This article argues that to understand the conditions that enable effective participation by women in politics, analysis is needed not just of the characteristics and performance of elected women leaders but also the extent to which village communities are engaged through collective processes, in demanding accountability from those elected. The article presents the experiences of a women's movement in the Uttarakhand that has evolved from a programme of environmental education in the region. Over the years, this movement has developed a strong political consciousness. Women's participation in Whole Village Groups has paved the way for active engagement with local governance institutions. The article concludes that by enabling collective spaces, reinforcing norms of equality and inclusiveness through debate and negotiation, building networks across villages and supporting each other through conflicts and confrontation, the organisations concerned have demonstrated that processes of collective empowerment can lead to effective political participation.