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Women prepare for power

Kavita Morvankar, 33, a young teacher and social worker is contemplating contesting the upcoming civic polls in 2012. However, she is unsure if mere social work is enough to get her the corporator’s chair, in the country’s largest municipal corporation.

mumbai Updated: Sep 19, 2011 00:48 IST
Prachi Pinglay

Kavita Morvankar, 33, a young teacher and social worker is contemplating contesting the upcoming civic polls in 2012. However, she is unsure if mere social work is enough to get her the corporator’s chair, in the country’s largest municipal corporation.

To resolve anxieties like these, she, along with 60 other women across political parties, signed up for a daylong training workshop held in Goregaon on Saturday, where experts addressed issues ranging from election procedures to public speaking.

In April this year, the state passed a resolution announcing 50% reservation for women in all civic bodies in the state, to ensure better representation of women politicians. According to analysts, more than 25% of the 114 seats reserved for women in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) will be taken up by first-time women politicians. A total of 227 seats will be contested for.

“We are not really aware of the intricacies of elections or current issues and we may fumble in the house,” said Morvankar. “This training will help us understand what awaits us.”

The workshop was organised by the Keshav Gore Trust, a non-profit organisation working for civic and social issues.

“Women instinctively understand civic issues such as health and education well, because they deal with it at a domestic level more than men,” said Vidya Chavan, a former coporator. “However, women must know how the municipal corporation works and develop interest in the ward issues.”

The 50% reservation may turn the trend of women relatives of sitting male corporators contesting in polls, and provide an opportunity to women active in social and political work.

However, if they are not equipped, it could lead to dissatisfaction in the ward and demoralise women, instead of empowering them, said experts.

A panel discussion at the workshop, led by former mayors Nirmala Samant, Dr Shubha Raul and Vidya Chavan, had participants raise issues such as corruption, money needed to fight elections and male domination at the party level.

“While it is a great opportunity, it may also result in parties not allowing women to contest from open wards,” said Nirmala Samant. “It is extremely important that women keep their focus on social work and not get consumed by mere political ambition, otherwise they get frustrated and leave the field in a few years time.”

An analysis by Praja Foundation, an NGO working on civic issues, shows that existing women corporators are active at ward level but not in the general body meetings (SEE BOX). “Reservations may lead to more representation but rotating seats do not allow relationship building at constituency level,” said Nitai Mehta, president of Praja Foundation. “Reservations should be at party level so that women are groomed and given a chance in a constituency where they can win.”