Meeting Obama was memorable experience for woman panchayat leader (Second Lead)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

NEW DELHI - The interaction may have lasted just a few minutes, but for Sharmi Bai, a panchayat leader from Rajasthan, interacting with US President Barack Obama at St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai Sunday was a proud and memorable experience.

While language was a barrier, Sharmi Bai was nevertheless very excited to share with him the kind of work she had done to better the lives of the people in her area.

“Work that was earlier not done in five years, is now being done in five months,” Sharmi Bai told Obama through Rita Sarin, country director of the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Hunger Project, who acted as her translator.

Hunger Project had set up the stall and invited Sharmi Bai to interact with the visiting US President at the expo held at St. Xavier’s College.

Sharing her experience after being re-elected from Abu Road block, in Sirohi district this year after having served a term of five years, Sharmi Bai said that she was working with renewed vigour and was proud to break the myth that women cannot govern.

Her focus had been on battling domestic violence, monitoring the mid-day meal scheme, and encouraging children to go to school, she said.

Another official of the NGO said: “For Sharmi Bai, this was definitely a very memorable experience. She couldn’t speak to Obama directly, but she was very happy when he nodded and looked impressed at her work.”

Sarin said: “We were invited to highlight the critical role played by women panchayat leaders in bringing local governments closer to the people”.

“When the president visited our booth, I told him about Sharmi’s efforts in ensuring education of girl children in her panchayat,” she added.

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