Getting a foothold into the existing male-dominated Panchayati Raj Institutions seemed a Herculean task for the women of the SHGs—a challenge they took up with zest and determination, leading to their victory and the beginnings of change
T he active participation of the Self Help Group (SHG) women in the November 2015 Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI) elections in Poraiyahat block of Jharkhand’s Godda district was something remarkable. From the selection of the best persons to be the mukhiya or members of the Panchayat Samiti or Ward Members of their panchayat to going with them to file the nominations to campaigning for the candidates, these women extended their active participation.
Due to their efforts, one jila parishad member, five panchayat mukhiyas, seven Panchayat Samiti members and 72 Ward Members, who won the elections, were SHG members. They also helped many others, who were not from the SHG, but could play, according to the SHG members, a pivotal role as PRI representatives.
In some instances, the SHG women won the election unopposed. The reason for such enthusiasm among the women and their involvement is a long one, and the journey towards this change has not been an easy one. The Ekta Mahila Vikas Manch (EMVM) Poraiyahat is a block-level women’s SHG Federation. It came into existence on 23 January 2005, with a total SHG membership of 2,685 spread over 196 SHGs. Poraiyahat is a very big block. There are 31 panchayats, comprising 197 villages. There are 37,594 families and the total population of the block is 1,87,989. At the time of the PRI elections in 2015, EMVM Poraiyahat had 13,745 rural women members from 1007 SHGs.