India has 2 lakh women sarpanches who are reportedly being trained to look after villages on their own for the first time. Becoming a sarpanch had not empowered women sarpanches as they did not have the training to govern a village once elected, Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi said in the Rajya Sabha on Friday.
"A lot of women who became sarpanches went back into ghungats after they were elected and the husbands then technically run the village and call themselves sarpanchatpati or pradhanpati...," she said.
"This is the first time we recognise that training will bring about a marked change in the women and in governance," Gandhi said.
The ministry is reportedly training the 2 lakh women sarpanches in batches of 40. The first batch, which started in Rajasthan's Jhalawar, has just ended, she informed the upper house of Parliament.
The women are being imparted knowledge of infrastructure, women's safety — including "how to control the boys," how to deal with families who don't send girls to school, anganwadi work, and girl dropouts, said the minister.
In her speech, Gandhi said the 40 women sarpanches in Jhalawar came with their husbands as they also wanted to be a part of the training. However, the husbands were sent back and the women were for the first time on their own.
After the end of the training, the 40 women requested for an app to be developed through which they could keep in touch with each other and track the progress in their villages. "That's how quickly they picked up," she said in her reply to Rajya Sabha member Rajni Patil.
There have been some remarkable changes made by educated women sarpanches in various villages over the last few years. From opposing cheating in schools — like in the Dhanana village in Haryana's Bhiwani district in March — to setting up IT centres — like in the Soda village in Rajasthan's Tonk district, women sarpanches, who account for around 33 percent of sarpanches in the country, have taken steps towards improving the state of their villages.