The participation of women in the decision making process and politics can be ensured only when an awareness is created in them at the grass-root level, Union Minister for Panchayat Raj and Tribal Affairs V. Kishore Chandra Deo has said.

Participating as chief guest at the plenary of a two-day Government of India - United Nations Women Programme on “Promoting Women's Political Leadership and Governance in India and South Asia” here on Thursday, the Union Minister said that the objective of the programme was to address issues which concern elected women representatives and all women members of gram sabhas.

He felt that the gram sabhas could take up issues concerning gender equality like livelihood, housing, health, education, sanitation and infrastructure while leaving more sensitive issues like trafficking in women, conflict, violence and sexual harassment at the workplace to smaller entities like the Palle Sabha, Mahila Sabha and ward level sabhas.

Mr. Kishore Chandra Deo said that the Panchayat Raj System within the federal structure was one of the most effective institutions for decentralised and effective governance mechanisms. Some of our neighbouring countries like Afghanistan were keen on replicating the system which speaks volumes of its success.

Expressing satisfaction at the increasing number of women in Panchayats, he said that these women were playing a more assertive role in the process of local governance. “Elected women representatives are no longer mouthpieces of their male relatives and the empowerment of women has been on the rise with each passing election,” he said.

Minister for Tribal Welfare P. Balaraju underlined the need for preparing women who were bound to become future leaders with 33 per cent reservation for them in India.

Regional Programme Director, UN Women South Asia Regional Office Anne F. Stenhammer spoke about the programmes and strategies being implemented to foster women's empowerment and gender equality.

Charge d' Affaires and Minister Counsellor of Royal Norwegian Embassy, Delhi, Aslak Brun appreciated the great strides being made by India towards promotion of gender equality. The social transformation was visible even in rural India. He was all praise for the growing involvement of women in the decision making process.

Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Panchayat Raj Hrushikesh Panda, Principal Secretary in the Department of Panchayat Raj, Government of AP, Rajeev Sharma and District Collector Lav Agarwal spoke.

A short animation film ‘Impossible dream' presented the plight of women as subservient housewives but in the end it shows the man realising his folly and sharing the household chores.