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How Women Are Changing The Course Of Bihar Politics

The Bihar government has reserved 50% of the seats in the Panchayat election for women, to motivate them to enter politics. Time for a reality check ...

Last year, the Panchayat elections in Bihar witnessed an increasing number of women contesting the elections. 

Altogether, the voting for the Panchayat election took place in 11 phases. While the first phase began on September 24th, 2021, the last phase was held on December 12th, 2021.

As per a report, according to the commission, five to ten per cent more women than men participated in the panchayat elections in each phase and won. Against 4,17,772 male candidates, 4,74,917 women contested in all the phases.

The Government of Bihar has reserved 50% of the seats in the Panchayat election for women to motivate them to enter politics. These provisions helped in increasing women’s participation in decision making and strengthening women’s empowerment. 

Bihar Politics in recent years

In the recent Panchayat election in Bihar, women from different rural areas have ensured their participation through their candidature.

Furthermore, women who have studied at prestigious colleges in the country and worked in multinational companies have also contested the elections.

Take the case of 31-year-old Dolly, who has completed her MBA from Symbiosis International University in Pune and worked in several multinational companies, contested in the recent Panchayat elections. 

She participated and won the election by receiving 2600 votes in her favour and is currently the Sarpanch in the Shadi Pur Panchayat of Manpur block situated in the Gaya district of Bihar. 

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Dolly said: 

“I started working after I passed my 12th standard in 2008. I wanted to get back to my village and work for its development. With this vision in mind, I finally left my job in 2018.” 

In 2014, she got married and currently has a 4-year-old daughter. Her mother-in-law was the Sarpanch of Shadi Pur Panchayat for eight years but unfortunately died during her tenure in November 2018. Talking about her, Dolly added:

“The death of my mother-in-law was a huge loss. An educated and responsible person was required to take her place and carry out the duties. This is when I decided to contest for the post of Sarpanch in 2018. With everyone’s support, I won the election.”

 Since then, she has been working towards the development of the village and won the Panchayat election for the second time.

While talking about her initiatives, she said:

“I want to establish a cottage industry in the village so that more women can get work and become financially strong. As women in this village take an active part in agricultural work, they will benefit from this initiative.”

How these women changed the course of Bihar politics

On the other hand, talking about the challenges, Dolly informed that the biggest challenge in the village is domestic violence, which needs to be curbed.

Although women in the village complain about it, they are afraid to take action. Over the years, Dolly has been able to bring several positive changes to the village.

She has also received the Aparajita Award for Women Empowerment in Excellence of Gram Kachhari by Dainik Jagran for establishing the first digitized village office in Bihar.

Likewise, Priyanka, from Bishanpur Gonahi Panchayat in Sonbarsa block of Sitamarhi district in Bihar, is driven towards breaking stereotypes by taking part in politics.

However, her journey was not easy. Coming from an average family, her parents did not want to spend on her education and save money for her dowry.

Despite several hurdles, she managed to take tuition and get an education. Marriage proposals were already on doorsteps when Priyanka was young, but she did not want to get married. Priyanka expressed:

“I told my brother about the situation, who was studying in Delhi. He did not just stop the wedding but also helped me complete my 10th. I became the first girl from my family to get the first division in the class 10th exams.”

In 2013, she came to Delhi with her brother and completed her 12th. She got admission to Miranda House. Belonging to a village that has a low literacy rate and getting admission to a prestigious college in the country’s capital portrays Priyanka’s grit and spirit.

She completed her education in Philosophy. During her course, she came to know about India’s first MBA degree holder, Sarpanch Chhavi Rajawat, which motivated Priyanka to become a Sarpanch. While talking about her works, she said:

“In 2017, I got an opportunity to participate in the Gramya Manthan program- a 10-day rural immersion initiative by the Youth Alliance of India. And in 2018, I was entrusted by the organization with the responsibility of Nibada, Kharagpur, Badi Palia and Chhoti Palia villages in Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur district, where I started a campaign named Sham Ki Pathshala for the children in the villages and did other developmental works.”

She worked in Bihar, not just for the political part, but for the awareness part too

Inspired by these works, she returned to her village in April 2020 and started working on awareness. Currently, there are four members in her team, who are running the ‘Chetna Choupal’ programme under the Gram-Chetna-Andolan initiative.

Under the programme, they visit different villages and inform people about social issues. She aims to become the Sarpanch of her village, and therefore participated in the recent Panchayat elections. Despite her loss in the election, she did not lose her zeal to work toward developing her village.

Women in the position of decision-making lead to a bridge to fill in the gender gap

Women in the decision-making positions lead to an increase in women’s representation. It also bridges the gender gap in political decision making.

Given the support and access to resources, these women can undertake some outstanding work. And most importantly, society has to do away with conservative notions and discourage those who work relentlessly toward a greater good.

As Priyanka puts it:

“A woman has to struggle more than a man to get into politics because society wants to only see a woman making bread, and this situation is more prevalent in rural areas.”

(This article was first published in The Pioneer)

This article has been written by Saumya Jyotsna, who has been involved in grassroots journalism for five years now. You can send your feedback on this article to this mail [email protected]

Image credit: Mlenny from Getty Images Signature via Canva Pro (for representational purpose only)

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