Veena Choudhary lives in Rajasthan, India. She is an inspirational woman who didn’t let her age or gender stop her from transforming her community and having a profound impact on their lives.
Veena was married off at just 16 years old.
Getting married this young is illegal where she lives, but it is still very common. Child marriage can have devastating effects on girls, including violence, exclusion from any control or decision making, early pregnancy and limited opportunities for employment.
She was elected to her Gram Panchayat (local village council) at 21.
At the time, she had no experience of local government, but she was passionate about child marriage. Initially, her biggest hindrance to achieving any work as an elected woman was that she lacked awareness and knowledge about how local government worked.
She attended The Hunger Project India’s 4 day Women’s Leadership Workshop.
These workshops are specifically for elected women like her, and it made a big difference to her ability to do her work. She learned to be a powerful public speaker, an effective negotiator and a strategic leader for her community. She also learned how to lead and facilitate community discussion about issues affecting them. Veena was able to see how she could use her influence as an elected member of her local council to create real change in her village.
Women are discouraged to participate in public life but I try my best to mobilise them, and speak for their rights.
Veena Choudhary - President of Sorda Gram Panchayat, Rakastjan, India
As a result, she successfully lobbied the government on 6 major development projects in her village.
- Constructing 300 toilets - now her community is “open defecation-free”.
- Laying a system of pipelines and installing a water tank.
- Installing a 22kw electricity grid to bring electricity to houses.
- Installing solar power lights along the streets to keep women safe at night.
- Filling five vacant teaching positions, which allowed 220 students - including many girls - to come back into the school system.
- Passing a declaration to end child marriage - she went door to door talking to people about how harmful and dangerous it is for girls to make this happen, and no child has been married in the last two years.
She faced harassment by the opposition who lost to her in the election.
They even filed fictitious complaints to the government in attempts to undermine her work – but the claims were examined by government officials, and rejected. Veena used to be intimidated by these people, but she realised that she had to ignore their tactics in order to do her work.
Veena has achieved an incredible amount at such a young age, and she will no doubt continue to transform her community and have a profound impact on their lives. Invest in changemakers like Veena.