Sarmi Bai is an elected woman representative, trained by The Hunger Project, who is sarpanch (president) of the Nichlagarh Gram Panchayat (village council) in Sirohi District in Rajasthan. On November 7, Sarmi Bai made her first trip to the city, together with representatives from The Hunger Project-India, to meet with US President Barack Obama at an Expo on Democracy and Open Government at Xavier’s College in Mumbai.
The Hunger Project was invited to this event to highlight the critical role played by elected women representatives in bringing local governments closer to people through their development initiatives.
Rita Sarin, Vice President and THP-India Country Director, informed President Obama about Sarmi Bai’s efforts in ensuring the education of girl children in her panchayat. President Obama carried back with him Sarmi Bai’s profile and her list of achievements, including ensuring proper implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, generating awareness on domestic violence and conducting social audits in her panchayat.
“Meeting the leader and telling him about our efforts to better our village was great. I have lots to tell to my villagers…” said Sarmi Bai.
The Expo for Democracy and Open Government highlighted key Indian innovations that strengthen democracy, focusing on the intersection of technology, citizen empowerment and accountability. Ten civil society organizations and government representatives from across the country participated in the expo. Sam Pitroda, advisor to the Prime Minister on Public Information, Infrastructure and Innovation; Anish Chopra, Chief Technology Officer of the United States; and Samantha Power, Senior Director of Multilateral Affairs and Special Assistant to President Obama, were also present at the event.
The Hunger Project’s participation in the expo and the groundbreaking work done by Sarmi Bai in her panchayat was highlighted by print and electronic media both in India and the US:
- The White House Blog – A US-India Partnership on Open Government posted by Samantha Power
- USA Today – Diplomacy, Diwali, dinner on Obama’s agenda in India by Calum MacLeod
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November 7, 2010