The women’s wing of Sarv Jat Sarv Khap Mahapanchayat has embarked on a mission to seek 50 per cent reservation for women in panchayats, State Assemblies as well as the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. In Haryana, the state that has among the most skewed sex ratio in the country and khaps are essentially male-dominated, women have started raising their voice to seek equal rights.
The brain behind the initiative is Dr Santosh Dahiya, the president of the women’s wing of the Sarv Jat Sarv Khap Mahapanchayat. Dr Dahiya has held two panchayats, one at Kaithal and another at Hisar, to propagate the message. Another such panchayat is proposed to be held at Kurukshetra next month. This will be followed by panchayats at Panipat and Sonepat. While the attempt is to hold all-women panchayats, men are not barred from attending these meetings.
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“Till women do not have adequate representation in the elected decision-making bodies, their grievances will not be redressed properly. There are women in Haryana who continue to cover their faces with veils. They do not speak about their problems. I have decided to hold mahila panchayats across the state to listen to them and create a movement to seek higher representation of women in the elected bodies,” says Dr Dahiya.
The women will also be seeking support for their cause from MLAs and MPs across party lines across the country. After getting signatures of the legislators, they plan to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and raise the issue.
Panchayats have so far been held at Manas village in Kaithal, which has two panchayats with women heading both. The other was at Mujadpur village in district Hisar which again has a woman sarpanch. At both the places, the women sarpanches were reluctant to remove their veil and address the panchayat.
Dr Dahiya said that after she insisted she would not let their husbands speak, they gathered the courage to express their views. She says, “If even in my presence women could not open up, what will they do in presence of men. We do not want to ban men from attending the women panchayats. They should also know and understand what we are talking about and extend their support.”
“In panchayati raj institutions, 33 per cent reservation has been given to women which is surprising. When the population of women is around 50 per cent, they should also get equal representation,” she added.
Dr Dahiya was appointed president of the women’s wing of the Sarv Jat Sarv Khap Mahapanchayat in 2010. Since then, the women’s wing has managed to make around 1,000 women as its members in 13 districts.