Puniben Rajpara from Gujarat has improved water facilities in her village, while Shashi Kiran from Himachal Pradesh has demanded one-year maternity leave for working women in her area. At the Women’s Political Empowerment Day Celebrations 2012, they were two of the four outstanding elected women representatives from panchayats (village councils) who were honoured for their efforts to improve health and provide basic social amenities in their villages.
The three-day event was organized by Institute of Social Studies and supported by UN Women and the Royal Norwegian Embassy. Speaking at the inauguration of the event, V. Kishore Chandra Deo, the Union Minister for Panchayati Raj and Tribal Affairs announced that a proposal had been prepared to introduce a constitutional amendment that would reserve 50 per cent of positions in local bodies for women.
However: “Reservation is not the only answer; we need to educate women where they are not aware,” he said. “Where they are not empowered, we should empower them. We need empowerment of women in real and intrinsic terms. For this, everyone needs to cooperate. These awards are important as they give a sense of satisfaction and pride to panchayats.”
Almost 58 of the 500 elected women representatives present at the three-day event were from UN Women’s programme districts in five states. “India is on the right track by decentralizing responsibility, power and budgets to the panchayats,” explained Anne F. Stenhammer, Regional Programme Director, UN Women South Asia. “With greater reservation for women, there will be more decision-makers to help develop villages.
As studies indicate, women are more likely to take care of children, family and their village. They are focused on improving girl’s education and health services, as well as ensuring basic amenities such as water and roads,”
Learn more about the women change-makers and their achievements, as well as UN Women’s programme to empower elected women representatives, please visit the UN Women South Asia website.