Bengal Dalit, Adivasi women taste Panchayat poll victory

By Matters India Reporter

Kolkata: The hotly contested village Panchayat elections in West Bengal throw expected results on May 17.

There was unprecedented violence reported in the media this year, leaving some 12 to 14 killed and around 40 people injured.

There were uncertainties with regard to the election date as well, as there were many cases filed in the High Court, Kolkata.

Udayani (awakening) social action forum has motivated the women last six month in a focused way and more specifically from International women’s day in March 2018 for the Panchayat election.

The election date was declared on March 31 and date for nomination from April 2 to 9.

Twenty four of the Self Help Group (SHG) women in three districts wanted to file nomination and were prepared. But on the day of nomination, only 11 managed to file the nomination. Twelve could not file the nomination as there were not allowed by political parties. Two were made to withdraw the nomination.

“Finally, with all the threats to life, we have reason to celebrate! Seven of our women won in four blocks,” Jesuit Father Irudya Jothi, director of Udayani, told Matters India.

Doli Murmu and Parvati Kisku from the same SHG filed the nomination from the same village but for different political parties.

Doli Murmu won and all SHG members joined celebration including Parvati Kisku!
Lila Khetrapal who stood from Nabagram and won is elated. She says, “I am happy to win and continued to promise, ‘I shall try to work for the development of my village.’”

She says that she will make sure her SHG members will get all the schemes provided by the Govt.

Lekha Naskar, one of the coordinators of Udayani, says, “I am extremely happy that my hard work of preparation for political leadership yielded fruit.”

Anburaj, the assistant director of Udayani says, “I lost every hope as there was a lot of violence on the days of nomination but the women stood all trails and won and this gives me joy.”

Elizabeth Sangeetha Paul, another coordinator says, “The effort put on the women are seen in their victory and I am motivated too.”

Alphonsa Kumari, another coordinator, and trainer says, “These few who contested and won are the sample of the powerful women we have prepared and I am happy.”

Udayani is on the verge of registering these SHG federations into three different NGOs in the coming days.

One of the priorities of Udayani is empowerment women in Bengal. It has programs such as ‘small savings’, ‘unity and peace-building’, and ‘Rights-based Work’, especially for women.

Udayani played a key role in the making of legislation, National Food Security Act. It takes up ‘environmental issues’ by an opening nursery and solar housing and solar lantern assembling projects. It also celebrates “Women’s Day’ and ‘Human Rights Day’, besides, taking an active part in tackling some of the corruption locally in the administration.

Udayani is the social outreach arm of the Calcutta province of the Society of Jesus. It works with schools, parishes, spiritual centers, international immersion groups, NGOs, and other organizations to foster a faith that does justice.

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