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Year: 2010 Type: Book Chapter Language: English

This chapter explores different ways in which ‘voice’ has been a pathway to empowerment in India. Three major streams are discussed, the women’s movement, official efforts to institutionalize women’s voice, and decentralization with reservation which has guaranteed a space in local governance to women. The manner of engagement between the women’s movement and the State is reviewed. A more detailed discussion of the Panchayat institutions with empirical evidence on women’s participation is presented. The PRI system reserves one third of all seats for women. The demand for institutional machinery for women’s concerns and for reserving seats for women are premised upon the belief that an enabling institutional framework gives access to women, assists in articulation of voice, and ensures that such concerns find a place on the policy agenda. Studies of women leaders who display transformational leadership suggest that effective leadership often builds upwards from the felt needs of women. The paper concludes by suggesting that there is considerable scope for empirical studies of different kinds of informal women’s groups and panchayats in different parts of the country, to throw more light on the manner in which the context of public policy and local action encourage (or inhibit) the emergence of women’s voice.