Chudamani Naik (Odisha), Sarpanch
“I will never ride behind anyone”, says Chudamani Naik, a sarpanch from Keonjhar district in Odisha, one of the country’s 250 most backward districts until a few years ago.
This Class IX educated, mother of two, won her first elections in 2002, when she was just 27 years old. However, she has been serving the community for years without any official recognition or support.
Nishat Begum (Shivpuri-Bhopal)
Nishat Begum grew up in a cosmopolitan atmosphere in Bhopal. Women were treated as equals and children all went to school, irrespective of gender. She moved to Shivpuri after her marriage and entered a different world. This was a place where women remained silently confined within the walls of a house and children hardly ever went to school. The ‘free spirited’ Nishat with her independent views was frowned upon and taunted.
Nazira Khursid Ansari’s (Pohri-Madhya Pradesh) Sarpanch
“A computer will help me write letters…” is Nazira Khursid Ansari’s modest admission. A simple housewife till 2010, Nazira is 45 years old and the sarpanch of Pohri village in Madhya Pradesh. She also realises that a computer will help her “search for information, save data and documents”, but hasn’t got down to doing it yet. But she wants to learn computers and is inspired by her three daughters
Sunita Sahu, (Chattishgarh)Upsarpanch
Sunita Sahu does not believe in giving up. At 36 years, this upsarpanch of Devgaon village in Chattishgarh wants to go back to school and complete her education. Even though both her children are today in high school, she feels one is never too old to learn. She proudly says, “Education is important to go ahead in life. I am interested in studying again.”
Aayshaben Chauhan Jusab,(Gujarat) Sarpanch
“I am a strong willed person and this is why I cannot bear to see anybody suffering.” This is how Aayshaben Chauhan Jusab explains her reason for contesting elections for the first time in 2012. This 47year old is the sarpanch of Mota Asambiya village in Gujarat, who went against close family members to fulfil the dream of helping those in need.
Reena Sahariya (Rajasthan), Sarpanch
Reena Sahriya’s story is the stuff legends are made of. This 30 year old is the sarpanch of a village in Baran district in Rajasthan. Baran is notorious for hunger deaths and poverty and underdevelopment dwell in every nook and corner. In such a scenario, Reena is a Sahriya, a member of the primitive tribe that has been suffering for years under debt bondage and slavery to landowners.
Sushma Bairwad (Rajasthan), Sarpanch
25 year old Sushma Bairwad, the sarpanch of Malakhera village in Alwar is unusual. She is married, dreams of getting her children a good education, is preparing for her civil service exams and has received medals in judo, karate and kabaddi. And she balances it all with élan.
Anita Babasaheb (Maharashtra), Sarpanch
At 30 years, Anita Babasaheb Sankapale is the sarpanch of an all women gram panchayat in Bhawan village, Maharashtra. When asked if she faces any challenges on being an elected woman member, Anita smiles nonchalantly and says, “since all our panchayat members are women, people have to listen to us.”