The Centre has directed all states and union territories to organise Special Gram Sabhasand Mahila Sabhas (Women’s Assemblies) in all Gram Panchayats on March 8, 2020 to mark International Women’s Day. In a letter to secretaries / principal secretaries of states and UTs, Ministry of Panchayati Raj has said the theme this year will be “Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Right”. The events should be held in partnership with Community Resource Persons (CRPs), Aanganwadi, Asha, Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANM) workers, it says. The Gram Sabhas would hold discussions on “Poshan Panchayat”, land rights, education, safety, reproductive health and equal opportunity. Earlier, the Panchayats were asked to organise Poshan Pakhwada from March 8 to 22, 2020 as per the programme drawn out by the Ministry of Women & Child Development.
The Special Gram Sabhas would focus on issues such as the ban on sex determination tests and celebrate birth of a girl child; pre-natal and neo-natal care, immunisation and nutrition for all women; ensuring every girl child receives due care, nutrition and immunisation; encourage girls to go to schools and complete their schooling with focus on safe environment at home and in school; ban on child marriage; report violence, abuse or injustice against women and girl children; active participation of elected women representatives in Gram Panchayats and contribute to decision making; and encourage women to participate in Gram Sabhas.
The Panchayati Raj Ministry has also circulated the broad outlines of a message that will be read out by CRPs and self-help-groups (SHGs) during the course of the Special Gram Sabhas. Besides the topics mentioned above, the message would also highlight issues like the importance of breastfeeding during the first 1,000 days of the new-borns for their ideal physical and mental growth; and raising awareness about Child Helpline – 1098.
The role of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) is very important in strengthening community mobilisation and working as a catalyst for behavioural change in the community. The 73rd Constitutional Amendment provided autonomy to rural local governments and brought governance closer to people. Significantly, the amendment ushered in feminisation of local governance by mandating 33.3 percent reservation for women in Panchayats at all decision-making levels. Going a step further, so far 20 states have enacted legislation to raise women’s reservation to 50 percent in Panchayati Raj Institutions. As a result, out of the 30.41 lakh elected representatives of PRIs, 13.74 lakh (45.2 percent) are elected women, some of them from socially disadvantaged groups and are in leadership positions.
The Ministry of Panchayati Raj framed the Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP) for integrated development planning at the Gram Panchayat level to focus on the community’s needs and priorities. Some of the key aspects of GPDP guidelines, as revised in the year 2018, that are relevant to women empowerment include proactive participation of women in budgeting, planning, implementation and monitoring of GPDP and convening Mahila Sabhas prior to the general Gram Sabhas and their inclusion in Gram Sabhas and GPDP.