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Defying opposition from her relatives and community members, Vandana Bahadur Maida contested Panchayat elections to become the first woman Sarpanch of her village.
Vandana Bahadur Maida, a mother of three and once a devoted home-maker, like most women in her village, is today busy making significant decisions for her community as the head of the village council where she surpassed her husband who was once a panch (member of the council) to become the Sarpanch.
Initially when she decided to contest the elections, the community was against it as they believed that a woman is not capable of running administrative affairs. They also questioned how could she hold a position higher than her husband. However, according to Vandana her family’s support and her husband’s experience in politics at the panchayat level has helped her to reach where she is today, performing her role actively as the village sarpanch.
Vandana had to leave her education when she was in Class Eight. She learnt about the provisions of various government schemes through capacity building trainings organised by UN Women and fostered her interest in social development. As the village sarpanch, she is responsible for creating awareness in her community regarding sanitation, proper hygiene and healthcare, education and participation in the gram sabha meetings.
Vandana admits that being a woman she did face obstacles on her way to becoming the sarpanch. She herself was not confident that a woman could become the sarpanch and her community members could not imagine a woman holding the post of the head of the village council. With the support of her husband she decided to go ahead and contest the elections. She explained her developmental plans to the community and eventually won with a good margin.
It is indeed commendable that in a rural society of India, where women usually do not go out to work and are restricted to household chores and working at the farm, a woman is looking after the administrative affairs as an elected representative of her community. This instance is an attempt at breaking the shackles of patriarchy. The people of Khankhandvi village despite of having reservations about a woman taking the highest post in the Panchayat, had faith in Vandana’s competency and voted her to power.
As an efficient village sarpanch, Vandana is setting an example for other women around her, empowering them. She advises girls and women to be confident and follow their hearts.
“The members of this patriarchal society will definitely oppose your every action. They will criticise you, make fun of your choices, but in the end it is you who are going to fulfil your destiny. Once you achieve success, everyone will start appreciating your efforts.” she says.
Cover image via Hindustan Times
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