Many gender equality activists believe that local government is a more accessible arena for women than is national government and that women might be able to have a greater impact on resource allocation and public decision making at the local level. A decisive Government of India initiative, responsible for the election of approximately one million rural women and 23,000 urban women to local offi ce at one time (Mathew 2003), provides an opportunity to examine these assumptions in the Indian context. The 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Indian Constitution, enacted by the Indian Parliament in 1992, include provisions reserving one-third of the seats for women in the three-tiered panchayati raj system (local government councils in rural areas) and in urban councils.1 In addition, one-third of the council chairpersons must be women. Seats are also reserved for Dalits and Adivasis (referred to as SC/ST, Scheduled Castes and Tribes) and in some states “Other Backward Classes” (OBCs) based on their proportions in the population.2 Drawing on available research and my own recent fi eldwork,3 this chapter examines what difference, if any, this initiative makes for the welfare and empowerment of Indian women.