Accepted paper:

Empowerment of Women through Panchayati Raj System in India


Abha Chauhan (University of Jammu)

Paper short abstract:

The Panchayati Raj Act (1992) provided for one-third reservation to women in panchayats that enabled 3.4 million representatives including 800,000 women to be elected for the first time in rural local governing institutions throughout India.

Paper long abstract:

The Panchayats have been traditional village managing and dispute settling mechanism in India. They are constituted by the members called 'panches', the five elderly, learned and wise men. Women's presence and participation in the panchayats remained negligible. The statutory panchayats were introduced and made more systematic and representative after the independence of India (1947) when the Panchayati Raj system was introduced (1959) to involve rural people to participate in the programmes of their development. The Panchayati Raj Act (1992), introduced as the 73rd Amendment to the Constitution of India further strengthened the panchayati raj system by making, among other things, reservations for women (33 percent) and other weaker sections of society at all the levels of panchayat mandatory. As a result elections were held and around 3.4 million representatives were elected throughout India in the local governing bodies including for the first time 800,000 women. In most of the states elections have been held 3-4 times since then which has resulted in increase in women's representation and performance over the years, despite the problems they encountered and backlash they faced. This paper explores the process of empowerment of women in panchayats or decision-making institutions in rural areas of India. For this, various studies conducted on the empowerment of women in panchayats of India, including my own study in the state of Madhya Pradesh in central India, would be analyzed.

panel G04
Local and global emergence of women's leadership in a changing world (IUAES Commission on the Anthropology of Women)