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Like many other young women, Bhagyashree Lekami dreamt of moving to a city and pursuing a career. But when the villagers of a Naxal stronghold Koti village in Maharashtra's Gadchiroli asked her to become their sarpanch, she decided to take the responsibility and address the village's problems.
The village is located in Bhamragad Tehsil of Gadchiroli in Maharashtra. It is close to dense forests and the mountainous Naxal-dominated area of Abujmarh.
The 21-year-old was elected as a sarpanch in 2019. There was no sarpanch for the last two years. Driving her bike through kutcha roads, Lekami has been relentlessly working on her duties, side by side with her male comrades.
"Our village is at a distance of 2,000 km from Mumbai. Even the government cannot reach here. This is why the government cannot understand the problems in our village. To change the situation, the people in the village will have to come forward. Therefore, I decided to become a sarpanch," Lekami told ANI.
Ever since her election, there has been a significant change in the village, including the construction of pucka roads and continuous water supply. Besides, she has also made women's health and menstruation-related diseases her top priority. She used government funds to avail sanitary pads for the women in the village.
There are nine villages that fall under the Koti Gram Panchayat. She wishes to set the villages as an example for the country by consistently showing developments by communities working together. But, in the developmental process, she does not want to compromise with the village's identity.
"Whatever work I will do, it will change the picture of the village, but the village will retain its importance. "I was born and brought up here. People love and respect me, and share their problems. They have never considered me weak as a woman," said the young sarpanch of the Koti Gram Panchayat.
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