Under-representation of women in politics is a major issue that India faces to this day. Indian politics remains a male-dominated sphere, and only a small proportion of women are a part of legislative and executive bodies.
To enhance women participation in politics, reservations in local governments have been introduced in villages. But due to the patriarchal nature of families, the decisions taken by women leaders are overshadowed by their husband’s will and they are not able to make independent decisions.
To solve this issue and increase women representation in politics, Kunariya village in Gujarat has come up with a unique idea of creating a ‘Balika Panchayat.’
Balika Panchayat: A Step Towards Shaping Women Leaders
Kunariya village located in the Kutch district of Gujarat held elections for Balika Panchayat recently to elect young girls aged between 10-21 years to address issues faced by adolescent girls and women for the first time.
The idea of creating a Balika Panchayat to focus on women issues is inspired by the popular TV series Balika Vadhu. While the show highlighted the evils of child marriage, the panchayat aims to shape girls to become future leaders.
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The Balika Panchayat will be run by the girls and for the girls. It will function as a separate executive body to solely focus on issues faced by adolescent girls and women of the village.
The girls elected to this panchayat will also be given separate sitting arrangements and a budget to implement various policies for the upliftment of women.
Election Of First Sarpanch Of Balika Panchayat
Four candidates, all aged below 21, contested for the post of Sarpanch and did extensive campaigning to garner the support of young girls one week prior to the elections.
Bharti Garva, aged 20, became the first Sarpanch of this newly constituted Balika Panchayat.
Bharti, who won by 117 votes, is currently pursuing her graduation through distance learning. She views her win as a great opportunity to bring about a change in the lives of many women in her village.
“The experience of Balika Panchayat will be useful in effective implementation of 50% women reservation in Panchayati raj. We will focus on issues like health, education, nutritional food and we will also organize training for the career enhancement of girls,” Garva said.
A Wave Of Change
The newly elected Balika Panchayat in Kunariya village, Gujarat, has inspired other nearby villages to form similar bodies for girls.
Suresh Chhanga, Sarpanch of Kunariya village, has proposed the idea of creating a federation of Balika Panchayats, combining two or more villages, and taking the mission of empowering future women leaders further.
Thus, the creation of Balika Panchayat is a significant step towards bringing a wave of change in the realm of women’s participation in the political process in India.
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