The 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act (CAA) included a provision for a 33% reservation of seats for female politicians in Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs). Therefore, this study was intended to assess the current level of participation of women in Panchayati Raj Institutions and the factors affecting women’s participation. With support from the National Commission for Women (NCW), we examined fundamental issues on effective gender representation and its impact on development work in the states of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.
Our research team focused on the socio-economic and political profiles of elected women representatives in local governance to identify limitations or obstacles hindering full empowerment. Overall, the main objectives of the study were:
- Conducting situational analyses(including socio-economic profile, political profile and awareness level) amongst women representatives
- Studying the levels of participation of women representatives
- Highlighting issues on which women take more interest
- Assessing changes taking place at the local level due to women in PRIs
- Investigating factors affecting participation of women in PRIs
- Determining the initiatives required to enhance the effectiveness and level of participation of women in PRIs
Research findings showed that the majority of women representatives at all three levels of Panchayat were between 31-40 years old, with more than ninety-six percent of Hindu faith and 100 percent married and living in joint families. Regrettably, most women remained only figurative members of the Panchayat, with actual responsibilities being shouldered by male family members. The awareness level of all Panchayat members was very poor regarding the importance of women’s reservation in Panchayat Raj Institutions, as well as regarding laws pertaining to women, financial aspects of the Panchayat and issues to be addressed by PRI. Most women expressed the need for capacity building in terms of better education and focused training on Panchayat functioning.