Home India News Women panchayat members take oath as Ahimsa messengers

Women panchayat members take oath as Ahimsa messengers

New Delhi, Oct 1 (IANS) When Radha Devi first decided to fight panchayat elections four years ago, she was threatened by the elected representative in her area, a man. But undeterred, Radha fought the polls and won with a good margin from Rupari Kala in block Chaksu in Rajasthan.

Radha Devi, 30, was one of the 25 women panchayat members who were Thursday administered an oath by Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath to fight violence.

“I have seen violence from close quarters. I was threatened when I first expressed my desire to fight the block elections. But I was not scared, and fought it by fair means,” Devi told IANS.

“Today I am happy that I was selected as one of the messengers of peace and non-violence,” she added.

The minister said a nation-wide campaign for prevention of violence against women would be launched Oct 2, the birth anniversary of the apostle of peace Mahatma Gandhi, and to create greater awareness among communities.

“For the first time, a national campaign is being launched for prevention of violence against women. As Gandhiji was an apostle of peace, we have decided to make women panchayat members the messengers of peace and non-violence,” Tirath told reporters.

She said that oath was given to 25 women panchayat members, who would represent the over 1.2 million women members in the country.

“This is a five-year programme and will cover the entire nation,” she said.

Called Ahimsa messengers, these women will try to stop violence at homes, at workplaces and outside, the minister said.

However, when asked whether domestic violence was merely an urban phenomenon or was prevalent in rural areas too, the minister fumbled. “There has been no survey done to show how many rural women face domestic violence,” Tirath said.

According to the ministry, in 2007, 2,921 cases were registered under the domestic violence act 2005. About 5,526 people were arrested and 111 convicted.

In 2006, 1,736 cases were registered, 2,722 people arrested and 183 were convicted, while in 2005, about 1,497 cases were registered, 254 people were convicted and 2,267 arrested.

Urmila Devi, 35, who also took oath Thursday, said it is wrong to say that women in rural areas do not face violence.

“I keep on addressing this matter. Now that the government is with us, we can tackle it more aggressively,” Devi told IANS.

Radha Khan, programme officer of Hunger project that is collaborating with the ministry on the issue, said: “These women panchayat members will now get extra strength in their fight against violence after getting the ministry’s support.”

The Hunger project has been working in India since 1984 and works across 10 states. It mobilises people for self-reliant action, empowers women as key change agents and engages with the local government in strengthening the Panchayati Raj system.

“Now these women will feel that they are not alone and that the government recognises and acknowledges that they can make a change and can address the problem,” Khan said.