Empowering Women Through Panchayati Raj : Rhetoric and Reality

Dr. Sukhdev Singh, Professor of Sociology, Deptt. Of Economics & Sociology, PAU, Ludhiana and
Dr. (Mrs) Verminder Kaur, Lecturer Govt. College, Ludhiana.

The Indian society bears a unique social structure in the world, which has been oppressor of women folk in almost every sphere of life due to its denial of equal status to them since centuries. The patriarchal system of society forced the women to be confined in the four walls of their house and largely engaged in the household chores. After attaining the independence many efforts have been made by the government and some voluntary agencies for empowering to the women in various spheres of life. Participation of women in political process is one such mechanism. The empirical effort to see the changed identity (empowerment) of women in Panchayati Raj system in Punjab led to the conclusion that various social hassles still pose a hindrance in the new role of the women. The women who were elected members of the panchayat faced a lot of resistance from the males in society, which is evident from the fact that their actual role was still being played largely by the male members of the family. The study revealed that only one third of the respondents actually participated in the meeting of village panchayat and that too in most cases along with the male member of the family while majority of them never participated largely due to social obstacles and domestic chores. Some women respondents were curious to participate being panchayat member but never got any chance to do so due to reluctance of male members. The data is indicative that half of the respondents faced obstacles while performing their roles due to male dominance. In the decision making process more than half the respondents never participated in it and more than eighty per cent agreed to the decision made by the male members. It is further indicative that suggestions given by the women members were not given any recognition due to the ego of the male members of the village panchayat. Besides these other major hurdles responsible for non-performance of the women members were illiteracy, no recognition of their views by male members and lack of assertiveness among them due to social and psychological restrictions. Although there are some cases of women coming forward to make their presence felt as potential workers in Panchayati raj system yet there is a long journey for achieving a dignified and acceptable identity for the women in a large issue of empowering women through various mechanisms.

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