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And Who Will Make the Chapatis?

A Study of All-Women Panchayats in Maharashtra

Edited by Bisakha Datta

Stree Publications, Kolkata. il
Review by Alaka Basu
16 February 2009Alaka M. Basu is Associate Professor of Demography in the Department of Sociology and Director of the South Asia Program at Cornell University.

Book Description: This book is an in-depth study of some Indian rural women's attempts to carve out their own political space within an existing, male-dominated political system. 'If men and women are asked to devise programmes in panchayats, women will think of water and latrines, while men will talk of roads and buses.' This was observed by the authors when they went round twelve all-women panchayats in Maharashtra in order to understand the changing political experiences of rural women. The book has grown out of knowledge the village women shared with them.
Studying the history of women panchayats operating in nine villages in Maharashtra, this group of researchers examine how the larger society circumscribed these womens' work, and what strategies some of the women were able to devise to assert themselves against men trying to take over their power, confine them at home or keep them in ignorance about questions of administration and procedure.
If some stories are of women used as puppets by stronger (patriarchal) interests, others are accounts of women's clever manoeuvring to outwit the establishment. Still others show that political work can be as demanding and frustrating for women as for men. In all the accounts, the voices of women come through strongly. The authors used interview-based research methods, and preserved as far as possible the immediacy of oral communication in their work, as the title, a comment by a man when he heard that a woman wanted to attend a training camp

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