By Eugene D'Souza
Udupi, Jan 16: Bishop Gerald Isaac Lobo felicitated the Catholic Women candidates of the the gram panchayat elections held in the last week of December 2020 in a function held on Saturday January 16 at Mother of Sorrows parish hall. Out of 69 candidates who had attended the felicitation function, 33 were winning candidates and 36 were not successful in the fiercely contested elections. The felicitation function was jointly organized by Sampada, Udupi diocese, Catholic Women’s Organization of Udupi diocese and Sugamya Zilla Mahila Okkuta, Udupi district.
Prior to the felicitation function, Fr Reginald Pinto, director of Sampada Udupi, said, “The participation of women in large numbers in the elections was the culmination of four stages of women’s empowerment programme undertaken by the diocese of Udupi through Sampada. Women empowerment comprises of social, economic and political empowerment. The women were made aware of the need to participate in various activities from the grassroot such as participation in the ward and gram sabhas. Later, they were encouraged to participate in electoral politics at the village level. Those who got elected would be in administrative position and those who were not successful can still try to become members of various village panchayat committees and make their contribution constructively.
“Since the last two years, many women were trained to participate in the local body elections. Around 25 women were first trained by Wilfred D’Souza, a resource person from Nazeersaab Rural Development Centre, Mysuru. These 25 women inturn trained nearly 2,500 women from different parishes of the diocese. Later in February 2020, Veronica Cornelio and Jannet Mendonca trained 30 women trainees in the panchayat election procedure, who inturn went to different parishes to train around 130 women who showed interest to participate in gram panchayat elections. However, the outbreak of Covid 19 pandemic put on hold further training. In spite of these setbacks, more than 100 Catholic women participated in the panchayat elections,” he said.
The felicitation programme was presided over by the bishop. Other dignitaries on the dais included Fr. Reginald Pinto, director of Sampada, Pramila D’Sa, president of the Central Committee of Udupi Diocesan Women’s Organization and president of Sugamya Zilla Mahila Okkuta, Udupi district, Jannet Barboza, immediate past president of the Central Committee of Udupi Diocesan Women’s Organization and president of Sugamya Zilla Mahila Okkuta, Udupi district, Precilla Alva, secretary of Central Committee of Udupi Diocesan Women’s Organization, Carol Fernandes, president of Arpana Mahila Okkuta of Karkala deanery, Sunitha Noronha, president of Inchara Mahila Okkuta of Shirva deanery, Shaila D’Souza, president of Sharadhi Mahila Okkuta of Udupi deanery, Nora D’Souza, president of Bhavana Mahila Okkuta of Kundapur deanery and Anita Dias, president of Ujwala Mahial Okkuta of Kallianpur deanery.
Following a brief prayer service, Pramila D’Sa welcomed the gathering.
In her introductory remarks, Jannet Barboza highlighted the aims and objectives of the Udupi Diocesan Women’s Organization with special emphasis the various steps taken by it to prepare their members to participate in various local bodies elections. She expressed satisfaction that their efforts have been rewarded as quite a number of them had participated in the village panchayat elections and many of them have been successful in their attempts. In spite of this achievement, she felt that there is still more to be done in the future and made an appeal to many more women to participate in electoral politics in the future.
Bishop Dr Gerald Isaac Lobo first felicitated the contestants of the village panchayat elections, who were not successful. Names of the contestants were read deanery wise-Karkala, Shirva, Udupi, Kundapur and Kallianpur.
The winners in the village panchayat elections were honoured next.
Two non-Christian members of the Akshaya Self-help Group of Nandalike in Karkala Taluk - Sujatha Poojari and Yashoda Moily, who had contested the panchayat election and were successful as well and Asha Shetty of Saadhane Self-help Group of Bailuru, Karkala taluk were also honoured by the bishop.
Judith Mendonca and Jenevive D’Souza who were instrumental in training the women inclined to contest the panchayat elections were felicitated by the bishop.
In response to the felicitation, one of the winning candidates Violet Castelino of Pamboor who was elected for the second time from her ward to Shirva panchayat shared her experience and said that it is important to develop good and friendly relations with the people belonging to other communities by participating in their socio-cultural functions.
Judith Mendonca of Tallur pointed out that in the absence of number, money and power, it is important to plan and implement winning strategy by doing social work with sincerity and honesty. Encouraging those who had lost the elections, she said that they should maintain good relations with the presidents and vice-presidents of the panchayat and try to get into the committees and continue the good work.
Representing those who could not succeed in the panchayat elections, Wilma Aranha of Kanajar said that even at the village panchayat level it is difficult to middle class people, especially the women to contest the elections due to money power, caste and religious equation and other factors. She lamented the fact that she had to face criticism and lack of support from her own community.
In his presidential address, Bishop Dr Gerald Isaac Lobo complimented all the winners in the recently concluded gram panchayat elections and encouraged those who had contested the elections but did not succeed. He said that 42 women who had contested the elections were successful. He further said that Christians have been known for service and honesty and they have been examples for others. “Women can play an important role in the development of the villages. Mahatma Gandhi had emphasized on the strengthening of villages for building the Indian nation. I appreciate the organizational work done by the Catholic Women’s Organization of the diocese under the leadership of Fr Reginald Pinto, director of Sampada. There are 172 dioceses in India and the Women’s Organization of the Udupi diocese with various self-help groups is being taken as a model by other dioceses,” he said.
Precilla Alva rendered the vote of thanks and Jacintha D’Silva compered the programme.