4 July: The study on elected Women Representatives in Panchayati Raj Institutions was presented to the Indian Women Press Corp (IWPC) today by the Minister of Panchayati Raj and DoNER, Mr. Mani Shankar Aiyar. The study among other things focuses on impact of participation of women in community development and also makes certain recommendations.
Impact of participation of women and community development
* The positive impact of entering politics and working as a Panchayati Raj functionary is evident from the fact that a sizeable proportion of women representatives perceive enhancement in their self-esteem (79%), confidence (81%) and decision –making ability (74%).
* Becoming a Pradhan or Ward Member augments respect within the family (67%) as well as in the community at large (82%). Encouragingly, this change is more perceptible in the case of elected women representatives who also perceive an increased voice in decisions related to economic maters and other issues in their family (66-71%).
* Beyond the household domain, and in the professional environment, an increase in attention from local government (64%), responsiveness of the Block Panchayat (60%) and recognition from other Panchayat Members (65%) is reported by a slightly higher proportion of female Pradhans. While no gender discrimination in the panchayat is reported by 60 percent of elected women representatives, acceptability in panchayat meetings and enabling them to raise issues freely was mentioned by 94 per cent.
* A supportive professional environment evidently motivates elected women representatives to perform better, as 60-64 per cent reported an increase in their interaction with line departments and parallel bodies. Even the participation of common women citizens in various activities such as attending Gram Sabha meeting, etc. has reportedly increased (68-78%).
* A large proportion (72%) reported having been actively involved in providing civic amenities, while 62% said they made efforts in increasing enrolment and mitigating domestic violence.
* The level of educational attainment seems to have played an important role in determining performance. Those educated showed a significant positive correlation with better performance of elected women representatives. On the other hand, those who were illiterate or had been educated below the level of primary school did not perform well.
* The performance of women representatives who belonged to a younger age category (21-35 years) was better than those who were above 35. This finding was statistically significant, suggesting that younger women should be encouraged to join politics.
* Imparting training emerged as a critical determinant of the performance of elected women representatives. A large proportion of women who received training have performed better. This was true for Pradhans (male/female) and Ward members (male/female), though the data also show that 43 per cent of elected women did not receive any training in their current political term. Hence, training should not only be made mandatory for all elected representatives, but it should also be organized regularly, covering multiple dimensions including rules and regulations, administrative issues, budgeting and financé and the implementation of development schemes.
* In order to increase the effective participation of women, they should be given more honoraria, as the findings show that the representatives who devoted more of their time in doing Panchayat work register better performance. This finding was statistically significant.
* Membership of groups/committees plays an important role in terms of increasing the visibility of women in the village. A significant proportion of women representatives has said that they were earlier associated with groups/committees and confirmed that this association has helped them in joining politics. Thus, such entities should be provided greater support.
* Reservation is an opportunity to bring women into the mainstream. It provides them with a platform to interact, participate and enhance their image. It becomes more meaningful when women can sustain their political activity through re-election. The data shows that 85% of the women representatives were first timers, and only 15 percent could get re-elected because the seat from where they were elected was de-reserved in the next round. Hence, at the policy level, the rotation of seats may be discontinued for the women –headed Panchayats and Wards.
* The data show that the duration (in years) of political involvement is directly proportionate to the performance of women representatives. As women progress in their political career, they become better performers by virtue of being politically more aware and experienced. Thus, the effort should be made not only to maintain the representation of women in politics in terms of their percentage, but also their ability to remain in politics.
On this occasion women panchayat representatives from U.P, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan etc. were also present.