Hyderabad: Female foeticide and child marriage have always been a perennial social problem in the Dhanura Gram Panchayat of Adilabad district in Telangana. But things are definitely changing for the better after Ms. Jamuna Nayak took over as the Sarpanch of the Dhanura GP.
Not only is she involved in spreading awareness about gender equality, she is also making sure that every marriage that takes place in her area of influence is duly registered under the law. Through concerted efforts, she has also ascertained that every household receives a gas cylinder.
Ms. Jamuna Nayak is among the women representatives of Panchayat Raj Institutions (PRIs) to be trained by the National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj (NIRDPR) in Hyderabad.
Highlighting the impact of training women leaders, Dr. Reddy IAS, Director General, NIRDPR, said, “In PRIs (Panchayat Raj Institutions), 50 per cent reservation for women has been provided in 20 states. Women Sarpanches play an important role in bringing socio-economic changes in villages and support in holistic planning for the development of the villages. NIRDPR considers training and capacity building of women representatives as the main priority. We are able to witness a visible change in their leadership, effective implementation of programmes and addressing gender issues in GPDP (Gram Panchayat Development Programmes). Considering the importance, Centre for Panchayati Raj, NIRDPR with the support of SIRDPRs, is organising programme at regular intervals.”
Some of the initiatives to train women leaders at NIRDPR include:
Ø Training of Elected Women Representatives in Jharkhand and Manipur, supported by National Commission for Women (NCW), New Delhi
Ø Training-cum-Exposure visits organised for Women Sarpanches from Uttarakhand, Ladakh and Tripura
Ø National Conclave of EWRs jointly organised by NIRDPR, MoPR and UN Women
Ø Two-day orientation trainings organised during Women’s Day
Speaking about her initiative, Ms. Jamuna says, “I am a mother of four daughters and two sons. When I was pregnant with my daughters, there was pressure from my family to get them aborted as the girl child was always considered to be a curse. Only the birth of sons was celebrated in most families. But I stood my ground and gave birth to my girls, and today they all have secured jobs after graduation. One is even pursuing law at a High Court. I explain the idea that girls and boys are equal to the villagers through my story.”
Ms. Jamuna prevents parents from getting their underage children married by highlighting the importance of educating the girl child and underlines the fact that ‘girls have to be at par with boys’.
Pointing out the steps that she has taken in this regard, Ms. Jamuna says, “Making the villagers aware of schemes like the Kalyana Lakshmi – Shaadi Mubarak Scheme, which is aimed at preventing child marriages and supports marriage expenses of financially distressed families has helped to a great degree.”
Smt. Mamta Amal Bishwas, Sarpanch of Vivekanandpur Gram Panchayat in Tal Mulchera, Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, has been actively fighting to end the vice of child marriage in the six villages that are part of her GP.
Speaking about her fight, Smt. Mamta says, “I was a child bride myself. Marriage at such a young age had left me devastated. I had dreams too that were left unfulfilled. So today, as a Sarpanch, I go to each and every village in my Gram Panchayat and raise my voice against child marriage. I explain to parents in detail about the ill-effects of getting their children married off so young. I also ask the children about their plans for the future and make sure that their parents are aware of this and do not stand in the way of their dreams”.
Rallying for the rights of women to congregate, communicate and devise solutions to end the menace of liquor consumption and abuse in her Gram Panchayat is Smt. Chhaya Balkrushana Khandare, Sarpanch of Ganori Gram Panchayat in Tal Bhatkul, Amravati, Maharashtra.
“The women in the villages I govern were initially very hesitant to come for Mahila Sabha meetings. It was after I conducted programmes on the occasion of Savitrabai Jayanti and the like that they started coming in many numbers. Many of the villages had a looming liquor problem, where even the children would drink and go to school. It was that bad. A lady even committed suicide as her whole family had fallen prey to liquor addiction. It was after this sad incident that I decided that I had to stop them. Today when I see people drinking or preparing illegal liquor, I pretend to call the police and they stop immediately. We have regular all-women meetings where everyday issues are discussed. Slowly, things are getting better,” Smt. Chhaya elucidates.
Ms. Suprabha, Sarpanch of Khera Gram Panchayat, Block Shahabad, Kurukshetra, Haryana, tackles child abuse at the hands of alcoholic parents. She convenes regular Ladies’ Panchayat meetings where such incidents are brought to light and discussed and even resolved at the Panchayat level.
Ms Suprabha recalls an incident that was resolved in the same way and says, “Once a visibly upset child came to me and complained to me that his father would regularly beat him up after drinking alcohol. As soon as I heard this, I adjourned a Ladies’ Panchayat meeting and counselled the father. We warned him of strict action if the same happens in the future, and the problem was resolved. A group of women was able to resolve this.”
All these strong and exceptional women leaders have undergone training at the National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj which enabled them to in turn foster women empowerment, leadership in PRI (Panchayati Raj Institutions) and Community Development.