After Madhya Pradesh Panchayat poll results hit the headlines for nearly 75% of the winners were women, now villages from Gujarat’s Kutch district are making news for their attempt to aid the socio-political development of girls in the region. The villages have started the nation’s first-ever girl Panchayat, colloquially called ‘Balika Panchayat’ which ensures the active involvement of girls in politics.
The unique initiative was devised by the Women and Child Development Welfare department of the Gujarat Government under the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ campaign. Balika Panchayats have been started in Kunaria, Maska, Motagua, and Vadsar villages of the Kutch district. Reports suggest that the Ministry of Women and Child Development is also mulling about beginning the initiative across India.
What Is Balika Panchayat?
Balika Panchayat is managed by girls in the age group 11-21. The main objective is to promote the social and political development of girl children while ridding the evil practices like child marriage, the dowry system and others from the society, a report stated.
A member of the Balika Panchayat from Kutch, Garba Bharti, was quoted as saying, “Balika Panchayat is a panchayat of girls between the age of 10 and 21 years, whose main objective is that the girls should get their nominations done in the Panchayat`s decision-making process and are active in politics since childhood.”
Bharti further added that on Women’s Day, the people from the region spoke to Union Minister Smriti Irani that if introduced across India, girls from other regions could also perform. “For the last one-year ‘Balika panchayat’ been running in our village,” she added.
Urmi Ahir, a 20-year-old sarpanch of a Balika Panchayat, also chipped in and elucidated about the coining of the initiative. She said, “A new initiative has been started in Kutch under Beti Bachao Beti Padhao. The main objective of panchayat is that the girls should move forward in politics. In Balika panchayat, the member is nominated just like Gram panchayat.”
She then added that Balika Panchayat has been created as an aid for girls of the village who cannot move out and access education. “I am the sarpanch, they come to me with their questions and I solve them and if I am not able to solve then the gram panchayat solves it. For example, if a girl is a dropout of school and her parents are not letting her out, then we explain to her parents and send that girl again for education,” said Urmi.