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Jabna Chauhan is already a Sarpanch in Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh at a youthful 22, but her feisty administration speaks for her ability in her work.
The first time I read about Jabna Chauhan being the youngest Sarpanch in India, I wasn’t surprised that she was a girl from the mountains. There is something about the mountains that is already empowering, and every girl from the hills is proof of that.
At the young age of 22 when Jabna became the Sarpanch of Mandi district in Himachal Pradesh, little did she know the mammoth task that she was about to undertake.
Born to a family of farmers, Jabna grew up in an environment that was socially aware and extremely progressive in their outlook. Despite having a humble beginning, on Jabna’s behest, her father provided her with a college education. Walking 18kms every day to college did not deter her once from her decision.
When Jabna earlier started working at the local newspaper in Mandi, she not only ran around only to get matter on paper, but truly worked to reform the district, resolve disputes, especially women related issues around her. Looking at her proactive skills and strong resolve, most of the village elders were convinced that she would do a bloody good job of administration here. They urged her to contest the Sarpanch elections and she created history.
While learning the new ropes of this role, Jabna has toured various parts of the country trying to understand the problems at the grass root level that cripple our daily living.
There is a popular belief among people residing in the mountains that there can be progress only if there is no liquor available.
Jabna was instrumental in passing a government aided directive to ban liquor not just in Mandi, but in all the neighbouring districts. Despite impending threats, the sassy girl held her own and did not give in to the pressure.
It’s been a good 3 years since she took over the reforming work and since then there’s no looking back.
Jabna says, “We should hold on to our individuality, fight for it every day, and not wait for someone to offer it to us. If we stick to our decision long enough, people around us will have to step away from our paths. If we don’t build our own identity who else will? Will we graduate straight from being someone’s daughter to being someone’s wife and mother?”
When I quizzed her about the looming problem of women’s safety all over the country. Our daily lives are riddled with the terrifying stories of rape and assault surfacing every single day. In such a scenario on an administration level does she envision a solution that can tackle this problem?
“The idea is to have more women on the road,” she says confidently. “In Mandi women can comfortably move around even at 2 am and that is proof that if we have more women on the road, there will be fewer assaults.”
Does she not have goals of becoming an IAS or enter electoral politics, to move into administering perhaps city or state?
“No, I am good,” she says. “I don’t want to get marooned in the paraphernalia of being a politician here. I have an NGO that will be my main focus to continue doing the work I believe in.” Well said and done Jabna!
Before ending the highly charged session with her, she said that “the Swachata Abhiyaan started by the PM is quite a noble drive. However, the same people who promote being torch bearers of it, drink and create a ruckus at dusk. How will we clean our surroundings if the house is not clean? The assaults, rapes still continue, drinking and abuse still continues, then what is the point of cleaning the garbage that will end up collecting again and polluting our skies?”
It’s time to think about an inward approach to first clean our house, our society. To create a safe environment for women is the need of the hour. Only then can we truly claim to be a united country.
So here’s more power to Jabna Chauhan!
Image source: Jabna Chauhan
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