India is going through a silent transformation at the grassroots. Panchayati Raj Institutions, born out of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act (CAA), have ensured one-third of seats in the Panchayats (local village councils) to women and proportional representation for the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Castes. Hailed as one of the best innovations of grassroots democracy, the CAA has given women a voice in local governance and decision-making and an opportunity to build their own development agenda.
Women in our villages are asserting themselves, surely and steadily, in the decision-making governance processes of their villages. Disproving the scepticism that the elected women in Panchayats would be proxies, the success stories that have arisen from the grassroots are impressive. Media reports and independent studies show that most elected women leaders actively engage in learning the ropes and exercising power.
They are transforming local governance by sensitising the State on issues that had previously gone unattended like water, alcohol abuse, education, health, domestic violence, and inequality and gender injustice.
What is needed today is a voice for this "silent evolution," a way to bring stories of their struggles and successes into the homes and minds of civil society groups, the urban elites and professionals, the academia and policymakers.
It is time for the media to make an objective assessment of the contribution this new generation of women leaders have made to their villages.
The Hunger Project is committed to supporting and encouraging the press to prominently report the success stories of these women leaders.
This is the 10th year of the award and therefore the Sarojini Naidu Prize will not be theme based and is open to all positive reporting on Women and Panchayati Raj.