India map highlighting Maharashtra

Area: 307,713 sq km

State Boundary: North- Madhya Pradesh, South-Karnataka, West-Arabian Coast, East-Chattisgarh

Population:  96,752,247 (2001 census), female-46.4 million, male-50.3 million

Sex ratio: 922:1000

Literacy Rate: 77.27% of its population is literate, broken into 86.2% males and 67.5% females.

Map of Maharashtra

Maharashtra is divided into thirty-five districts, which are grouped into six official revenue divisions:

  1. Aurangabad Division
  2. Amravati Division
  3. Konkan Division
  4. Nagpur Division
  5. Nashik Division
  6. Pune Division

Geographically and historically,  Maharashtra has five main regions:

  • Vidarbha or Berar (Nagpur and Amravati divisions)
  • Marathwada (Aurangabad Division)
  • Khandesh and Northern Maharashtra (Nashik Division)
  • Desh or Western Maharashtra (Pune Division)
  • Konkan (Konkan Division)

Women sitting around with papers

Woman takes the microphone while others look on

Where we work

Districts: In all 36 districts: Ahmednagar, Akola, Amrawati, Aurangabad, Beed, Bhandara, Buldhana, Chandrapur Dhule, Gadchiroli, Gondia, Hingoli, Jalgaon, Jalna, Kolhapur, Latur, Nagpur, Nanded, Nandurbur, Nashik, Osmanabad, Parbhani, Pune, Ratnagiri, Satara, Sangli, Sindhudurgh, Solapur,  Wardha, Washim, and Yavatmal

Blocks: 149

Women sittingRenapur, Chakur, Ausa, Devani, Aurangabad, Soygaon, Phulambri, Ashti, Patoda, Shirur, Mukhed, Loha, Biloli, Gangakhed, Purna, Palam, Parbhani, Hingoli, Kalamdur, Sengaon, Osmanabad, Omarga, Tuljapur, Jalna, Ambad, Badnapur Chandrapur, Ballarpur, Chimur, Pobhurni Tumsur, Mohadi, Bhandara, Lakhani, Sakola, Pawni, Sadak Arjuni, Devri, Goregaon Mouda, Umred, Bhiwapur, Kuhi, Sawner, Ramtek, Narkhed, Kamathi, Arvi, Sulu, Hinganghat, Devri, Wardha Gadchiroli, Chamorshi, Dhanora, Armori, Wadsa, Morshi, Nandgaon, Khedkar, Tiwasa, Chikhaldara, Anjangao surji, Chandu Bajar, Achalpura, Bhatkuli, Ner, Atanji, Umarkhed, Purund, Malegaon, Risod, Karanja, Mangalik –pir, Medsi, Malkapur, Chikali, Akola, Balapur, Murtijapur, Barshi, Takli, Patur, Haweli, Ambegaon, Welha, Purandar, Bhor, Shirur,  Daund,Tasgaon, Walwa, Khanapur, Kawthe mahakal, Jawali, Koregaon, Satara, Man, Khatav, Bhudargad, Ajara, Nippani, Chandgad, Gadhinglaj, Sangola, Barshi, Karmala, Mangalweda Rajapu, Lanja,  Kankavli, Vaibhavvadi, Devga, and Malvan

The Hunger Project (THP) has been working in Maharashtra since 1984.  THP’s current partners -RSCD-MRA, Parivartan & UMLVM have focused on social mobilization,  building mass based cadres, capacity enhancement, building block level women’s organizations, media workshops & advocacy and alliance building with other like-minded organizations.

Maharashtra is perhaps the only state in India where all the Panchayats do not go to poll at one go. Twenty percent of the Panchayats go to polls at any given time. There are 30,000 Panchayats in Maharashtra and out of these 6,000 Gram Panchayats will go to the polls this year. Over 1, 00,000 women have been elected to Panchayats in the state of which approximately 10,000 are Sarpanchs.

Women standing in circle holding hands

Another unique aspect of Panchayats in Maharashtra is a 'Women's Gram Sabha'. These gram sabhas are held prior to the general Gram Sabha. The issues raised by the Women's Gram Sabha have to be ratified by the general Gram Sabha.

Some of the broad issues affecting women’s leadership in Maharashtra are:

  • Lack of cooperation from the Gram Panchayat secretary (Gram Sevak) and shortage of Women Gram Panchayat secretaries
  • Poor implementation of policies & law by bureaucracy
  • Nexus between the Gram Panchayat members & the administration.
  • Division of tenure between two women Sarpanches
  • Atrocities on elected women representatives and women in general

Training of Trainers and Women’s leadership Workshops (WLWs)

The Hunger Project conducted a Training of Trainers in Devlali, in February 2007. Twenty three participants from UMLVM & Parivartan were trained in a 3 day long programme. This Training of Trainers will be followed by a series of Women Leadership Workshops (WLW), which will be conducted at the community level by the local pool of trainers.

The Women’s Leadership Workshop’s of The Hunger Project are capacity building workshops. The workshop seeks to instill and facilitate:

  • Creating an understanding of their identity as a political leader
  • A shift from a mindset of I cannot to I can
  • Critically analyzing social systems and its effect on their own realities: hierarchies of class, caste, religion, gender and so on.
  • Understanding political and social citizenship
  • Understanding their role in local governance as stated under the 73rd amendment
  • Articulation of a vision for their communities and themselves

The expected outcome of this would be the mobilisation of a critical mass of women leaders who will address the gaps in development and take up issues of women’s rights.

Since April 2007, 383 women leaders have been trained through the WLWs conducted by The Hunger Project. The Hunger Project’s partner UMLVM to date has trained almost 450 Elected Women’s Representatives. The Programme is being implemented in 340 villages in 18 blocks of 5 districts of North Maharashtra (Ahmednagar, Dhule, Jalgaon, Nandurburgh & Nashik).

1587 elected women were contacted & trained through SHG meetings & campaigns.

Women sitting on beds

Maharshtra Mahila Maha Panchayat

A state levelMaharashtra Mahila Maha Panchayat (MMMP) – a public hearing of women’s issues was organized on the 5th December 2007 in Dadar, Mumbai. Twenty eight organizations working on women’s issues in Maharashtra came together to lay their demands in front of the Deputy Chief Minister and Home Minister of Maharashtra Shri. R.R. Patil.

Woman on microphone waving

The MMMP focused on 10 different issues related to women namely:

  • Ownership of the Home built under government programmes
  • Governance
  • Emotional and mental health
  • Violence against Women
  • Dalit atrocities
  • Unorganized workers
  • Property and Land Rights
  • Food Security – Public Distribution System (PDS)
  • Problems faced by Muslim women

All these issues are interrelated and are important social, economic and political rights of women. Nearly 1100 women traveled from all over the Maharashtra to attend this Program. They were accompanied by women and men from various different fields like Media, NGO's, and from Government and Non governmental Organizations.  The MMMP Program was one of its kind, as it was an unique attempt to announce the Mahila Sabha proposed in Mumbai on women’s issues. Maharashtra has a history of a patriarchal society, where men have dominated Panchayats and the judicial system.

The main objective of MMMP was to challenge gender inequality vis-à-vis women’s social status, property rights and decision-making

The event was attended by the Deputy Chief Minister & Home Minister of Maharashtra Mr. R.R. Patil, Mr. Rajanitai Satav, Hon. Chairperson, Maharashtra State Commission for Women; Mr. Baldeveji Chand, Chairperson, Maharashtra State Commission for SC & ST; Ms. Mandatai Mhatre, MLA, Govt. Of Maharashtra; Ms. Mrinaltai Gore, Senior Women’s Activist, Ms. Shubhadatai Chaukar, Chief Editor, Chaturang, Supplementary edition, Loksatta

Assurances given by Deputy Chief Minister at the Maha Panchayat

  • Changes will be brought in to improve the implementation of schemes under PDS – Measures will be taken to provide food in every district even if there are no stocks, alternatives to buy food from other district will be undertaken.
  • Any worker, who travels a lot for his/her livelihood, should be provided food at his or her workplace.
  • Every one will get employment under NREGS.
  • Misbehavior with women will not be tolerated and the act of misbehavior of concerned officials will be taken into cognizance.
  • The loopholes in the Dowry prohibition Act will be rectified in co-ordination with the State level Administration and Supreme Court. Effective efforts to identify the hidden form of dowry would be made by taking support from civil society organisations.
  • 50% representation for women in politics. The percentage should be increased in the Panchayati Raj Institutions as well.

Gargoti State Convention

The Hunger Project’s partner organization, MRA along with THP organized its fourth Bi- Annual State Convention from the 24th- 25th March 2007 at Gargoti, Kolhapur District. This Convention focused on strengthening the elected women’s mass base and garnering support for women in governance.

Objectives of the Convention were:

  • To strengthen existing mass base of  the elected women representatives
  • To strengthen the process of policy advocacy for addressing the issues of elected women representatives in Panchayati Raj Institutions
  • To design a campaign for Atrocity free Maharashtra
  • To design new roles for networks to strengthen the alliance building process

Major features of this convention were

  • This convention was attended by 8500 women leaders from all the regions of Maharashtra
  • A Motor cycle rally lead by women sarpanchas visited 35 villages across 270 Kms in 4 districts of Maharashtra
  • Two and half day motor cycle rally was accompanied with many events like street plays, village melas, felicitation of EWR’s, Girls bicycle rally and Gram Panchayat visits.
  • Achievements and obstacles were shared by 23 EWR’s from all over Maharashtra in the public hearing session.
  • A drama ‘Mulgi Zali Ho’ (Girls are moving) on the issue of gender inequality was presented by women activists of Maharashtra Mahila Parishad

Alliance with Media:

The media has been actively involved in promoting and supporting the activities of the elected women representatives. Listed below are some of the highlights:

  • A special Diwali Publication viz. Rajsattetlya Karbharni (Women in Governance), has been published and disseminated to women Panchayat members, leaders, M.L.As and well known poets, writers and researchers.
  • Interviews of EWRs on All India Radio and Doordarshan (the national public Broadcaster) across the state
  • Daughters of Savitri – a documentary series on newly elected women representatives at the local self-government level. The series documents the struggles undertaken by the first time entrants to local level political process.

Successful Policy Advocacy Outcomes:

The following points are the advocacy issues taken up by The Hunger Project’s partners in their areas of work which were subsequently endorsed by the State Government:

  • Conferring of effective powers to Gram Sabha, December 2002
  • Mandatory Women Gram Sabhas
  • State Government has accepted MRA’s demand to make suitable amendments to resolve the issue of suspended Gram Sabha.
  • Block Development Officers have been ordered by the State Government to give adequate publicity to Taluka meetings to ensure participation by women.
  • Three-fourth majority is made mandatory to unseat women Sarpanch through No-confidence motion, thus putting a check on improper and gender biased use of statutory provisions.
  • State Government has agreed to institute Gram Sevikas (women village secretaries) on an experimental basis.
  • Ten percent Budget for women to be implemented rigorously.
  • Priority given to Mahila Mandals for allocation of land by the Government committees should be extended to other committees as well.
  • Wherever the Panchayat is headed by a woman the Flag hoisting should be done by her

In October 2007, Pranita Jangam, Sarpanch (Dahagaon, Mandangarh Block of Ratnagiri District) addressed the gathering at the 30th anniversary celebration of THP held in New York.

In August - September 2007, awareness meetings aimed at ‘Issues in the Election Process’ in Ratnagiri District were organized to discuss up-dating information such as voters list, filing of nominations, and code of conduct. Information leaflets & songbooks were also developed. A role-play on ‘how the elections are conducted in villages’ was also performed during the 2 month long campaign.

Future Plans:

To build & strengthen women organizations at the block level

THP in collaboration with Parivartan is planning to form three block level organizations in Mandangad, Chiplun & Dapoli Blocks of Ratnagiri District.  The block level federations will strengthen the elected women’s voices as they will then be able to collectively take an united action at the village level and help build women’s leadership. In addition, village level women organizations are being set up in all villages. This entire process will take a year to form in all the three blocks.

To set up an Information Resource Center (IRC) at Mandangadh:

The prime objective of the Information resource centers will be to boost newly entering women leaders’ interests in government processes and provide information to EWRs on a long-term basis.

The EWRs, who can choose to be the members of the IRC, would be the primary stakeholders in the Information Resource Center (IRC.) The efforts would be aimed at capacitating them in expressing their rights and demanding accountability from the authorities. Moreover, this will provide a platform for the women leaders to share their experiences and learn from each other.


LatifabhabiThe Gram Panchayat of the village of Raimoh in the Shirur Taluka of the Beed District is an example of National Integration. The village has an equal number of Hindu and Muslim, who reside beside each other peacefully. Approximately the population of the village is 5000 and a Gram Panchayat comprises of 11 people of which six are women The Sarpanch is of this Gram Panchayat is also a woman.

Thirty-seven year-old Latifabhabi is an active member of the Gram Sabha and a very dynamic worker.

Latifabhabi who is also the president of the Chandbibi Self Help Group has been proactively adjudicating cases of atrocities against women. Recently an aged relative in a village raped a 14-year-old girl, which was 5 kilometers from Latifibhabi’s house. Her parents left behind the young girl with a relative when they traveled to earn a living by working in the sugar mills. Taking advantage of the fact that she was at his mercy, he repeatedly raped her, which then resulted in a pregnancy. As her parents were uneducated, they did not know how to address the issue and decided to leave her with the rapist. In the meanwhile, the girl delivered her baby in a barn. Latifabhabi and the women of the SHGs came forward to her rescue. The women united under the aegis of Latifabhabi and decided to teach the rapist a lesson. They marched to the Beed police station where they filed a petition. They also demanded that action be taken within two days. The rapist was caught by the police in two days and charge-sheeted. Latifabhabi summoned the girl’s parents and with the permission of her parents, she was sent to a Christian missionary rehabilitation center.

Latifabhabi has, in addition, enabled a lot of progress in the development work of the village. Previously, women had to travel outside the village to fetch potable water in the summers, as all water sources in the village ran dry. Bringing this issue forward in the Gram Sabha she enabled the following works:

  • Three new water tanks were built.
  • New ‘Nallas’ (drains) and gutters were built
  • An overhead water tank was brought for the village

Thus, the perpetual water problem in the area was resolved. Under her leadership concrete roads have been built in the village.

Latifa Azan Sheikh, Gram Panchayat Member, Village: Raimoh, Block: Shirur, District: Beed

Our partners in the State:

Mahila Rajsatta Andolan (MRA)/ RSCD works in 28 districts of Maharashtra. A Campaign for Women in Governance evolved in March 2000 with a view of empowering Women and strengthening their participation in political processes through Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI). Currently, MRA works in 26 districts, 78 blocks, with 1800 EWRs of Maharashtra; through various intervention strategies like- Advocacy, Organizing Training Programs, Crisis Support, Documentation, and Dissemination of Information to Elected Women Representatives (EWRs). It has played an effective role in network building, capacity building, and creating support systems to ensure Women's active, efficient, and effective participation in the local self-governance.

Parivartan is a NGO working on environmental and developmental issues in the Konkan region of Maharashtra. In the process of empowering the local communities, Parivartan works as a support and catalyst organizations to build and strengthen the networks of citizen leaders, especially women leaders and to engage them with the institutions of governance. The key result areas of Parivartan include strengthening local governance, improving livelihoods of the resource poor, and developing the organizations of the marginalized. The main activities being conducted by Parivartan include training activities are focused on the elected members of the three-tier local governance system, training and promoting livelihoods of the resource poor, with special attention to women, scheduled castes, and other backward caste members. In the livelihood promotion activities the thrust is on use of appropriate technologies and developing economic organizations and promoting rural entrepreneurial initiatives.

Uttar Maharashtra Lok Vikas Manch (UMLVM) is a people based initiative established in 1996-1997. The purpose of the Manch was to create a cadre of development activists who would have a common mission of participatory governance for developmental rights in the 5 districts of North Maharashtra (Dhule, Nandurbar, Nashik, Jalgaon, Ahmednagar). The main focus of the network is to empower the marginalized sections of society identified as Dalits, Tribal and Women and enable them in becoming their own actors of development and leading lives of dignity, justice and freedom. UMLVM consists of 26 grass roots based organizations spread out over 340 villages of 18 blocks of the above-mentioned 5 districts of North Maharashtra. Today, UMLVM is facilitating community actions emerging around the issues of Women’s role in governance and imparting leadership training to elected women representatives of Gram Panchayats, Right to education, Sustainable agriculture and Capacity building of its partner organizations.