for pooches.
Everyone boasts of adding green areas, and we've heard it before. We demand you show us how you will really provide them. We all need more public parks and women may need them more than anyone. Parks are where you can jog without paying through the nose for gym membership. They are places where women can take the kids to get some exercise, where they can take elderly parents to breathe better air. And it would be better if you allowed man's (and women's) best friends in the park too. More and more women live with their pets and they would surely vote for you if you allowed pets to breathe fresh air too. Just make sure you have a plan to teach everyone to collect our little friends' waste.
Well-organised street shopping.
Women will love you if you relocate all shopping streets into areas that won't obstruct traffic, and if the BMA can provide free rental, it means all women can enjoy a good bargain.
Better garbage collection.
There are enough "green" women, and if any candidate would be sophisticated enough to launch a policy and inform them of how to implement garbage separation, that would lead to a better city for all.
Facilities for the elderly and disabled.
You will win women's votes by caring more about the elderly and disabled. Try to get about in a wheelchair, take the mass transit systems, and try the sidewalks, and see how far or how long you can go in Bangkok.
Quality BMA schools.
We do have enough public schools run by the BMA, but quality-wise they are still second-grade. The Bangkok governor must plan ahead and improve the quality of teaching. Get more money for qualified teachers. In doing so you will help women and also create quality young people for the future.
We still can't trust candidates who have no real passion to make Bangkok a friendlier city for women. Please stop the "freebies" campaign and really sit down and think of something that can be made real once you are elected. It is time to prove to 3 million women that you know what are you talking about and how you are going to execute your plan. We remember all the vague promises to fight traffic gridlock and provide free blanket WiFi. First things first: don't fool women if you want their vote.