Koushalya is 32 years old, recently literate and serves as an Elected Ward Member in Kiapadar village in India where she has become an agent of change.
Twice a month, hundreds of people will gather in front of Koushalya’s house for their ration of rice. As an Elected Ward Member, she represents the people in her village at the local government level. Koushalya recognized that many people were unable to receive their monthly ration of rice distributed through the Public Distribution System because it was nearly impossible for them to reach the office. In order to do so, one has to walk almost 4 miles through the jungle before reaching the main road, and then has to travel for another 2 to 3 miles. People have to walk the entire distance as there is no other means of transport on that road. To make matters worse, the village road becomes muddy and unapproachable during rains; also there are fears of wild animals, especially tigers, roaming in the evening.
When Koushalya discussed her village’s issue with other Elected Ward Members, she discovered that people in other wards were also suffering through the same challenges. So in the next assembly meeting, Koushalya demanded rice to be distributed at her village. She was met with sympathy, but was told that it would be impossible to transport rice every time to her village for distribution.
Koushalya then came up with a novel solution: she offered one room of her tiny house to store rice so that people may find their rations at a shorter distance. Now rice is being distributed to villagers of the four wards twice a month, and community members go to at Koushalya’s house to retrieve it. The Panchayat Executive Officer comes to weigh and deliver rice to people under Koushalya’s supervision. This arrangement has benefitted more than 1200 people in four wards.
Adding to her success as an elected representative, she has successfully had a concrete road constructed from her village to the main road, and has both developed and implemented pension plans for widows and senior citizens. She has provided housing for homeless people in her ward, and was instrumental in streamlining the Midday Meal Program in the village school. According to her, The Hunger Project trainings have boosted her confidence and morale as a people’s representative.
Read more about the Hunger Project’s work in India
Read more about the Hunger Project’s work to Empower the Women Electorate in India