Mayadevi Sorte is a 39 year old woman from Scheduled caste community from Wadawal village in Latur District of Maharashtra. Latur district is located in Marathwada region, one of the most backward and poorest regions in the state. Latur had witnessed deaths of around 20000 people during a massive earthquake in 1993. In the year 2016, Latur was also hit by the worst ever drought affecting lives of poor and most marginalized communities. During that time, farm output in Marathwada collapsed by 40-50%, triggering acute farm distress.
Mayadevi was married at a very young age, but she continued her education after marriage until 12th grade. At a very young age, she became socially active in her village. In 1997, she established a self help group to empower women in her village. She also made women aware about their basic rights as majority of women in her community were poor and even deprived of ration card. Mayadevi also took the issues of these women in her village panchayat (Council). In 2000 she contested panchayat elections in her village and won the seat. She actively worked for the rights of deprived people, especially women during her tenure as a elected member of the village council. She faced lots of challenges for being a strong woman and also labeled as a woman of immoral character. But she kept working for the community and also got good support from her husband.
Mayadevi joined as a fellow at Manuski during 2013-2016. During her fellowship with Manuski, she undertook training on many topics such as Women Rights and laws, Human rights approaches to development, Capacity building training for Individuals and NGO’s, Vision Building workshop, Special Component Plan and Tribal Sub Plan budgeting workshop etc. Her major focus area was to empower women in Gram sabhas, i.e. village assemblies. She also emphasized on building coalition and building capacities of the elected representatives from Dalit, Adivasi, Nomadic Tribes and Denotified Tribes.
Mayadevi says that “a capable woman is one who takes decisions by herself, who keeps a goal of becoming a good leader and whose key priority is to address the issues of her community”. She believes that “a woman should have her own identity and even taking decisions in the family matters gives a woman great confidence. After receiving varied number of trainings from Manuski “she wants more and women to take active political participation and wishes that there is reservation for women also in the Indian Parliament”.