Elected Indian Women Leader Gains Insight from Australia Visit
Murli Meena is the Sarpanch (village president) of Dehlala Gram Panchayat. This is her second term as a President, having successfully defeated nine men and one woman in elections. She comes from the marginalized Scheduled Tribe community, and has completed her education through the 8th grade. Murli is a strong communicator and actively reaches out to everyone in her community. Her empathy toward the elderly and women in her panchayat has gained her tremendous respect and support from her constituency.
Murli's biggest dream has been to furnish her entire village with access to electricity and roads. She wants to ensure livelihoods for all and is very keen on promoting dairy farming and other local occupations. Her aspiration is to have children in her village converse in English so that more opportunities are available to them.
In May 2013, Murli was invited to Australia as a delegate sponsored by THP-Australia. She travelled with Ruchi Yadav, Senior Programme Officer of THP-India. According to Murli, she feels very privileged to have the opportunity to visit another country for first time in her life and had never dreamt it possible. She found women in Australia more empowered than India in terms of societal responsibilities, mobility and in making decisions. What fascinated her most was the freedom to marry someone by choice, from any caste and class and to not be bound by societal norms at large.
“Girl and boy children are being given equal importance and treatment in Australia which makes them empowered human beings,” said Murli. She also noticed that children of both rich and poor families receive equal opportunities to attend schools run by the government and that education is compulsory and free up to the age of 17.
Through this experience, Murli solidified her beliefs in empowering women and girl children. She pledges to ban child marriages in her area, increase awareness amongst women and generate more employment opportunities. She feels that economic independence is the greatest tool for the empowerment of women. She strives to bring equality of treatment and opportunities to boy and girl children in families and the society at large.
Upon her return from Australia, Murli was welcomed with enthusiasm and pride. It was her chance to represent her community and bring change to her Gram Panchayat. Murli plans to continue her journey in Panchayati Raj System as a leader and aims to become a member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) as it would provide better opportunities for fostering overall development and women’s empowerment. She aims to establish a training center for promoting self-employment for women.