Women Gain Political Clout

Reservation of 50% seats in village councils has generated excitement among women in Himachal Pradesh. Pratibha Rolta, the correspondent of this video says that the government decision to reserve 50% seats in the panchayat has raised hopes of millions of women in her home district Solan where every woman between the age of 15-55 works hard to boost the family income, yet stays as an invisible workforce. The women here are engaged in a number of jobs ranging from traditional ones such as household care, drying/storing of grains, weaving etc to more “masculine” work such as plowing fields, gathering firewood and fodder from forests and working in the fields. Though they help ease the family’s economic burden a lot through the work they do, their labor is not accounted for or valued in the same way as the work men do. They also have little political capital to spend in asserting their rights or making any demands. Reservation of 50% seats in panchayat for these women in Solan means greater opportunities to take part in local government. Pratibha who has always felt strongly about women’s empowerment feels that more active participation of women in panchayat will also lead to better economic status, labour rights and greater control over household income. Interestingly, the first idea of reserving 505 seats for women was first proposed by another woman – Indian president Pratibha Patil in 2009 when the Panchayati Raj institution completed its 50 years. The president has told the parliament that women in India suffered multiple deprivations of class, caste and gender and by giving them 50% reserved seats would help them take part in public sphere. Accordingly, on August 2009, the Indian government made it mandatory to provide 50% reservation for women in all 3 tiers of Panchayats. Himachal Pradesh was one of the first states to mandate the new reservation policy. Today, there are 5,125 elected women panchayat members in Hiamchal Pradesh. Pratibha is happy that this number is all set to go up and more and more women from her community can now have a better life for themselves as well as play a role in the development of their area.
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