Can supporting women to become decision makers and leaders really change economic and social development in rural villages in India? At The Hunger Project-India and The Hunger Project around the world, we’ve increasingly focused on the role of women in public office. In India, getting women into public leadership positions is crucial, as the national quota system for women in these positions has increased throughout the country. Today 33 percent of the seats of local governance bodies (Panchayats) are reserved for women in India. Meanwhile, 20 states have voluntarily increased participation to 50 percent.
For International Women’s Day on March 8, Rita Sarin, Director of The Hunger Project-India, participated in a panel and debate at the Royal Norwegian Embassy in New Delhi, to offer insights into The Hunger Project’s approach to empowerment of rural women. Rita discussed the importance of including women in local politics to develop sustainable social change. She explained that women in leadership often support initiatives that benefit large sections of the population. Sarin said: “I have not met a single female leader that has built a liquor shop,” arguing that women make different decisions on important social topics, prioritizing projects such as building schools and toilets.
The seminar was organized by the Royal Norwegian Embassy to bring leaders together to discuss the effects of women in local politics in India. Other speakers at the seminar included Joint Secretary Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Mr. Kushwant Singh Sethi, and Chairperson for the National Commission for Women, Ms. Lalitha Kumaramangalam. The panel and following debate covered issues of mentoring new female leaders, supporting them in the first year of the democratic rule, and reaching scale. Today there are 1.2 million female panchayat leaders across India and their new leadership is paving the way for female participation across multiple levels of society.
For more info on the panel, check out this article.