In 1989 seven all-women village councils were elected in Maharashtra as a result of the campaign of the Shetkari Sanghatana, a large farmers' organization. A study of three different villages reveals important gains in empowerment seen in terms of access to work, education, and income, as well as an overall tendency for the women's councils to focus on issues of sustainable development. There were differences within villages, however, mainly due to different styles of local leadership. Within India, in the context of various efforts to attempt women's empowerment, the Sanghatana's strategy of mass organizing uniting the women and men of the majority of village farmers and agricultural laborers can be contrasted with the “radical feminist” approach, which often pits women against men, as well as with the “enclave” strategies of some left organizations and nongovernmental organizations that have limited social impact because they focus entirely on one section of a community.In 1989 nine villages in the state of Maharashtra in western India saw the election of all-women gram panchayats (village councils). This was a revolutionary step in a country with one of the most patriarchal traditional social systems in the world, and in which women's political representation has remained abysmally low. Behind this event lay a decade and a half of the new women's movement in India, which in spite of its fragmentation has spread ideas and aspirations for women's equality far and wide. But the specific organizational factor was not the activities of the more well known feminist groups, but the campaign of a large independent farmers' organization, the Shetkari Sanghatana.

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