Sweeping reforms of Indian government institutions created space for women’s political inclusion at an unprecedented scale. As of 1993, one-third of all positions in Panchayats (local government councils) are reserved for women, and in some states as much as half the positions are reserved for women. Evidence shows that women’s presence in local government improves women’s access to justice and public goods and reduces corruption.
While there are persistent debates on the impact of reservations, there is broad consensus that women presidents’ political effectiveness is limited by their lack of political experience, information, and more generally by women’s marginal position in local political networks. Recognizing the transformative potential of women’s reservation, many organisations have come up in order to support newly elected presidents to carry out their work effectively.
The Program on Liberation Technology has started working with one such group - Resource and Support Centre for Development (RSCD) - that works with over 500 elected women presidents across the state of Maharashtra. RSCD offers trainings and connects women presidents with each other, and with women ex-presidents who have a wealth of practical knowledge to share with the current presidents.
The project seeks to empower RSCD with mobile technologies that allow them to connect more closely with their trainers and with the women presidents. We also hope to connect presidents to each other. We wish to examine if better connections will lead to more effective flow of information, and create networks of support and in the process improve the effectiveness of women presidents.