Kernataka’s women panchayat leaders unite for good governance

May 27th, 2009 - 5:35 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangalore, May 27 (IANS) Over 600 elected women leaders of villages across Karnataka’s 21 districts gathered in this IT hub Wednesday to launch Sugrama - a unique federation to secure their rights and further the interests of the rural communities that they serve.
“This is history in the making. Sugrama becomes the first federation, not only in India but South Asia, to focus on the rights and interests of women panchayat leaders,” Rita Sarin, country director of The Hunger Project, told a packed auditorium at the inaugural function.

Sugrama is facilitated by The Hunger Project, in collaboration with Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SKL) International and Swedish Institute for Public Administration (SIPU).

“The idea of Sugrama is to empower elected gram panchayat women representatives and bring about gender justice and equality in the society,” said Sarin.

“By empowering the elected women representatives, we want to collectively advocate and practice good governance for the overall development of gram panchayats,” she added.

It took almost three years for The Hunger Project, along with its partners, to give shape to Sugrama.

SIPU is a Swedish consultancy and training organisation specialising in public service development and reform, whereas SKL International was established to safeguard the interest of Swedish local and regional authorities and has contributed significantly to this state of affairs.

“This is your organisation and you have to ensure its sustainability. I am confident that the federation has strong women members who are responsible and will help to bring social equality and justice in the grassroot level,” said Paul Dixelius, director of SKL International.

Hans Norgren, director of SIPU, said: “This is a unique association and I am hopeful that powerful women leaders from Karnataka’s grassroots will bring positive development in the villages of the state.”

Sugrama has 22 steering committee members from 21 districts. These 22 members represent block level federations in their own districts. Seven office bearers have also been elected to execute the work of Sugrama.

Together, the steering committee members and office bearers prepared the special manifesto of the federation, including its various by-laws and clauses.

“Elected women panchayat leaders of Karnataka want to bring about real change. We want to ensure water, electricity, sanitation, education and food security in the villages,” said Sugrama president Renuka, who represents Gowribidanur block of Chickballapura district.

“As women representatives, we face challenges in the form of gender and social injustice, lack of information and knowledge and a supportive and safe environment to work in. With the coming of Sugrama we are confident of getting a platform where the members will support each other in bringing change and facing challenges,” said Sugrama vice-president S. Nagarthna, who represents Dodballapur taluk in Bangalore Rural district.

Some of the key points in the manifesto of Sugrama to be followed in a year are to encourage elected women representatives to be active and effective panchayat leaders, support elected women representatives in addressing challenges, assess the impact of state policies on gram panchayats and undertake advocacy in the interest of the members, disseminate information and advise on panchayati raj institutions to the members, address issues of social and gender injustice and ensure Sugrama remains financially sustainable.

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