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Local Governance

The 73rd Constitutional Amendment paved the way for women and other marginalized social groups in India to exercise their political rights in local self-governance and participate in grassroots politics. Introduced in 1993, it stated that no less than one third of the seats in the panchayats (village councils) should be reserved for women, including those from Scheduled Castes and Tribes. It also ruled that in each panchayat the number of seats allotted to Scheduled Castes and Tribes should be in proportion to their representation in the local population. Although in theory women and other socially deprived groups now have a political voice in the panchayats, there are still a number of barriers that hinder their effective participation in local governance:

Lack of Political Knowledge: Marginalized peoples are often unaware that they are entitled to seats in the panchayats. They are unfamiliar with the election process and do not know how to nominate a candidate or how to go about voting. Some aren't even aware that they are eligible to vote.

Lack of Training and Education: Most panchayat members from marginalized groups are illiterate and have had little opportunity to develop the skills required to carry out their governance duties. As a result, their powerful colleagues often do not recognize them as leaders and fail to listen to them in meetings or involve them in decision-making processes.

Lack of Confidence: Women and lower caste elected members are usually too afraid to talk in front of, or contest the opinions of, the economically powerful higher castes that dominate the panchayats. In most instances husbands of elected women carry out all their official duties on their behalf.

Lack of Participation: The presence of women and lower caste representatives at panchayat meetings is often merely of token value. They are made to sit on the floor at the back of meetings while the upper castes take centre stage.

Intimidation: Women and other marginalized people have faced threats, malicious propaganda and violence both while they are contesting elections and after they are elected.


To promote the active participation of women and other politically voiceless groups in local self governance, encouraging them to make use of it as a forum to discuss their problems and issues.
To put pressure on the government to effectively implement existing laws designed to transfer power to the panchayats.
To develop the capacities of the panchayat elected representatives to manage the local governance by themselves.
To initiate micro-level planning in the panchayats which addresses the needs and aspirations of the people.


Raising people's awareness of the importance of participating in the Gram Sabha (the village general assembly) and of fulfilling the expectations of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment.
Conducting training sessions with women and other socially marginalized panchayat members to strengthen their leadership qualities and provide them with the skills and information they need to carry out their duties effectively.
Enabling panchayat members to make development plans that address the specific needs of their villages. In particular, making sure that woman and other socially marginalized groups contribute to this planning process.
Holding workshops that give elected members the opportunity to interact directly with government officials and to present the practical problems they face working in the panchayati system.
Initiating campaigns, advocacy and group networking to strengthen women's role in the panchayat processes.



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