There was a time when Rajwanti Singh barely left her home. She was confined to its four walls largely by virtue of her gender.
Today, the woman, from Posti, India, is one of the most influential players in local government; a respected member of her village’s council and the president of the women’s federation at a state level.
“As a woman leader, I see myself as a change agent,” she said. “Even if my work as a councillor stops, I will continue.”
Rajwanti’s success has been fostered by The Hunger Project, an international not-for-profit organisation that aims to end hunger and poverty by pioneering sustainable, grassroots, women-centred strategies.
In India, it works closely with Elected Women’s Representatives (EWR), like Rajwanti, to successfully connect the community to government subsidies designed to improve health, education, housing and welfare, and ensure they have the maximum impact for the country’s 65 million poverty-stricken citizens.
Village councils play a vital role in this process, yet while legislation mandates that 30-50 per cent of seats are held by women, that doesn’t mean they are heard. Entrenched inequality often means EWRs are marginalised, overlooked.
“At my first village council meetings I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what resolutions I could offer my village. I just sat in the corner,” Rajwanti said.
“Once I began training with The Hunger Project, I became more active and I began believing in myself.