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Gujarat village leads the way by empowering girls and women through Balika Panchayat

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Representational image. Girls and women elected their sarpanch in Kunariya village located in Bhuj Taluka of Gujarat to address issues related to girls and women (Pic: Courtesy dreamstime.com)

Now you have real life getting motivated by reel life after 20-year-old Bharti Garva was elected sarpanch on July 19 (Monday). This happened in Kunariya village located in Bhuj Taluka of Gujarat, where Garva won by 117 votes to head the Balika Panchayat – a concept inspired by the popular television show Balika Vadhu.

The Panchayat is a novel concept as the body will be governed by girls who are below 21 years and they are mandated to address issues concerning adolescent girls and women.

The total number of voters who exercised their right in the election were 410, all between 10 and 21 years of age.

The four candidates contesting for the post campaigned with fervour for a week before the voting took place.

Garva, a student who is doing her graduation through distance education programme, is all set to take her new role seriously. Talking to Times News Network she said: “The experience of Balika Panchayat will be useful in effective implementation of 50% women reservation in Panchayati raj. We will focus on issues like health, education, nutritional food and we will also organize training for the career enhancement of girls.”

Proud of their novel move, Suresh Chhanga, the village sarpanch observed: “Other villages also follow this model. We will form a federation of Balika Panchayats of all the villages and that federation can ask the district administration to take decisions related to women empowerment.”

Adhering to the concept of consensus, the villages -- Maska of Mandvi taluka and Mota Angiya of Nakhatrana – witnessed unanimous election of the sarpanchs on July 20. Vidhi Rajgor, a Class XI student was as sarpanch of Maska while Puja Garva, pursuing Masters in Social Work (MSW), was elected Mota Angiya sarpanch.

The concept of Balika Panchayat was inspired by the soap opera Balika Vadhu which highlights the ills of child marriage. The objective of this elected body is to address female adolescents’ issues.

The village Kunariya village is located nearly 18 kilometres from Bhuj and has 4,000 people as its inhabitants. This elected body will function in parallel to the other Panchayat, consisting of the adults and deal with issues of girls and women.

The campaign for these elections was marked with rallies and door-to-door campaigns.

Chhanga addressing the media had said: “The concept is that these elected girls will bring the schemes that will address issues of girls and women in the village. The other idea is to prepare the future women leaders.” He felt that by giving girls this opportunity they will be well prepared to take their own decisions without getting influenced by their husbands, when they get married and join the other panchayat.