Mahila gram sabha - the Mewat experience


Vol NO: VOL. 14, ISSUE 82,

"The 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act was so emphatic that it pulled women with no training or experience out of their homes, and put them in public life amidst the ruffle of politics and governance. Approximately one million women have been elected since the Act came into force. However, these women were seen as a source of status sweetening, not as pillars in governance at the local level. Factors such as patriarchal societal norms and culture, lack of education and awareness, restricted mobility, and financial dependency inhibited elected women representatives (EWRs) from actively participating in the affairs of the panchayat and gram sabha. Male relatives, fathers, husbands, fathers-in-law or sons, were doing their work. As a consequence, they were conceived as proxy or absentee members with a new denomination ‘sarpanch pati’, to depict male chairpersons, entailing them to execute the panchayat’s work. Though reservation for women in PRIs has gone up to 50 per cent in some states, Haryana, where Mewat is located, still offers 33 per cent.

  Capacity building in Mewat The Institute of Rural Research and Development (IRRAD) is working in the villages of district Mewat for more than

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    Saurabh Srivastava and Anjali Makhija

    Reservation alone does not suffice meaningful participation of elected women representatives. This initiative needs to be complemented by providing space and opportunities for the women leaders to discharge their duties and exercise their power. In addition, a platform is required for women to voice their needs. A mahila gram sabha is one such platform in the planning and decision making process.

    The authors are Assistant Programme Leader and Group Leader, respectively, at the Institute of Rural Research and Development.

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