Sondhya Maity Gram Panchayat Pradhan, (Shibaganj) West Bengal

Sondhya Maity

Sondhya-MaityIn 2009, Cyclone Aila ravaged and destroyed huge parts of Sondhya Maity's village. It was while working on relief efforts that Sondhya realised that she wanted to help people in need. 39 year old Sondhya is today the Gram Panchayat Pradhan of Dokshin Shibaganj village in West Bengal. She calls herself a 'simple woman and home maker' but the villagers realised her leadership qualities early on. Today, they lovingly call her 'maa' or mother and know that she will use her dedication and courage to better their conditions.

Sondhya was married off at an early age, soon after her matriculation. As a child she had a keen interest in sports and even used to participate in activities like long jump. Her ability to be a good team player came to the forefront when she worked tirelessly, distributing clothes, food and medicine, in the aftermath of Cyclone Aila. This convinced the villagers of her good intentions and they in turn persuaded her to stand for elections.

She feels that that are so many problems to be dealt with. Housing for the homeless, better roads, scholarships for needy students, books for students, hospitals with better healthcare facilities are all urgent issues. And yet, Sondhya is unfazed in the face of these challenges. She calmly admits that because she of her ability to focus on solutions, things seems to be getting easier every day.

While government schemes are being implemented to offer solutions to the problems, Sondhya is also keen on building a computer centre where students can avail of scholarships to further their education. Sondhya has 13 women member in her panchayat serving the community in different islands. A firm believer in knowledge sharing and community building, she uses her mobile phone as a way to provide easy access to her. Not just for members of the panchayat or local administrators but also for anyone in the village who faces a problem.

Her office has two computers but Sondhya honestly admits that she doesn't know how to use them. She is, however, aware of the benefits of using a computer. There is a wealth of information available on the internet and it can be smartly used for knowledge sharing and community welfare. Excitedly, she says that if she gets a computer centre in her village, she will "be the first student to learn" so that she can work independently and efficiently.