News

Empowering Women Leaders in Local Government in India

Date: 26 April 2010

New Delhi — As part of UNIFEM’s programme on governance and women’s political empowerment in India, 100 women from districts where the programme is implemented received support to participate in events on the occasion of Women’s Political Empowerment Day, organized by the Institute of Social Sciences in New Delhi on 24-25 April.

The Institute of Social Sciences has celebrated Women's Political Empowerment Day since 1994, and this year, it was held on the theme of local government’s role in ending violence against women.

Addressing the 500-strong group of women in local government (‘panchayat’) from across India, the Regional Programme Director of UNIFEM in South Asia, Anne Stenhammer, encouraged them to work together for the benefit of women and society. She highlighted UNIFEM’s work with panchayat leaders to strengthen their capacities to implement the national government’s commitment to reinforcing women’s human rights. And focusing on this year’s theme, Ms. Stenhammer stressed that local government could take critical measures to counter violence against women.

India’s Constitution was amended in 1993 to grant at least 33 percent of panchayat seats to women. However, the reserved seats are rotated every five years, and experience has shown that it can be a great challenge for women leaders to get re-elected to general seats. They are often pressured to back down and have in some cases faced direct obstructions or threats.

Each year, the Institute of Social Sciences presents awards to outstanding women in politics. This time, Radha Devi from the village of Mithi Beri in Dehradun district, Shobha Sinha from Bihar and Sanjo Kol from Uttar Pradesh received the award from Gursharan Kaur, a social activist and the wife of India’s Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. All three awarded women had stories to share of the challenges they had faced in political life, including attempts by male rivals to strike them out of the electoral roll.

For more information, please contact Anupam Srivastava, UNIFEM South Asia Sub-Regional Office, anupam.srivastava[at]unifem.org.

Sharing the stage on Women’s Political Empowerment Day, from left to right: George Mathew from the Institute of Social Sciences; UNIFEM Regional Programme Director Anne Stenhammer; local government leaders Sanjo Kol and Shobha Sinha; Prime Minister’s wife Gursharan Kaur; local government leader Radha Devi; Mohini Giri from the Guild of Service; and Bharat Singh from the Rajasthan state government. (Photo: Institute of Social Sciences)
Sharing the stage on Women’s Political Empowerment Day, from left to right: George Mathew from the Institute of Social Sciences; UNIFEM Regional Programme Director Anne Stenhammer; local government leaders Sanjo Kol and Shobha Sinha; Prime Minister’s wife Gursharan Kaur; local government leader Radha Devi; Mohini Giri from the Guild of Service; and Bharat Singh from the Rajasthan state government. (Photo: Institute of Social Sciences)