A French-origin Indian woman has been recently appointed as the president of Anegundi gram panchayat in Koppala district of Karnataka. Anjana Devi, whose mother was French and father an Indian, has been working in the social sector for years and was therefore the perfect choice for the panchayat president’s post. The panchayat’s 14 office-bearers unanimously decided to elect Devi as their president. Anegundi panchayat covers the villages of Kadebagilu, Chikkarampur and Basavanadurga.

Speaking to SheThePeople.TV, Anjana Devi said: “I have worked in the social sector since 1997. I started working in an NGO called Fourth Wave Foundation, as a catalyst for their program Nanagu Shale in Koppala district. In that job, I used to go from home-to-home encouraging parents of disabled children to educate them and get them to the mainstream. My work there gave me immense exposure. Then I also worked in Pondicherry for a bit to understand work in cities. But then I always want to work from my village and for my village.”

The 42-year-old recalled how even when she was in school, she and her friends would sweep the roads of the village to keep it clean before and after festivals.

In 2001, Devi started the Chandrakala Bhoomi dance group to involve young children of the village in cultural activities. Devi said that she received the creative genes from her mother who also engaged in artistic activities like crafts.

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In 2015, Devi became a gram panchayat member because she wanted to bring in holistic development in Anegundi where she lived all her life. “I am born and brought up in the village, people know my parents. I have a good background and people think that I will do something good for the village. I am also very accessible to people as I respond to their needs. That’s why they have elected me as the president,” said Devi.

“We need women who could actively participate as women have a different perspective and qualities that would prove very beneficial for the greater good of villages as well.”

Devi’s mother, French national Francois, came to India around 1965 and that is when she met her father, Shanthamurthy. Devi said that her mother came to India for spiritual rejuvenation for which she travelled to many holy places around the country. On one such visit, she met her father. After a period of courtship, both decided to settle in Anegundi. Francois also changed her name to Sharada. The villagers also accepted her wholeheartedly.

However, in 1984, Devi’s father passed away and Sharada alone raised her. Her mother wanted her to imbibe the local culture so she enrolled Devi in the Government Kannada Primary School instead of an English medium school.

Despite living in India all her life, Devi maintained her French connection as she kept in touch with her grandmother and even visited her in France. She is also in touch with her mother’s siblings. Her mother died in 2009.

Devi believes that we need more active women in leadership. “While the Karnataka government has reserved 50% quota for women candidates at gram panchayat level and it has also become a reality, but most of it only stays on paper. Practically, while women are members of gram panchayats, it is their husbands who do the work. We need women who could actively participate as women have a different perspective and qualities that would prove very beneficial for the greater good of villages as well. The situation is changing, though at a slow pace,” said Devi.

Picture credit- The News Minute

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