The Panchayat Mahila Sashaktiram movement developed by the Women Empowerment Cell of Yashwantrao Chavan Academy of Development Administration (YASHDA) has been selected by the Commonwealth Local Governance Forum (CLGF) for promotion within the Commonwealth nations. More than 300 sessions have been held across the state under the programme,which has been used to train newly elected women members of local self-government bodies like gram panchayats,panchayat samitis,zilla parishads and municipal bodies.
Since the declaration of the 50 per cent compulsory reservation for women members in the local self governance bodies,participation of women in politics at all levels has been on the rise. However,the newly elected women members,apart from facing the chauvinistic attitude of the system had to grapple also with lack of information about their roles. Jayashree Tadelkar,officer incharge of the Women Empowerment Cell of Yashada,said on several occasions women representatives had asked them from where they could access government resolutions.
Tadelkar said the programme was aimed at empowering women representatives not only about their functions in the democratic set up,but also to help them take up issues they found important. Often at the gram panchayat level,it was found that lady sarpanches were directed by the will of their husbands,who wanted them to take up work related to issuance of tenders. In our programme,we ask them to take up issues related to womens empowerment like construction of toilet blocks and schemes to prevent female foeticide, she said.
A major problem faced by women representatives is the lack of support from the local-level government officials like the gram sevaks in villages. At our meetings,we ask women representatives to pester gram sevaks till information required by them was provided, she added.
The training module,based on which the work is done,is spread across a day. We ask local block development officers to arrange the infrastructure,and the training is conducted by our team members, Tadelkar said.
In order to make the programme more effective,YASHDA plans to integrate it with the Rajiv Gandhi Panchayat Sashaktikaran Abhiyan.
Recognition by CLGF has boosted the morale of the team,however,Tadelkar said steps taken by the women representatives on their own was more important. After our training in Sangli,the women representatives told us that in order to stop a group of eve teasers from travelling in state transport buses they had approached the police and the problem was resolved, she said.