A Celebration of Women™
is elated to Celebrate the Life of this young woman, one that was willing to Take Action and dive into the world of politics, so to better the lives of her family, friends and neighbors inside her hometown … and with her courage and vision, a town that is only now ‘on the map’. This is a true grassroots celebration, of one woman creating positive change in our world, as the youngest woman in history to act as a sarpanch in India.
WOMAN of ACTION™
Chhavi Rajawat, an MBA graduate, is India’s youngest sarpanch
Chavvi Rajawat was working as a senior management executive in Bharti-Tele Ventures before she decided to contest for the post of Sarpanch in the village where she was born. She is an alumnus of Rishi Valley School (Andhra Pradesh), Mayo College Girls School (Ajmer). Lady Shri Ram College (University of Delhi).
Rajawat was honoured by former President of India APJ Abdul Kalam at the Technology Day function at New Delhi.
United Nations: There was a sense of disbelief among ministers and ambassadors from diverse nations when the chairperson of the 11th Info-Poverty World Conference held at the United Nations introduced the jeans-clad Chhavi Rajawat as head of a village in India.
For, from a distance one could easily mistake Rajawat, an articulate, computer-savvy woman, for a frontline model or at least a Bollywood actress. But she is sarpanch of Soda village, 60 kilometres from Jaipur, in backward Rajasthan and the changing face of growing dynamic rural India.
Rajawat participated in a panel discussion at the two-day meet at the UN on March 24 and 25 on how civil society can implement its actions and spoke on the role of civil society in fighting poverty and promoting development.
It is necessary to re-think through various Strategies of Action that includes new technologies like e-services in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in an era where resources have become limited, she told the delegates of the international conference.
“If India continues to make progress at the same pace as it has for the past 65 years since independence, it just won’t be good enough. We’ll be failing people who dream about having water, electricity, toilets, schools and jobs. I am convinced we can do it differently and do it faster.”
“In the past year alone, I and the villagers in Soda have brought about a radical change in the village purely through our own efforts. We have had no outside support – no NGO help, no public, nor private sector help,” she said.
On achieving Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Rajawat said she sought full support from outside agencies and the corporate world. “I thank United Nations Office for Partnerships (UNOP) which had deputed its senior adviser in India Mr Babu Lal Jain to visit Soda and extend all support in the opening of the first bank in the village. That made all the difference.”
“In three years I will transform my village. I don’t want money. I want people and organisations to adopt projects in my village as often projects fail owing to lack of a local connect and that is what I am here to provide by bridging that gap.
“I want the conference to help bring about faster change so that this generation can enjoy that kind of life that I – and you in this audience – take for granted,” she said to thunderous cheers from the delegates.”
30-year-old Rajawat, India’s youngest and the only MBA to become a village head — the position mostly occupied by elders, quit her senior management position with Bharti-Tele Ventures of Airtel Group to serve her beloved villagers as sarpanch.
The Soda Village is now improved a lot . From being just another village in Rajasthan, Soda has now found a place in the global map.
Chhavi Rajawat has stressed on concentrating on the most fundamental issues like;
- Water conservation
- Health and sanitation
- Electricity and roads first.
To make the whole process of development transparent, she ensures that all the information regarding the status of the projects are shared online, which is one totally unique endeavor.
Interview with Chhavi Rajawat Mayor of Soda, India.
FREE MP3 DOWNLOADS HERE
Soda Village Address
Location: District of Tonk
Coordinates: 26° 24′ 14″ N 75° 30′ 30″ E
Altitude: 214 m
Time zone: IST (UTC+5:30)
SODA, India – Chhavi Rajawat is a one-woman whirlwind as she seeks to drag her impoverished ancestral village in the desert state of Rajasthan into the 21st Century.
Rajawat, who spent her family holidays in sun-scorched Soda, became its sarpanch or elected village head three years ago after villagers implored her to take charge with dozens turning up at her home in state capital Jaipur to persuade her.
“The villagers broke all caste, gender and religious barriers to elect me,” said Rajawat, a glamorous 33-year-old whose 10,000 constituents are mostly farmers and labourers largely untouched by India’s economic boom.
The MBA graduate ditched her corporate career with one of India’s biggest telecom firms to become sarpanch and has been working ever since to bring better water, solar power, paved roads, toilets and a bank to her ancestral village.
Soda is a byword for backwardness in this remote corner of Rajasthan where the houses are made of mud, electricity supplies are erratic, literacy levels are below 50 per cent and the fear of drought is never far away.
The villagers said there had been no progress since Rajawat’s brigadier grandfather, now in his 90s, had served as sarpanch two decades ago and they wanted someone else in the family to take on the role.
“I didn’t have a choice,” said a smiling Rajawat, who represented India at a recent UN poverty summit.
Her story reveals the potential of good grassroots leadership in making a difference in a country plagued by corruption and inefficiency. It also shows the limitations.
Swarmed by villagers as she walks down the road, Rajawat greets them by name as they share family news and pepper her with questions about progress on various projects.
“Nobody has been able to do what she has done – no other sarpanch has done as much,” said 30-year-old farmer Jai Singh.
Rajawat was visiting a computer centre in a no-frills stone structure that she set up with the help of a corporate sponsor. The spartan interior doesn’t bother the youngsters who tap away eagerly on keyboards on long trestle tables.
“It’s a huge opportunity for them to get some skills – there was nothing before,” said teacher Mohammed Sadeek, 25.
But Rajawat, who now divides her time between Soda and Jaipur, chafes impatiently at the sluggish pace of change.
“India can’t keep advancing at the same slow rate – it must go faster. Otherwise we won’t be able to give people the schools, the electricity, the water and the jobs they need,” she said.
She was also checking on the progress of a scheme equipping primitive homes with toilets, which have made a big difference to locals who earlier had to relieve themselves outside – and the women only after darkness set in.
There are many women sarpanchs in India because a number of these posts are reserved for them. But what sets Rajawat apart – aside from her iPhone, big-rimmed sunglasses, blue jeans and youth – is her education.
She holds a master’s degree in business administration from the Indian Institute of Modern Management in Pune, rated one of the nation’s top 10 business schools, which she says helps her draft funding plans and proposals.
“She’s unique. We need her kind of people, they are a breath of fresh air, they have vision,” said government district collector Muktanand Agarwal.
Among the achievements is her arrangement for medical checks of villagers by doctors from the state capital Jaipur, a bone-jolting two-hour drive away.
She also organized the opening of the first bank in Soda – a branch of the state-run State Bank of India – a significant success as 90 per cent of India’s 600,000 villages have no banks.
But all that change doesn’t come without raising some local hackles.
When she constructed a drinking water reservoir that has created a shimmering blue lake in the middle of the village, she got her first taste of the bureaucratic hurdles that have repeatedly thwarted her.
“I was told we could not use government machinery to clean up reservoirs. Finally, they (the government) told me to do it on my own,” she said.
And that’s what she did – raising money from friends, family and companies to fund many of her projects.
A senior state government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, called Rajawat’s initiatives “praiseworthy” but added she “wants do things very quickly – she treads on toes and upsets vested interests”.
Rajawat is hopeful ‘better leadership‘ will come with the Indian government’s new drive to make lists of services and funds available on the Internet.
“If everything is online, people will start demanding accountability from their politicians,” she said.
She has not decided whether she will continue in development work once her five-year terms ends, but she is hoping her example will inspire other educated young people to take time out to serve their communities.
“Your roots are your foundation. You have to start at the bottom to make a difference – and there is so much left to do.”
Nominated by Meetika Srivastava , India
A Celebration of Women™
welcomes this powerfully inspired young women into our Alumni with open arms, and look forward to celebrating her empowerment, growth and positive action this newly appointed government post will enable her to make.
Chhavi Rajawat – WOMAN of ACTION™
April 16, 2013 by 1 Comment