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Women Leaders

The bedrock of all Seva Mandir’s development work is the creation and strengthening of community institutions (see Sustainable Development) The establishment of inclusive Village Development Committees is a fundamental precondition of our involvement in a community: they must all include equal numbers of women and men, as well as representatives from all sections of the community, for example higher castes, tribal groups and different religions.

Government and non-government village institutions, such as panchayats and caste panchayats have traditionally been men-only and have been inaccessible and unsympathetic to women’s issues. We have worked painstakingly with both institutions for many years to increase understanding of women’s role in panchayats and gain access to these

forums for women, with the result that women began to participate on women’s issues.

There are many women involved in the different activities that Seva Mandir facilitates in the villages. These include Balwadi Sanchalikas, Balsakhis , Shiksha Kendra teachers, village committee leaders, counsellors, agriculture leaders, and more.

There have been cases where women who have played a leading role in Seva Mandir-promoted institutions have gone on to take leading roles in panchayats and other bodies. Our efforts have thus helped change attitudes towards, and expectations of, women’s role in society.


Recognition received by women leaders

There has been national recognition for some of our women leaders, notably in the Women’s Resource Centres (see below in Women in Distress). Seva Mandir received the runners-up award in ‘Social Innovation Honours 2012’ managed by EdelGive Foundation, Mumbai, for innovation in the empowerment of women. In 2013, the Women’s Resource Centre in Malariya village helped the gram panchayat win the ‘Panchayat Sashaktikaran Purashkar’ managed by the Ministry of Panchayat Raj, for doing incredible work to further gender justice.

The National Foundation for India C. Subramaniam Award programme for Community Development and Social Change has been awarded to women working for Seva Mandir. The award provides an opportunity for mid-career voluntary sector workers and community leaders to enhance their skills and deepen their leadership qualities. The fellowship was granted for our colleagues’ exceptional efforts in empowering women.


Impact

By empowering women to become community leaders and decision makers, we have been able to directly challenge and change traditional gender-normative roles that have dictated women’s place in society.

Women now have a platform through Community Institutions and panchayats (on an equal footing with men) to increase the awareness of women’s issues in their community, from financial independence to social development, and to make development decisions for their village in a way that would have been improbable in the past.

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