A two- day EWR State level Federation Convention was held on 23rd and 24th October at Bhopal. In this 274 EWRs from 8 blocks of 8 districts participated. The convention began by putting forward the concept of Federation building which is futuristic and aims at (i) motivating women to participate in electoral processes; (ii) create linkages among the EWRs belonging to different areas for capacity building, solidarity and local level governance (iii) empower and sustain women’s organization at all levels; (iv) create a force with which the women can successfully negotiate with other institutions on their own terms. On 23rd October, block level federation presidents shared their experiences and difficulties faced by them at the local levels, as well as their achievements and vision for future.
Electing the Office-bearers
Voting for four office bearers- President, Secretary, Treasurer and Vice President was done on the second day.98% of the voters casted their votes in favor of candidates of their choice.
Major highlights of the election process were:
- Proper observance of processes in voting like establishing an election office in the campus where the election was held in course of the convention
- Distributing election symbols
- Observing timing for campaigning
- Casting of votes as per the arrangements made during an actual election- in short it was a simulation close to elections.
- Four office bearers were chosen for the posts of president, vice president, secretary and treasurer
- The president of the federation won by a narrow margin of 3 votes
- The EWRs were very enthusiastic in this whole process. They celebrated the declaration of results by carrying the winners to the dais, singing, raising slogans and dancing
- Charter of demands was prepared.
Charter of Demands
The demands that emerged from the 2 day convention were:
- Panchayats be given the responsibility for implementing ICDS food schemes.
- The responsibility of monitoring and ensuring accountability of SHG groups preparing mid-day meals is given to EWRs.
- Elected members of the Panchayat are provided with respectable and reasonable allowances.
- Inclusion of separate mechanism for ensuring security and protection of elected women representatives against violence.
- Amendment of section 40 to stop harassment of EWRs.
Jai Kunwar Bai of Ashta block, district Sehore shared her experience of the hardships that she had to face with the CEO and the block officer in acquiring a hall for the meetings.
Dhaku Bai of Khidkiya block shared about how she along with the other women in the village won a case in High Court against forceful possession and have been successful in acquiring land meant for construction of school building.
Shyama Bai of Harrai block said that when I got elected as a Sarpanch I had no idea about the functioning of the Panchayat and the roles and responsibilities of the Sarpanch. Getting associated with the Federation has been very useful. It has given me the confidence to interact with higher officials. I have been successful in getting work through NREGA for the village. I have also been successful in opening a middle school in my village. It has taught me that for the development of the village it is important that the women should take initiative, come together and voice our demands collectively.
Mira Mishra of Rampur Baghelan shared that the collective approach has given us the strength to come out of the domains of their private life into the public sphere. It has provided a platform to speak, share our views and get rid of hesitation. It has helped us to gain a better understanding about the political scenario. She added that through this the women have learnt to handle situations and solve the problems at block, Janpad and district level.
Sunita Devi, Sarpanch Tighara Panchayat, Sirmore block Rewa and also the President of Block level Federation said that it is not far when elected women in Panchayats from all over the State will come together and put up a united fight against oppressive mechanism such as section 40 that is often used against women
Slogans for Giving Identity to Federation
Some Slogans were identified for spearheading Federation building drive by the EWRS:
- Mahila Janpratinidhi Sakti Zindabaad,
- Dar kar mat Ghabrao, Bandha nahin Hai Haath Tumhare
- Awaaz do, Hum ek hain
- Panchayat main Jaayenge, Sab Behno ka Maan Barayenge
- Mahila Sangathan Banana hai, Ghuskori Door Bhagana
- Aao behno Sangathan banaye, apni sabki Samasya Suljhayein
- Ker ke dekho ek baar meri behna, Kal nahin kaam hua to kehna
- Hum sabne ye jaana hai, sangathan majboot banana hai
- Khud ki Pehchaan banayenge, Mahila Panch Sarpanch Sangathan Banayenge