ByÂ Vidushi Singla:
The world knew that they could successfully manage households; they proved that they could successfully manage commercial enterprises; they won laurels in Olympics; they outdid their counterparts in competitive exams; they wrote success as renowned authors and now, if their success as leaders in the Jharkhand panchayats is anything to go by, then women are out to prove their mettle in political administration. 3 years back, women had registered unprecedented success in the history of Jharkhand by winning 58% seats in the first-ever Panchayat elections in the state, wherein 50% seats were reserved for women.
Amidst the frenetic exultation that followed the declaration of results, cynics had expressed their doubts about the efficient endurance of such governance on the political front. However, 3 years later, the success of these women-led panchayats has silenced their critics. From getting wells dug for improved irrigation to cultivated lands to helping women participate in Self Help Groups; from crusading against corruption to demanding equal wages for women; from striving for property rights for women to having women help-desks at police stations; they have scripted stories of unmatched success and done everything within their purview to raise the bar in governance.
The questions which then loom large in the social scenario today are: did we see it coming? Does this instance of success indicate a trend in the making? If yes, then what could possibly be the implications of such a trend?
It does not take an acute observation to be able to note that social atmosphere in rural India is fraught with patriarchal ideals. As men patronizingly assume the role of bread winners and consequently, the decision-makers of the family, the introduction of women led panchayats would be a refreshing change for this relationship equation. Seeing women effect changes in society as policy makers might influence the mindset of men who hitherto are guided by the principle of “men for the field and women for the hearth”.
As women would gain representation in administration, chances are that it would become easier for them to get their issues redressed as is evident from the model of Jharkhand. So also, it would result in employment generation for women and thus, their economic empowerment which is a pre-requisite for commanding respect in today’s world. By extension, it is expected that there would be a rise in the literacy rate among women since people would see an incentive in educating their daughters.
It is common knowledge that a country that has a more equitable pattern of power and resource distribution in the society has a more developed economy, a more liberal mindset and a more encouraging political scenario. As women would occupy the higher echelons of political hierarchy, there is hope that the perception of men towards women would change. It would help in curtailing the sharp dichotomy of the Goddess and the fallen woman. Men would come in contact with women of equal stature when workplaces would cease to be solely male battalions.
Thus, if this successful model is replicated in the country, then what has started out as a grassroot movement in Jharkhand might prove to be a game-changer for the nation. Even though the feudal setup might take some time to crumble, yet the admirable success of women led panchayats has raised hopes of the people to literally see the hands that had once just rocked the cradle, ruling the world.