Women Empowerment is a much used cliched term that has outlived its utility. Women can become independent only when they are self motivated and no amount of imposition from the outside can be classified as empowerment.
Alienation from land and distress-driven shift towards agricultural wage work leave women particularly vulnerable. Although amended inheritance laws have increased the probability of daughters inheriting fathers’ land, women’s effective control over agricultural land, though relatively higher in the southern states, continues to remain abysmally low on an average in rural India.
Panchayati Raj has attracted women to politics in large numbers, particularly from the scheduled castes and tribes, many of whom are first-timers. Success at the grassroots level has given women eloquence, and a voice. However, decision-making positions continue to elude most women.
A successful campaign to empower elected women representatives (EWRs) in the State, suggests that supporting them addresses several issues through the panchayat as women’s leadership is inclusive, collaborative, consultative, tolerant of different points of view, people-oriented and uses democratic and facilitative forms of decision-making.
Powerful local initiatives by elected women leaders at the village level have led to innovative outcomes. We present stories that made the difference in the year 2012-13.
The ICRW study provides evidence and makes a compelling case for a much needed review of elected local governance bodies; and for related actions to engender both the attitudes and abilities of elected representatives.
A programme of the Ministry of Human Resource Development in ten states has built a large, robust base of women’s collectives over the years to empower women and adolescent girls through education. These collectives of women at the village level are networked into federations at the cluster, block and often at district levels.
With a progressive legislation set in place in 1992, women’s participation in the panchayat has increased considerably. Every five years a little more than one million women get elected while another three million women become aware of the panchayat process. This will help women emerge as able decision makers in totality.
Dynamics of women participation in local governance has received intense scrutiny since the Constitutional Amendment in 1992. Many emphasised on training women technically; despite successes in creating able women leaders, violence towards women needs multi-layered investigation.