14 07
Shabo Meena: Going from Strength to Strength

Shabo Meena is the ZP member of Dausa District in Rajasthan. This is her third term in Gram Panchayat politics. She has been elected earlier as the Panchayat Samiti Pradhan and the Sarpanch of her Panchayat. Her political journey started in 2000 when she was persuaded by her in laws to contest the post of Sarpanch from Chandera GP as she was the only woman in her Panchayat who had passed Class 12. The post of Sarpanch had been reserved for ST women. Shabo says, ‘I used to stay in Delhi where my husband worked and had come home for the Makar Sankranti festival. It changed my life’.

On winning the elections Shabo stayed back in her Panchayat and learnt role and responsibilities the hard way. There was no one to guide her as her husband went back to Delhi. Shabo says, ‘When responsibilities fall on you, you learn quickly. I read the PRI Act and tried to make sense. The administration also helped me. Maybe they realized that I was serious about the work’. Shabo’s was a backward Panchayat with no facilities. She laid roads, linking her Panchayat to the NH11, constructed additional rooms to the village school and accessed IAY houses for BPL families.

Shabo talks of the several challenges that she faced in her tenure as a Sarpanch. The previous male Sarpanch did not expect a 21 year old Shabo to perform. So when she started to bring positive change, the threats became severe. And when all else failed, she faced character assassination. People would say ‘look she travels on her own, nobody knows where she goes’. Shabo did not pay any attention and continued her work with sincerity. In 2005, her Panchayat Samiti seat was reserved for ST women and she was elected as the Pradhan of Sikrai.

Shabo says that it was only because of Rajiv Gandhi’s vision of reserving seats for women that SC and ST women like her from rural areas can take active part in Panchayat politics. ‘It is very difficult for women to contest elections from non-reserved seats. Only reservation provides women the opportunity to join politics. I too entered the political arena because of reservation’. However, she adds, ‘ Even after winning the elections women are forced to stay at home, while their husband manage their office. As the Pradhan, I made a rule that only elected representatives could attend meetings. It made a huge difference. While ome
objected to this, there were many women who were grateful that they could now handle their own responsibilities. They started getting out of their houses to visit the Panchayat Samiti office, talk to me. I liked the fact that women had started to take responsibilities. If I had not this they would not have been able to step out for 5 years’.

Shabo was the first female Congress Sarpanch and also the first female Pradhan in her area. She is greatly influenced by the leaders of the Congress Party who contributed to the freedom movement. ‘Congress is the only political party which works equally with people of all religions and the poor and tries to take everyone along. In my political journey, I hope I am able to walk the path that these great leaders have shown me. I want to do something for my people and that is why I joined the Congress’, says Shabo. Shabo is now a ZP member. After joining politics she managed to complete her graduation. She would like to contest the Vidhan Sabha elections next. Till then, Shabo wants want to work with RGPRS and help other people to find a voice in politics.