WG Sarpanch presents her idea of women empowerment at UN

Hemakumari’s work at the grassroots earned her global recognition as she was one among three women Sarpanches to represent India at the 57th session of UN CPD
WG Sarpanch presents her idea of women empowerment at UN

RAJAMAHENDRAVARAM: Forty years ago American writer Marilyn Loden first used the phrase ‘glass ceiling’ to describe the invisible barrier that many women face while trying to grow in their careers. To this day, the phrase is still relevant and many like Kunuku Hemakumari have been striving to break this glass ceiling by doing their bit to empower women.

A Sarpanch of Pekeru village in West Godavari district, 30-year-old Hemakumari has a Masters degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering (ECE) with a specialisation in VLSI. Her work at the grassroots garnered her global recognition as she was one among three women Sarpanches to represent the country at the 57th session of the Commission for Population and Development (CPD) held at the United Nations Secretariat in New York, United States. She addressed the gathering during a side event, “Localizing SDGs: Women in Local Governance in India Lead the Way”. In her presentation, she stressed on the need for proper health services and education for women to empower them.

Hemakumari has worked as a lecturer in Tanuku Polytechnic College and an engineering college in Tadepalligudem. While she moved to Pekeru after getting married, she continues to deliver guest lectures so that she does not lose touch with the subject.

A mother of two, Hemakumari comes from a well-to-do family. Her keen interest in politics led her to become the Sarpanch of Pekeru, a prosperous village, situated between Tanuku and Penugonda towns in West Godavari, in 2021.

Pointing out that women with children across the globe face the daunting task of balancing career with caregiving responsibilities, she observed that this often leads to career stagnation and perpetuates several gender gaps in accessing decent jobs. “India is a case in point where the contributions of women to unpaid domestic and caregiving work surpasses all the countries with comparable economic growth. For instance, Indian women spend almost nine times more time on performing these activities as compared to men,” she said.

Emphasising that gender equality is the need of the hour, Hemakumari opined, “Without gender equality, we cannot make significant achievements in political, socially, economical and corporate sectors. Mere talk on women empowerment will not help if there is no gender equality.”

Expressing gratitude, she said her in-laws and her husband are very supportive. Her husband Suresh Bellapukonda is a civil contractor.

“I joined politics to serve the people. My top priority is women literacy,” she explained.

Noting that there is no gender equality, neither in Pekeru nor in any other metro city in India, Hemakumari stressed that women can be empowered only through education.

“Otherwise we will remain a male-dominated society. My aim is to build a more equitable and inclusive future, and to empower women for a stronger society,” she added.

Explaining her day-to-day activities, Hemakumari said she conducts several programmes in the village to raise awareness on Central and State government schemes. She also monitors schools and Anganwadi centres to ensure the well-being of children. She encourages ANMs and ASHA workers to provide good service to the people. “We conduct regular medical camps in the village by experienced doctors. I also have the responsibility of ensuring that food is properly distributed to children and pregnant women. Additionally, I also lay focus on making sure people have access to proper roads, drainage systems and water,” she elaborated.

To motivate young women to pursue their passion, she quoted Maya Angelou’s poem, “With strength as her armour and love as her guide, she conquers mountains, she crosses the tide. With each step she takes, she paves the way, for a world where equality reigns every day.”

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