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    The “Gendered constraint” Factors for Women Sarpanchs

    GenderEmpowermentThe “Gendered constraint” Factors for Women Sarpanchs
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    The “Gendered constraint” Factors for Women Sarpanchs

    In the absence of any prior knowledge, it is obvious they would not be confident to take decisions and therefore, depend on their male counterparts. The impact of rotational reservation remains limited and tokenistic in nature.

    By Bhawna Kumari

    The relationship between the “perceived/expected” qualities of the woman panchayat leader and the “constraints” faced by the leader to carry out their responsibilities is mainly two-fold

    Time management is related with the expectation of the villagers out of a women leader as someone who doesn’t ignore the household chores. This entails a gendered angle to it because most of the male leaders have no such constraint and even have flexible hours giving extra hours to their work.

    With women, their day required them to give ample amount of time to the household chores before even leaving for their leadership tasks.

    Secondly, on the idea of Education, there are two reasons women are deprived of it – the household chores need to be taken care of when the parents are out there earning their livelihood and automatically, the daughter has to leave her studies to attend to it and to send their brothers to school on time; early marriage is another phenomenon that pushes parents to save for their dowry rather than spending on their education. This is somewhat related to women’s perception of a women leader’s qualities i.e., married. Matrimonial ties again lead to the vicious cycle of unending household responsibilities.

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    Why are women’s voices important?

    Ela R. Bhatt, the founder of SEWA, once said, “There is ample proof to demonstrate that women can and do build strong and vital organizations around issues that relate to them and find viable solutions out of their own experiences.” Women’s voices in the public domain play a very important role in bringing attention to some long-ignored issues.

    In the villages we visited, we noticed that there were two major issues that affected women more than male members in the family. In the absence of women voices these issues were not given importance. The issues are:

    (1) Availability of Drinking water: This directly impacts the amount of time women spend on household chores, this affects women more because they are the ones travelling far to fetch water and they are ones who ensures that enough is available for everybody’s use. The villages we visited had solar-run water pumps, but all of this became a reality after these women collectivised themselves and raised their voice.

    (2) Sanitation: This is an ongoing issue as even in the presence of washrooms at some places, the limited water availability dissuades the people from using the washrooms.

    This again has more negative implications for women as they are the ones travelling far and early in the morning to use washrooms. This again, has severe health impacts, especially in the event of menstruation. This is an ongoing battle and discussion topic in the villages among women. Women are the ones who have again brought this problem into light.

    Firstly, the impact of rotational reservation remains limited and tokenistic in nature. In my opinion, the government should organise training sessions for the women Sarpanch once they are elected. In the absence of any prior knowledge, it is obvious they would not be confident to take decisions and therefore, depend on their male counterparts.

    Therefore, it becomes very important to pitch in between just after the election so that there can be exponential behavioural pattern changes by introducing them to their and active assistance to ensure they are not overly dependent on their male counterparts. In the absence of this, the aim of the reservation will remain unfulfilled.

    Secondly, NGOs in the same manner should take up training sessions aimed at strengthening their communication skills by giving them enough opportunities to become better. They should also be assisted for a considerate amount of time before leaving them on their own to deliver their responsibilities. This will give them confidence and keep them going.

    Bhawna Kumari is a Final Year, BA (Hons.) Economics student at the Kamala Nehru College, University of Delhi. This piece has been extracted from the internship report submitted by the author as part of the Abhijit Sen Rural Internship programme of National Foundation for India (NFI).

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