As early as the 1960s, the Mahila Mangal Dals' (MMDs) struggleagainst alcoholismwas eventuallysuccessful in banningalcohol from fivedistricts of Uttar Pradesh by 1971.Rural women'sparticipation in thesecampaigns laid thefoundation for theenvironmental struggles of the seventies. As a distinctly non-violent grassroots movement, women organized themselvesagainst commercial logging operations that were threatening their livelihoods, by literally hugging the trees, known famously as the
Chipko Movement.Uttarakhand was in the vanguard of states reserving 50 percent
of seats in panchayats for women for two succeeding terms.Despite this, and the fact that women outnumber men in eight outof 13 districts in Uttarakhand, women are still unable to effectivelyparticipate as active members in the panchayats. It wasremarked that, '
therewere two fears whenthe reservation for women wasintroduced, first that it was going to be hard to find enoughwomen ready toleave their traditional roles and enter into politics, and second,that dominant menwould push their female family members into the political arena and
then control them.'
Studies showed that women elected in local governance systemsled to the emergence of the '
or 'Chairperson-Husband', especially among younger, new members where
husbands dominated panchayat activities. In Uttarakhand,EWRs were often accompanied by their husbands who wereshadow boxing for the womenfolk in panchayat meetings. Over time, this pattern has changed and women are activelyparticipating as elected members but often have to facedomineering elected male members in these meetings.EWRs, thus, face the dilemma of their husbands either dominating their work, or actively discouraging, or hindering their participation, while at the same time, the community is expectingthem to deliver as elected members. Being new to the politicalarena, an EWR often does not know what issues should beraised, is unaware of her responsibilities, the finances, and lacksthe administrative and technical know-how necessary for effectivedelivery. Illiteracy and lack of access to information are major deterrents to being effective. Further, many EWRs felt that their being in power was a temporary status resulting from reservationthat would end once their five year term was complete. Thus,women need the support of the sanghas, to ensure that their voices are heard in the Gram Sabha.MS used this opportunity to bring women into the political arenaacross several states (Chart 5.1). Mahila Samakhya Uttarakhand(MS Uttarakhand) through its Panchayat Literacy Programme(PLP) for community-based grassroots women had the highestnumber of sangha women entering the panchayats. This initiativewas designed to build a critical mass of women in the politicalarena and through them create this space by ensuring thatwomen's perspectives influence local governance.When MS began its work on panchayat literacy, the environmentwas predominantly male-dominated and hostile, with women
2Dighe, A (2008),
'Women's Empowerment at the Local Level (WELL)
a study undertaken inthe state of Uttarakhand'
, Commissioned by the Commonwealth of Learning, Vancouver,Canada.3Kazmi, S. M. A (2008),,Uttarakhand reserves 50 percent seats for women in Panchayats.4Redlund, Johan,
'Women in the Panchayats - A study of gender structures and the impact of the 73rd Amendment to the Indian Constitution’
,http://lup.lub.lu.se/luur/download?func=downloadFile&recordOId=1332408&fileOId=1332409(accessed on October 31, 2010)5Shamim , Ishrat and Ranjana Kumari (2002),
Gender and Local Governance, A New Discourse in Development
, Centre for Social Research, New Delhi, India, ,unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/.../unpan038213.pdf (accessed on 1November 2010).
"Gram Sabha" means a body consisting of persons registered inthe electoral rolls relating to avillage comprised within the area of Panchayat at the village level
Source: The 73 Constitutional Amendment Act, 1993
WOMEN IN SELF-GOVERNANCE
“My husband had developed anidentity as a Pradhan husband or ‘Pradhan Pati’. My role was limited tosigning papers and I acted as aPradhan for signatures only. My husband even kept the stamp in his pocket. I was limited to doing household work and felt that given my illiteracy I will never be able to deal with all the paper work involved in my responsibilities as a Gram Panchayat Pradhan.”
Interview with Vijaya Devi, Gram PanchayatPradhan, Tehri District, Uttarakhand, June 2010.