Rajasthan recently wrapped up the local council election season in January 2020. Women stepped out to exercise their rights as equal citizens, both as candidates (old and new) and informed voters. The participation of women in the election process continues to steadily rise.
It is mandated by law in India that one-third of all seats for village council leaders be held by women. However, the majority of these women are unprepared to participate due to a lifetime of subjugation, illiteracy, and very little experience in public, let alone leading a life in the public eye. In addition, the people in power often don’t want them to lead.
The Hunger Project works with these Elected Women Representatives to enable them to leverage their positions to create change in their communities. As part of this initiative, we work with women in the pre-election stage, identifying potential leaders and working with them on campaigns, community engagement and training.
Local council candidates taking a break after voting. Image credit: Surbhi Mahajan
Now, an increasing amount of women are running for positions in the council.
There is conflict, camaraderie and candour, there is some anger for being ignored all these years, and there is hope. These women candidates are reclaiming their right to be heard and a seat at the table. This increased awareness about the potential of women to lead has helped many candidates journey through a hostile terrain of election campaigning.
Women waiting in line to vote. Image credit: Sujata Khanna
As The Hunger Project India supported women candidates on their campaign trail across three councils, they realised that for many who participated in the electoral process, it wasn’t about winning or losing. Instead, it was about challenging gendered stereotypes that have defined what women can or cannot do for too long, and questioning caste hierarchies and unequal power.
Candidate Shahida Bano said, “They want to show us our ‘place’, we will continue to show up. We refuse to be overlooked.”
How does our strategy of training Elected Women Representatives in India actually enable transformation in communities? Meet Sunita
Feature image credit: Surbhi Mahajan