Marching Into
Male Bastion

Half of the panchayat members in Fatahpur Pakri village in Bihar are women, but Suman is the only member who exercises her rights. Panchayati Raj is a 3-tier structure of self-government at the village, block and district levels. Bihar was the first Indian state to offer 50% reservation for women in panchayat election of 2006.

As a result of this reservation, a total number of 73,204 women joined the panchayati raj system as elected members. The serve in various positions – ‘Zilla parishad’ members, sarpanches/village heads, and village-level ward members.

Suman , as a village-level ward member is at the lowest level of the panchayati raj system. But her enthusiasm and participation is something that draws everyone’s attention. Varsha, our correspondent finds this enthusiasm extremely inspiring.

This is because despite being elected to the panchayat, thousands of women work according to what they were told by their husbands or other male members of their families. In some cases elected women remained at home while their husbands attended the panchayat meetings and carried out official transactions on their behalf.

Over a year ago, Varsha organized a workshop for women panchayat members in Vaishali on women empowerment. Suman was the only woman member from her village who attended the workshop and share her work experience with everyone. To Varsha, it was an example of village women trying to assert their independence and make a significant contribution to the welfare of the people. According to Varsha, the women village leaders are capable of bringing great impact in their villages and make crucial contribution to Bihar’s development. But to make that crucial contribution, they must work independently. Suman has been able to do that. She has also been able to garner support of her family and yet stay independent at the same time. As a community correspondent, Varsha feels sharing such stories of success will help other women join the league of Suman.

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