Mumbai Local

Giving a voice to tribal women

empowerment: Women participate in the course organised by Vayam. — photo: special arrangement  

Elected for the first time as sarpanch and gram panchayat members, tribal women of the newly-formed Palghar district are learning how to tackle the difficulties they face while governing the village, and most importantly, how to make themselves heard in the chorus of male-dominated gram sabhas.

The first leg of this specially-designed course organised by Vayam — an NGO working in the tribal hinterland of Thane and Palghar district — which concluded on September 13, saw the participation of 59 women, 18 tribal sarpanches and 41 gram panchayat members. The aim is to organise a special, women only, gram sabha on October 2.

“We have been working with the tribal population for many years now. In the gram sabhas of August 15, we observed that many of the newly-elected women members were either overpowered by their male counterparts from the opposition or were clueless. We sensed the need to train them even in the way they deliver their speech,” said Milind Thatte, an organiser with Vayam and member of the Tribal Advisory Council, Maharashtra.

One of the problems faced by first-time women representatives comes while deciding the beneficiaries of various schemes. “It gives ammunition to level charges against her. The situation becomes such that she either works as told by her male relatives or surrenders to the system,” added Mr Thatte.

The first leg of the training started with an explanation of ‘panchayati raj’. The women were informed about benefits of their being the heads of gram panchayat, one of them being they can not be removed for at lease two-and-a-half years. Conducting special women only gram sabhas was also part of the NGO’s mission to form a peer pressure group in the village to take forward their agenda of empowering tribals by joining hands with women’s self-help groups.

“What is lacking, especially in women sarpanches, is legal literacy. Unless they are made aware about their rights as an administrative head of their respective village, nothing will help. The Panchayati Raj system has given them lot of rights which must be conveyed to them and I think such training sessions will surely help them,” said Nidhi Choudhari, CEO of Palghar Zilla Parishad. She added that the government too conducts similar training sessions through its various institutes. “We hope that such training sessions become a frequent affair, which gives these women a chance to interact among themselves, which itself is educative,” she said.

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Printable version | May 11, 2021 12:24:08 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/news/Giving-a-voice-to-tribal-women/article14562511.ece

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