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Women must be part of decision process

Elected representatives must not just be proxies, say Orissa Church leaders

Ajay Kumar Singh, Bhubaneswar

April 5, 2011

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Holistic and integrated development can take place in Orissa only when women are made part of the decision-making process, nuns and activists say. They were responding to the state government’s plans to provide women with a 50 per cent reservation in local governments. An earlier provision had stated not less than one-third of seats on local bodies. For this an environment should be created to allow elected representatives to be just that and not proxies, said Shibani Singh, Vice-President of Archdiocesan Women Wing in Cuttack-Bhubaneswar Archdiocese. Lalita Missal, Coordinator of National Alliance of Women, Orissa chapter, said “the government has recognized the contributions of women in the decision-making process on local bodies. Given opportunities and support, elected women will prove their mettle.” She said there is “no alternative” in a state where infant and maternal mortality rates are the highest in the country. Literacy rates are abysmal at 37.67 per cent in comparison to men at 70.36 per cent. The situation is even “worse” among tribal and dalit women, she added. The move would help marginalized women find a voice, said Sister Bimala Kujur of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Mary congregation. The Orissa Panchayat Laws (Amendment) Bill 2011 was introduced in the assembly on March 31. Sister Justine of the St. Joseph of Annecy congregation in Bhubaneswar, said even the Church should debate this crucial issue. “It is time we become more open and shed our patriarchal mindset to allow 50 percent reservation,” she said. Singh agreed, saying:  “There is hardly 15 per cent representation even on Parish Councils though we constitute 50 percent [of the population].” Related report Orissa women rally for peace IE13853.1648
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