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Mother of three children and a home-maker for more than a decade, few in her sleepy village would have imagined that she would be planning bridges and schools today. But that is Vandana Bahadur Maida’s life in Khankhandvi, in the populous state of Madhya Pradesh, India. Despite family opposition and cultural norms that define a woman’s place in society, she was elected Head of the village council, the first woman Sarpanch. Her election was path-breaking for the village and also for Vandana’s family—as she superseded her own husband who used to be a member of the village council but never the elected leader.
Ranjana Kumari was 42 years old when she attended the Beijing Conference in 1995 as Convener of the South Asian Network for Women in Politics. She was also the Director of the Centre for Social Research in India at the time, a position she still holds today.