Show of Woman Power

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Kumari Devi and the women of her VO, which represents eight SHGs in Santakabirnagar district, decided it was time to speak up for their entitlements. Kumari, the VO president and a shopkeeper from the severely disenfranchised community, was inspired by the information provided to her during one of the Panchayati Raj Leadership training sessions. During the VO meeting, she led a discussion on the 29 social welfare schemes entitled to them, none of which their village had received, and helped the VO design a strategy for obtaining them.

They first decided to speak with the Gram Pradhan, the village-level elected headman. However, their conversation with the Gram Pradhan went nowhere - he was unresponsive to their research of which schemes should be delivered to them and their opinions on the importance of social welfare entitlements in the lives of poor families. But since they knew they had other options for taking action, the women were not deterred.

Knowing the likelihood of success would increase if their demands were more specific and straightforward, Kumari and 13 other women discussed which entitlement would best serve the community at large that they should prioritise and push for. They decided to focus their demands on obtaining a road linking the main town road to their community and their houses. Next, they put together an application and all of them headed to the District Magistrate's office.

The District Magistrate was not present, so they gave their application to the Sub-divisional Magistrate who filed their application. Despite being assured that officials would visit their village in, at most, two days, no one came. So a week later the women returned, and this time the District Magistrate was there to greet them. He immediately heeded their request and spoke to the relevant officials, ordering the village be reviewed for the road. A team of government officials visited the village and approved a brick paved road for the community. Upon the conclusion of the rainy season, the road will be constructed. And if for any reason the construction does not commence, Kumari and those in her VO are ready to see to it that the work gets done.