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     Millennium Development Goal: Building Ideas, Initiating Actions

  

Backdrop

 

At the outset of the Millennium Swadhina was part of a discusssion forum at Kolkata where certain ideas were conceived as a response towards Millenium Development Goal. This motivated representatives of Swadhina to think of some concrete plan of action at the extreme rural areas where Swadhina had been working. Plans were conceived for Kanyakumari region in Tamil Nadu, Midnapore in West Bengal and as a special focus in East Singbhum in Jharkhand – which was then a nascent region –just newly born. However much of Swadhina’s exposure to the concept and concrete responsive action towards Millenium Development Goal was at the World Social Forum. There was a presentation on MDG by Dr.Bernhard Hoeper from Welthungerhilfe. Over the years dreams of Swadhina were put to action through the support of EU and WHH.

 

Swadhina’s dream to be a contributor to giving shape to the Millenium Development Goal in East Singbhum Jharkhand was supported by two projects – both supported by European Commision and Welthungerhilfe.

 

The first step in this regard was :

 Direct Development-based Action Programme supported by the GBP programme (2005-2008) of EU-WHH. The focus of this step was to directly intervene in the sectors that affect the life and livelihood of the people.

 

The second step was :

Self-empowerment and Rights-based Approach supported by the Gender Project (2010-2012) of EU-WHH. The focus of this step was to build in a sense of empowerment in the local people with women as the prime actors and to build in a bridge between the local people and the government efforts in fulfilling the requirements of MDG.

 

In the present context we shall discuss the Action, Impact and Key Learnings of Self-Empowerment and Rights based Approach implemented through the Gender Project.

 

MDG 1: Eradicate extreme poverty & hunger

 

ACTIONS

 

  • In order to eradicate poverty and hunger of the marginalised communities the key focus of the gender project has been helping the local people access the different government schemes and established systems initiated to meet the living and livelihood needs of the local people.
  • There are different schemes and scopes for the people but there lacked a link between the people and their rightful rights. Swadhina became this link.
  • The entire operation is organised through the Women’s Resource Centres which keeps forms on government schemes – there are about 29 forms on government schemes and programmes.
  • Swadhina has also helped pursue many cases where the basic payment through NREGA had been delayed.
  • Not just keeping these forms Swadhina animators and field supervisors have explained the use and utility of these forms through different local meets. They have also helped the local women fill-up these forms and in many cases deposited these forms at the right departments.
  • One of the key necessities to eradicate poverty is money management especially through savings and Swadhina workers have gone from door-to-door encouraging women to save money in local institutions like banks and post office. Special “Savings Camp” (“Bachat Shivir”) was organised where Bank Manager was invited to the field-office for on-the-spot enquiry by the villagers and depositing of forms.
  • Information on different income-generation possibilities to eradicate poverty was made through “Rozgar Mela”s (“ Income-generation Fairs). Each Rozgar Mela focused on a specific theme that was pertinent to the region – generating income through established institutions like Banks,Post-Office, Insurance Groups and local KVKs ; income generation through self-help initiatives; income generation through use of Commons. 
  • In order to promote self-reliant food & nutrition practices Swadhina organised Produce-specific Trainings for Women where locally available resources were used to develop food products which can be preserved and are long-lasting. As a result “Nutrimix” – a rural supplement for health-foods like Horlicks was developed. This highly nutritious food supplement is ideal for children and adults and can be safely preserved and used during food-crisis.

 

IMPACT

 

  • Over these 3 years access to welfare-related government schemes have improves remarkably. At the beginning of the project government was trying to re-organise the BPL list and fresh BPL numbers were being allotted. In a mid-term internal evaluation in 2011 about 70% of the sample beneficiary families reported to have received support from local WRCs in this process. Over these two and half years access to schemes like Indira Awas Yojana, Old-age pension, Widow pension have been increased due to intervention of Swadhina. For example 33% of the sample women said to have acquired a house allotted in their name in the past one year through Indira Awas Yojana – 20% of which have been through direct intervention of Swadhina. And this is a figure for just one year.
  • Proper and timely payment of wages ensure a stable economic system – Swadhina has not only highlighted the same but also acted upon. 67 families working under the NREGA scheme whose payments were long overdue approached the authorities at Jamshedpur under the leadership of Swadhina volunteers. And finally the authorities had to immediately pay them their dues.
  • The concept of having a savings account – especially in the name of the woman, was a new phenomenon but Swadhina’s constant campaigning has made it possible that almost every family has an account in the Bank/PO.In the same survey 86% of the sample women have said to have Bank Accounts in their name.
  • Income generation through individual or joint ventures have become popular- especially with women. Many women have now opted for government schemes such as poultry business and many are now part of different Self-Help Groups. This would assure them of monetary returns throughout the year irrespective of agro-produce. Lately efforts are on to help women have access to the Commons for income-generation. Interestingly the local CO as well as BDO have expressed their co-operation in this regard.

 

KEY LEARNINGS

 

  • There are different government schemes for better life and livelihood of the people but the people’s access to the schemes is limited. Though there are scrutinising policies of the government there is a deficiency in the monitoring  system which makes it difficult to assess whether the schemes reach the deserving people or not. It sometimes happens that some families get most of the schemes and some none at all.
  • The local agro-produce is often bought away by middle-men – as a result the farmers get a poor share of profit and since middle-men buy in bulk small farmers often sell away their own family share. One solution is promoting local Haats (Swadhina had opened a few Haats as part of earlier programmes which are running well) which have a government check and control to avoid the presence of middle-man.
  • A proper resource-mapping of the area promoted by the government department has to conducted and if necessary displayed at the Panchayat Bhavans to give a knowledge to the local people about the availability of local resources so that other intruders do not illegally use these resources for personal gain.
  • There needs to be a change in stance in addressing nutrition needs of the area. In addition to cooked meals at the ICDS centres there also has to be provision of addressing nutrition requirements of children who do not go to ICDS centres, pregnant and lactating women, old people of the area. Dry food supplements similar in the lines of Nutrimix can be promoted and distributed through local ANMs or ICDS workers.
  • In order to promote Self-help ventures and savings government can arrange local fairs or camps – may be through the help of local NGOs. This is true especially for interior tribal areas where the necessity is maximum. Otherwise the concentration is more on the villages bordering the sub-urban region.

 

MDG 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education

 

ACTION              

 

  • Swadhina workers have gone from door-to-door promoting timely enrollment of children at the local primary centers.
  • A literate mother = an educated child. Swadhina has encouraged literacy of mothers as a pre-requisite of proper and continued education of children.
  • The Literacy-Watch Group – a body of local well-wishers and volunteers have made a house-to-house study of the education system of the area and to identify the loopholes which prevent the fulfillment of universal primary education.
  • There is a need for an atmosphere of education and general well-being of the children in order to have a better system at the primary level. To motivate the parents two pre-primary supportive education centres are run by Swadhina as its own initiative in the areas where quality pre-primary centres are yet inaccessible. These are for the time till the proper systems are organised in the area under government’s initiative.
  • Need for equal education for both the boy child and girl child are promoted and stressed upon through awareness mediums such as posters, banners, boklets.

 

IMPACT

 

  • Enrollment of children to local primary schools, especially of the girl children have definitely been on the rise after regular intervention of Swadhina workers and volunteers.
  • The study of local education system has pointed out to the fact that three of the working villages lack a local ICDS centre. This makes it difficult for the local children to attend pre-primary and primary centres regularly. A petition is being prepared by the local women’s committees and Education Watch Group members in this regard, which would be soon submitted to the local Block-office appealing for education centres for these children.
  • Swadhina’s efforts towards education in the region have prompted parents to send their children to good-schools. Along with government schools two good primary and middle schools have come up in the area as a consequence of local demand. Inspired by this effort  the neighbouring region of Purulia has now 5 children’s centres due to local need.

 

Key Learnings

 

  • Adult Literacy Programmes in future like Sakshar Bharat should desirably focus not just on literacy but on knowledge building as well. The functional utilization of knowledge must be the key criteria.
  • It is not just important to build ICDS centres or Primary schools the logistical and social feasibility also needs to be considered. Time to time assessment of the centres is very crucial because with growing population,  population concentration of an area may change over time. Moreover the social barriers often lead to the marginalised being left out. Many a times the tribal children are not sent to the centres at non-tribal areas for fear of discrimination or vice-versa.
  • A regular assessment of the school attendance is also important because irregular attendance is a crucial factor of being drop-outs in the later stages. Especially of the girl children.
  • Education and food alone is not enough to ensure education for all, basic amenities like separate toilets for boys and girls, a basic drinking water facility are equally important factors.
  • Having just schools is not enough motivational programmes like education fairs, parents camps can be promoted by the local government to ensure a better literacy level.

 

MDG 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women

 

ACTION

 

  • In order to promote Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women stress has been laid on : social empowerment, economic empowerment, political empowerment.
  • To ensure social empowerment stress has been laid on promoting literacy of women – especially functional literacy which focusses on overall empowerment. For this special Navodaya Functional literacy classes are conducted whereby women not just acquire basic literacy but learn signature as a tool to acquire their rights, know about the laws for women, understand their nutritional requirements, understand government schemes. Two libraries are also run to supplement their knowledge-building process.
  • Specific Gender issues like economic self-reliance, government self-reliance schemes for women right over land and property are brought forward through Gender Meets.
  • Political participation of women in a very strong tool in bringing a social change and thus Swadhina has laid strong emphasis on the issue through village-level Good-Governance meets and leadership trainings to promote participation of women in the local governance system.
  • Women have been supported in acquiring government schemes like Indira Awas Yojana  which are specifically in the name of the women. Efforts are on to help the local women’s groups access the commons which can be a source of income –generation for them.
  •  All the activities are undertaken with the support of local Mahila Samities or women’s groups who form a strong back-bone for the local women.
  • All the actions are supplemented with strong documentation and publications in the form posters, booklets, banners, wall-writings etc.

 

IMPACT

 

  • The women of the area are now aware of the different laws and schemes for them and are equipped with functional knowledge that can help them lead a better life.
  • Door-to-door campaigning has resulted in the fact that almost 85% of the beneficiary women are now able to sign their names along with the knowledge as to how they can utilise the same.
  • For the first time in the area women are actually opening bank accounts exclusively for themselves. They are also going to the bank for loans for small-business. 29% of surveyed women have taken bank loans strengthening economic support.
  • The biggest achievement of the women of the region has been the participation of women in local Panchayat elections held for the first time. 35% of the women of the working areas participating in the recent Panchayat elections are or have been Swadhina workers and Women’s Committee key position holders and near about 65% of the women of the working areas participating in the recent Panchayat elections are enrolled as Swadhina beneficiaries. Also interestingly the elected Panchayat women leaders participate and give time for different local programmes organised by Swadhina enthusing other women to follow their footsteps.
  • The biggest visible change has been the prompt participation of women in different activities. What once used to be a distant dream is now a reality. During different meets the local women are able to express their needs including in front of local government officials like BDO or CO.
  • Swadhina’s efforts in building a strong grass-root governance through a special Panchyat Orientation  Kit has been well accepted and appreciated even in the ranks of Zilla Parishad Chairperson.

 

Key Learnings

 

  • It is not enough to have laws but the parallel processes should also be strong enough. For example marriage registration is a strong tool of ensuring safety in marriages, especially for women and is important also for acquiring legal rights but unfortunately in Jharkhand there are no Marriage Registration Officers in different areas especially in the rural belt. Which leave the women in a vulnerable situation.
  • Though women have been given a fair chance of participation in local level elections the lack of orientation processes make it difficult for them to understand the system entirely. Alongside it is also important to involve their families in a orientation process otherwise it is very difficult for the women to participate in different activities freely.
  • The response and the facilities of the government in the rural interior is extremely poor which makes it very difficult for the women to get adequate health care. There is only one non-functional health centre in the region and two visiting ANMs who come thrice a week. The nearest hospital is in West Bengal. Till the system is in order local NGOs and young women volunteers can be imparted training to look into the health-care needs of women.

 

MDG 7: Ensure Environment Sustainability

 

Action

 

  • In order to highlight the connection between environment and women special festivals called “Basundhara Parab” (Earth Festival) was organised. The idea was two fold – to emphasise the right of women over her land and natural resources and to highlight the role of women in protecting the environment.
  • To promote awareness on environment protection and sustainability special environment events like Environment Day, World Water Day have been organised involving women and children.
  • In order to save the forests from deforestation through intruders and illegal outsiders mass awareness is being generated through meets and posters on Right to Forest Act, emphasizing on the role of the local tribals in protecting their forests and utilizing forest resources in a replenishable process.
  • A special video-film on need to protect plants and forest land has been made in local language to propagate environment protection.

 

Impact

 

  • The women have realised with pride their role in protecting the environment.
  • They have spoken openly on their right on “Jal, Jangal, Zameen” ( Water, Forest and Land) at open forums.
  • Women are actively engaging themselves in the reforestation programmes by the government.

 

Key Learnings

 

  • There still much less idea about the Right to Forest Act.
  • Strong local response groups, trained by the government should be set-up to protect the forests.
  • There is a need to promote safe and environment-friendly practices as Smokeless Ovens through subsidised government schemes.

 

Networks, Linkages and Advocacy

 

  • One of the key necessities of implementing the MDGs is to form a  Tripartite linkage between the People, Government and local facilitators like NGOs or Local Groups. In the working areas of East Singbhum this bond has gradually developed over the years and there is a sense of interdependency and co-operation existing.
  • Two Block-level workshops have been organised in 2010 and 2011 respectively for interactive discussion on women’s issues between government representatives and local women. The BDO, CDPO and several prominent government representatives have graced these workshops. These have provided a good scope of in-depth understanding the local problems of local women.
  • A District-level workshop was organised at Galudih Zonal Research Centre in August 2011.This provided a very good platform for women Panchayat representatives from different areas to present their view-point and to hear the different problems with regards to women’s empowerment in their areas. Graced by the presence of important people’s representatives like MLA Ramdas Soren, Zilla Parishad Chairperson Sonia Samant etc the workshop became a good opportunity to present view-points from different strata of the society.The issues got a lot of media coverage and highlight which helped in disseminating the information to a larger extent.
  • Immediately after the Panchayat-level elections in December 2010, a special orientation programme was organised in January 2011 for newly elected Panchayat leaders specially for Women participants in local level elections. This provided a good platform of interaction between the local people and their elected representatives.
  • A one-day workshop of representatives of local governance system and local women was organised on Literacy Day to discuss crucial responsibilities of local leaders in ensuring a better gender-parity in literacy.  Key Panchayat Leaders and representatives from local literacy cells  listened in to problems from the field areas with regard to literacy and shared in their inputs.
  • A special booklet on Panchayat issues and about the intricacies of Panchayat system have been discussed in detail in this booklet in local language. This has been distributed amongst different elected representatives as a supportive gesture from Swadhina.In turn Swadhina was specially invited by the local government in April 2012 to attend a workshop on Gramsabha.
  • A State-level Workshop  was organised with IGSSS in October 2011 as a part of the combined effort towards National-level advocacy of social issues concerning women.  This helped highlight the specific issue of participation of women in governance – in every sector.Women representatives from local governance structure, education, science and research helped in bringing about an amalgamation of ideas and suggestive solutions towards better participation of women.
  • Findings and discussions of the Block-level, District-level and State-level workshop have been distributed to different government officials, organisations and individuals for advocacy.

 

Problems and Challenges

 

  • The biggest hurdle in  fulfilling the MDG in Jharkhand has been that it is a new state which requires re-organising and re-establishing government systems in order which is a time-consuming process.
  • Organised Grass-root level governance was absence till as late as December 2010.
  • The disturbed socio-political scenario makes it challenging for government officials to attend to the remote areas.
  • A proper and regular state-based network of social organisations is absent in Jharkhand which makes it difficult to orchestrated action to support government  activities to promote MDGs.

 

A better world is possible!!

 

We take this opportunity to thank Dr.Bernhard Hoeper ,Ms.Saraswathi Rao and the entire team of Welthungerhilfe for giving us the scope to be a part of this global movement.

A dream today will be a reality tomorrow…

Swadhina was born with a belief – a belief that a BETTER WORLD IS POSSIBLE.

 

A response by : SWADHINA

Supported by : EU / WHH 

 

 
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Email:
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