Thursday, December 28, 2006
empowerment of rural women
During the visit to my village last week, I saw for myself the evidence of effective empowerment of women. My niece Punita, age 28 has been elected as the president of Panchayat board of Karaimeendarkottai village. This was incredible since i had always known her as a shy and simple rustic girl. Now she is totally transformed. She has become a confident, assertive and ambitious leader. There is a new glint in her eyes and grit in her approach. She told me about her priority to improve the village water supply system. She has ordered the village clerk that bulbs should be replaced immediately when they fuse out. She said proudly that in the last one month of her presidency the village looks bright whereas it used to be dark earlier. She talked about her responsibility to the voters who have placed confidence in her ability to deliver.
What is more important is that she has managed to overcome in two months the rigid caste system which has stayed for over two thousand years. Until the elections, she had never set foot in the harijan street. But during the campaign, she visited every harijan house and requested them individually for votes. She now sits with the three Harijan members in the Board meetings.
Punita talks proudly about the close contest in which she won with 44 votes margin unseating a family which was controlling the Panchayat for the last three decades. She is conscious of the potential troubles the defeated party will cause for her and her family. But she is prepared and brave. She is also realistic that her husband would interfere with her work and use her position to do his own things.
Punita is the beneficiary of the new Panchayat System in which some panchayat presidencies are reserved for women.
But there is a downside to the victory of Punita. She has spent 1.5 lakhs of rupees in the campaign of which half is debt. How does she repay the debt? There is no salary or legitimate income. She gets only a honorarium of 500 rupees. She has been advised that she should get commission from the contracts. She will lose her innocence and enter into the world of corruption !
Another sign of the emergence of women power was in my college at Poondi, which has now opened its doors for women students. There are ten girls from my village and 18 from my neighbouring village studying in the college now. This includes my other niece, Anita, who wants to study computer science.These girls after college studies are not going to stay at the staus quo home. They would seek changes and progress. They would become the leaders of emancipation for a better future for their children, families and the villages.
This is progress and indeed the beginning of a rural revolution !