Elected Woman Leader Fights Gender Discrimination and Goverment Corruption

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When 26-year-old Deepa Rajguru was elected as the Sarpanch (president) of Gram Panchayat Udvariya in Rajasthan, she found it difficult to function in the male-dominated panchayat system. Male members dominated meetings and resisted the participation of women, insisting that Deepa and the other women sit at the back during panchayat meetings, damaging the confidence of the women leaders.

Deepa found her lost confidence when she participated in The Hunger Project (THP)-India’s capacity building program for elected women representatives (EWRs) and decided that these hurdles would not prevent her from becoming an effective leader. With the support of other women in her panchayat, Deepa began voicing her opinion on various issues.

Some of Deepa’s most successful initiatives include sanctioning 600 feet of pipeline to bring water to the panchayat, addressing land disputes for which she faced incredible opposition and threats of violence against herself and her family, and promoting panchayat transparency. Without public discussion, water tankers were being procured at an inflated rate and Deepa renegotiated to save Rs 72,000 (US$1,400) of public funds.

Deepa remains resolutely committed to raising awareness about domestic violence by making women aware of the law against it and has raised the issue of violence faced by EWRs with the district administration (See Deepa speaking to EWRs in above photo). She works to economically empower women by linking them with the various pensions, schemes and income opportunites for which they are eligible. Deepa continues to participate actively in panchayat meetings and gram sabhas and works each day to motivate other EWRs to do the same.

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