Increasing Women’s Participation in Local Government in India

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On Thursday, August 27, 2009 the Government of India's Cabinet approved a proposal to move a bill to amend the Indian Constitution, which would enhance the reservation of seats in village councils (panchayats) for women from one-third to 50 percent across the country.

The Hunger Project-India (THP-India) Country Director Rita Sarin says, "This is a historic moment in the history of the world - 1.5 million rural poor Indian women will be participating in India's democracy at the grassroots, making it accountable to its people in fulfilling their basic needs of health, education and water. These women are at the cutting edge of local democracy and with this 50 percent reservation, we look forward to a critical mass of women who can be trained to end rural poverty in India."

THP-India has been advocating for a 50 percent reservation for women in panchayats in every state where we work. The team have been successful in influencing policymakers in Rajasthan, Bihar, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, and are overjoyed with the Government of India's decision.

This is the time to invest in a great opportunity, and I invite all of us who believe in the leadership of women and local democracy to participate in this profound moment of change for the villages of India.

Photo: Elected women representatives (EWRs) reciting the oath that is taken by all EWRs at the end of THP's Women's Leadership Workshop. The oath reads:

"To be a Panchayat leader means that I have been chosen by the people of my village, and entrusted by the Constitution to lead my community to achieve a healthy and productive life. A life where everyone's basic rights are met. As a Panchayat leader, I promise to use this opportunity, power, and responsibility to ensure the well-being of everyone in my village."


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