While representation by women leaders is low across South Asia, at the Panchayat or local council level, India continues to blaze a trail. Since quotas or reserved seats were provided for in the Constitution, more than a million women have been elected to office, and women now occupy more than 42 per cent of seats in local bodies, as both ward members and village heads (Sarpanches).
This has them intricately involved with matters ranging from road building and dispute resolution, to welfare programmes. Yet despite the quotas, the journey from home to council remains a tough one for many women, and the battle against traditional mindsets is hard-fought, and hard-won.
Click here to visit our regional website and hear more from the intrepid women of one Indian state, Odisha, and about the UN Women-supported programme that has helped them mobilize, train and win both reserved and non-reserved seats : http://www.unwomensouthasia.org/2012/more-women-emerge-as-leaders-and-voters-during-the-odisha-panchayat-elections/