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Women in Self Governance - Best Practices in Mahila Samakhya: Chapter 6

Women in Self Governance - Best Practices in Mahila Samakhya: Chapter 6

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Case Study Compendium on Best Practices in Women's Empowerment in Mahila Samakhya. Titled " Innovation towards Education for Empowerment - Grassroots Women's Movement." Published by Best Practices Foundation
Case Study Compendium on Best Practices in Women's Empowerment in Mahila Samakhya. Titled " Innovation towards Education for Empowerment - Grassroots Women's Movement." Published by Best Practices Foundation

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WOMEN IN SELF-GOVERNANCE

Political Empowerment and Participation

WOMEN IN SELF-GOVERNANCE
Political Empowerment and Participation Introduction
“Women are very important to a smooth functioning of government and home. They are like one wheel of a chariot, and to function well, a chariot needs both wheels. Right now, women are too burdened with the notion of their womanhood. They need to step out of that, they need to have courage. A Panchayat is helpful in allowing them to gain that courage, as it gives them a voice.”
Anna Hazare (1999).

n spite of the fact that Indian women were active members in politics from the early twentieth century, it was only in 1993 that their participation at all levels was guaranteed by the 73rd Constitutional Amendment. This provided 33 percent electoral quota for women in local bodies and gave recognition to these bodies as institutions of self-governance indicating that people's participation is sine qua non for realizing the goal of selfgovernance. Sweeping changes in the rural landscape were seen as more than one million women from all communities competed to become members of executive bodies of the panchayats. Despite India having more Elected Women Representatives (EWRs) than all other countries put together (UNDP, 2009),1 their participation is still limited due to discrimination, lack of access to information, illiteracy, the double burden faced by women at work and at home, and most importantly, the fact that often women are not seen as political entities but merely instruments through whom men can continue to exercise political power.

I

The Amendment gave recognition to panchayats as institutions of self-governance indicating their liberty to decide on local issues of development. The Gram Panchayat is often referred to as the grassroots level of democracy, and as an institution of local selfgovernance at the village level. Villagers The “Gram Panchayat” is an elected can both voice their body and the primary unit of local opinion and governance in the Panchayati Raj participate in the Institutions at the village level. governance of the Source: The Planning Commission of India village, especially through the Gram Sabha. Thus all members of a community are provided with the opportunity to hold their representatives to account on all aspects and activities of the Gram Panchayat through the Gram Sabha. However, low attendance and participation in the Gram Sabha, particularly of women, prevents their priorities from being addressed. Therefore, improving women's participation and making them aware of their rights to act and engender local governance and development was a crucial step for Mahila Samakhya.

The state of Uttarakhand provides an interesting picture with regard to the socio-economic and political status of women. Like many of the northern states, women face high levels of violence and discrimination. Unlike these states, however, women in Uttarakhand, especially tribal women, have established a stronghold in agriculture and production due to male migration. It is perhaps a combination of these factors that allowed women to emerge as leaders in a range of social movements historically.
1 UNDP (2009), Helping women lead change, http://www.undp.org.in/?q=undp-enhancingwomen%E2%80%99s-role-and-participation-governance (last accessed on 31 October 2010)

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As early as the 1960s, the Mahila Mangal Dals' (MMDs) struggle against alcoholism was eventually "Gram Sabha" means a body successful in banning consisting of persons registered in alcohol from five the electoral rolls relating to a districts of Uttar village comprised within the area of Pradesh by 1971. Panchayat at the village level. Rural women's Source: The 73 Constitutional Amendment participation in these Act, 1993 campaigns laid the foundation for the environmental struggles of the seventies. As a distinctly nonviolent grassroots movement, women organized themselves against commercial logging operations that were threatening their livelihoods, by literally hugging the trees, known famously as the Chipko Movement.2
rd

Uttarakhand was in the vanguard of states reserving 50 percent of seats in panchayats for women for two succeeding terms.3 Despite this, and the fact that women outnumber men in eight out of 13 districts in Uttarakhand, women are still unable to effectively participate as active members in the panchayats. It was remarked that, 'there were two fears when “My husband had developed an the reservation for identity as a Pradhan husband or women was ‘Pradhan Pati’. My role was limited to introduced, first that it signing papers and I acted as a was going to be hard Pradhan for signatures only. My to find enough husband even kept the stamp in his women ready to pocket. I was limited to doing leave their traditional household work and felt that given my roles and enter into illiteracy I will never be able to deal politics, and second, with all the paper work involved in my that dominant men responsibilities as a Gram Panchayat would push their Pradhan.” female family Interview with Vijaya Devi, Gram Panchayat Pradhan, Tehri District, Uttarakhand, June 2010. members into the political arena and then control them.' 4 Studies showed that women elected in local governance systems led to the emergence of the 'Sarpanch-Pati' or 'ChairpersonHusband', especially among younger, new members where husbands dominated panchayat activities. 5 In Uttarakhand, EWRs were often accompanied by their husbands who were shadow boxing for the womenfolk in panchayat meetings. Over
2 Dighe, A (2008), 'Women's Empowerment at the Local Level (WELL) - a study undertaken in the state of Uttarakhand', Commissioned by the Commonwealth of Learning, Vancouver, Canada. Kazmi, S. M. A (2008),,Uttarakhand reserves 50 percent seats for women in Panchayats. Redlund, Johan, 'Women in the Panchayats - A study of gender structures and the impact of the 73rd Amendment to the Indian Constitution’, http://lup.lub.lu.se/luur/download?func=downloadFile&recordOId=1332408&fileOId=1332409 (accessed on October 31, 2010)

time, this pattern has changed and women are actively participating as elected members but often have to face domineering elected male members in these meetings. EWRs, thus, face the dilemma of their husbands either dominating their work, or actively discouraging, or hindering their participation, while at the same time, the community is expecting them to deliver as elected members. Being new to the political arena, an EWR often does not know what issues should be raised, is unaware of her responsibilities, the finances, and lacks the administrative and technical know-how necessary for effective delivery. Illiteracy and lack of access to information are major deterrents to being effective. Further, many EWRs felt that their being in power was a temporary status resulting from reservation that would end once their five year term was complete. Thus, women need the support of the sanghas, to ensure that their voices are heard in the Gram Sabha. MS used this opportunity to bring women into the political arena across several states (Chart 5.1). Mahila Samakhya Uttarakhand (MS Uttarakhand) through its Panchayat Literacy Programme (PLP) for community-based grassroots women had the highest number of sangha women entering the panchayats. This initiative was designed to build a critical mass of women in the political arena and through them create this space by ensuring that women's perspectives influence local governance.

Objectives
When MS began its work on panchayat literacy, the environment was predominantly male-dominated and hostile, with women
5 Shamim , Ishrat and Ranjana Kumari (2002), Gender and Local Governance, A New Discourse in Development, Centre for Social Research, New Delhi, India, , unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/.../unpan038213.pdf (accessed on 1 November 2010).

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WOMEN IN SELF-GOVERNANCE

Methodology
Chart 5.1:

Women Sangha Members Elected to Panchayats across MS States
3565 604 916

Uttrakhand Uttar Pradesh

States

Karnataka Jharkhand Gujarat Bihar Assam

1 1566 470 323 1874 0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500 3000 3500 4000

Andhra Pradesh

Number of Sangha women elected into Panchayats playing their socially perceived role of pliable, dependent members, with no real decision making powers. The aim of the PLP in Uttarakhand was to expand women's capacities to participate both directly in the political arena and through Gram Sabhas in local governance. Therefore, introducing women to various dimensions of political participation was crucial. The issues revolving around water-forest-land (jal-jungle-zameen) were linked to the jurisdiction of the panchayat. To address these issues as well as those of special concern to women, and to ensure women's political empowerment, MS Uttarakhand designed specific objectives to develop and expand the boundaries of women's political participation, engendering institutions of local self-governance, and increasing transparency and accountability (Box 5.1).
Box 5.1: Objectives of the Panchayat Literacy Programme for Women in Uttarakhand

Using primarily a case study approach, three visits to Uttarakhand were made over a period of six months. Qualitative and quantitative data was gathered from primary and secondary sources to enable an in-depth, comprehensive understanding of the merits and challenges of this practice. Additionally, the study drew upon findings from a toolkit methodology which was evolved using a participatory and collaborative approach primarily with field level MS staff. The 97 respondents interviewed included 49 EWRs, sangha or federation members who were engaged in local participatory governance, 26 senior and junior staff, and 22 external stakeholders associated with this initiative such as representatives from the government and NGOs. The main sources of data included semi-structured interviews with these respondents, extended informal discussions with MS personnel at all levels, NRG members, as well as internal documents. The limitations of the study included unavailability of external stakeholders especially from the Government. Even when present, external stakeholders were often unaware of the details of the initiative because of frequent transfers or unwilling to provide proper feedback.

Panchayat Literacy: A Response to Challenges Faced by Women
As early as 1989, MS envisaged involving sangha women in the functions of the panchayat. By 1996, this initiative started in Tehri district (as a part of Mahila Samakhya Uttar Pradesh) and by 2006, it had spread to several districts. MS functionaries convinced sangha women that the panchayat is the forum that can address issues such as education, health, infrastructure and water. However, older women often faced opposition from their families and were unwilling to contest and for ten years, MS Uttarakhand faced this problem till it altered its strategy to mobilize younger women into the sanghas, who were open to new ideas and suggestions. This change represented a milestone where this new generation of women in sanghas were in a majority, more capable, articulate and willing to run for public positions. The PLP's multi-pronged approach can broadly be divided into building an enabling environment for women and building capacities towards women's enhanced political participation. Box 5.2 indicates the range of interventions, including building capacity of sangha women to participate in the Gram Sabha, sensitizing male family members on the responsibilities of elected women and the need to support them, training elected members at higher levels which is done in collaboration with other NGOs, and holding broad-based awareness campaigns on electing deserving candidates.

n To empower women politically by: - Developing a political understanding among women to ensure that they can exercise their political rights in decision making and take the lead by enhancing their participation in panchayats. - Facilitating women’s participation in panchayats to bring women into local decision-making bodies. n To engender institutions of self-governance and make them more accountable to the needs of women and communities. - Change patriarchal ideology and sensitize local government towards women to respond to their issues and priorities. - Increase community awareness and participation to identify community needs. n Increase transparency and accountability of institutions of self-governance to women and communities.
Source: Interviews with MS State and district staff, Uttarakhand, June 2010.

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WOMEN IN SELF-GOVERNANCE

Strategies of the Panchayat Literacy Programme
Box 5.2:

n Village awareness raising campaigns on selection of deserving candidates. n Motivating women to contest for elections. n Formation of All Women Panchayats or Mahila Panchayats. n Training for sangha women members on their rights and responsibilities in participating in the Gram Sabha. n Intensive training for Ward members and Pradhans on panchayat structures, and their roles and responsibilities. n Other capacity building measures dealing with financial management, programmes such as MGNREGS and laws like the Domestic Violence Act. n Gender sensitization of family members of elected representatives to sensitize them on roles and responsibilities of panchayat members.
Source: Interviews with MS staff, Uttarakhand, June 2010

one with debates among women, designed to pave the way for the ideal candidate to emerge. In these discussions, women identify and prioritize their issues. MS then encourages women leaders to address these issues by running for elections. Such campaigns are now conducted just before elections to build confidence and capacities among women to contest them.

Mahila Panchayats
Women were urged by MS to form separate Mahila Panchayats to table women's issues on the development agenda. The first Mahila Panchayat established in Dikhet village at Pauri district in 2002 was largely composed of Dalit women who were elected without any opposition since the panchayat was set up in consensus with the villagers. However, the all-women's panchayat did not perform any better than other panchayats and many problems remained unresolved during its tenure. The lessons learnt from this, as well as current and future strategies on the Mahila Panchayat initiative are elaborated in Box 5.3.
Box 5.3: Mahila

Village Awareness Campaigns on governance
Campaigns have been conducted by MS to build awareness for all community members on the election process, motivating deserving candidates to run for elections, and creating an enabling environment for women candidates, using methods such as nukkad nataks (plays), songs, displaying phads (long piece of cloth with paintings depicting panchayat issues) on walls, and conducting jathas (processions).

Panchayat builds its own

Identity
The idea of constituting a Mahila Panchayat in Dikhet village of Pauri district was discussed with villagers in 2002, a year prior to its formation. It was hoped that if women were given an all-women’s political platform they would be able to establish an identity for themselves. To accomplish this, meetings, nukkad nataks, wall writing, among several activities, were organized to sensitize men and the community and motivate women to contest. Once elected, members were trained on conducting Gram Sabhas, in writing resolutions and in budget preparation. Men were supportive and with their consensus, the first Mahila Panchayat was formed unopposed in 2003, in Uttarakhand. This was highlighted as an innovation and everyone was motivated to have one in their constituency. As a result in 2008, all-women panchayats emerged in Dhuradh-anai GP and in Gadsikathu GP whereas two more Gram Panchayats at Kandaravani and Bonda also elected women members with only one male GP member each. This shows the potential for the strategy of all-women Panchayats to become popular in the state. The sangha was instrumental in the selection of women as ward members for the Mahila Panchayat and the most active sangha member was elected as a Pradhan. Men thought that women could take care of the development work, while they would have the primary say in budgetary matters. However, intervention by sangha and ward members challenged men on this perspective. The family members of the Pradhan and the Up-Pradhan as well as

EWR with community members

Preparing Women to Contest Elections
Women with leadership qualities are identified from the sangha itself to contest the panchayat elections. MS also leads campaigns on activities of women in the panchayat and motivates the panchayats to recognize that women are equally capable of solving village problems. The selection process is a participatory

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two or three ward members then started influencing the EWRs who gradually began to move away from the sangha and its philosophy. The Pradhan, under the influence of her family, began siphoning money to benefit her family and children. This resulted in internal differences within the panchayat. The women however, completed their tenure as panchayat members and their panchayat was even awarded 1,00,000 rupees from the block which served as an inspiration for neighbouring villages. Special features expected of an all women’s panchayat include: n Creation of an open forum for women to express themselves. n Women’s issues brought into the development agenda. n All members participate equally. n Creation of a women’s self-identity. n Design solutions for issues based on women’s knowledge and experience. Lessons learnt from the experience of the first Mahila Panchayat All-women Panchayats require intensive capacity building on how to build a strong women’s identity. Once in power, their capacities to be more effective and implement decisions on women’s issues need to be built. They need to be prepared in advance for internal differences, possible family interference, to know ways and means to resolve conflicts, and resist influences that could corrupt them. The Pradhan especially needs to be closely linked to and accountable to the sangha. Another lesson in context to the all-women Panchayat at Dikhet was that intervention at a later date in local politics by external institutions like MS Uttarakhand was difficult. The villagers treat MS staff as outsiders and are not open to their intercession in local village politics.
Source: Interviews with MS staff, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, June 2010.

EWR with community members

environment by providing intensive training on gender sensitisation for women first, and later, for men. Women identified the inequalities they faced and arrived at ways to counter them. The combination of capacity building inputs on gender discrimination, and knowledge of the Panchayati Raj system worked marvels and many women came forth not just to run for elections but to face the many challenges in this role head-on. Since these EWRs would have to advocate women's issues and be capable of negotiating with government officials to effect changes in policy, it was necessary to elect women with strong leadership qualities.

Educating Women on Citizenship Participation
Training sessions are designed to help women become aware of their right to bring women's issues into, as well as raise their demands in the Gram Sabha meetings, and to participate regularly in them. The relevance and importance of the Gram Sabha also called 'open meetings', the difference between the Gram Sabha and the Gram Panchayat, the rights of Gram Sabha members, and possible areas of intervention, are explained through the medium of group discussions, plays, pictures relevant

The objectives of the all-women panchayat could not be fulfilled as some representatives were not competent to handle panchayat functions. The initial setbacks in the Mahila Panchayat compelled MS to plan for better functioning of these panchayats over the next five years. Additionally, MS is rethinking its future strategies for intervention in such panchayats.

Capacity Building Initiatives
The MS philosophy underlying this programme revolved around creating awareness of women's basic rights and the concept of pro-women initiatives. So, when the programme first began in Tehri, it focused on the prevailing restrictive patriarchal social

Sangha women and EWRs training

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WOMEN IN SELF-GOVERNANCE

to the panchayat. For instance, information and street plays on the Right to Information (RTI) Act 6 are organized to acquaint women with the concept of RTI and how to use it effectively to access information on entitlements.

Sangha Woman Overcomes Struggles to Become Panchayat Leader
Box 5.4:

Games played during follow up training for EWRs, Udhamsingh Nagar

Elected Women Representatives Trained on Governance
As an elected panchayat member, a woman is bestowed constitutionally with the authority to initiate change. Yet, she is often unable to exercise this power due to lack of experience or when she tries, her views are often overlooked. Earlier, before women became cognizant of their rights, meetings were irregular and if held, EWRs were informed at the last minute giving them very little time to prepare. Often, they were not even informed about the meeting schedules. Once elected, the PLP prepares women representatives to overcome these challenges, providing knowledge about the structure and functioning of the panchayats. It includes a range of initiatives including women's entry into local government, skills on how women in communities can articulate their demands, and roles of EWRs in the process of local governance in acting on informed demands. Simultaneously, MS works with community elders and other prominent players of the village to create an enabling and supportive environment for the elected women. Special training for elected Pradhans focuses primarily on ensuring their independent functioning as leaders. The story of Ganga Devi (Box 5.4) describes the journey of a woman from the time she joins the sangha to becoming the president of her village panchayat.

Gender Sensitisation to Build the Support of Men
To create an enabling environment for EWRs, MS organized sensitisation workshops for women representatives along with their husbands, with the explicit goal of soliciting their support.
6 Right to Information Act (2005) mandates that every citizen has a right to know how the Government is functioning. Right to Information empowers every citizen to seek any information from the Government, inspect any Government documents and seek certified photocopies thereof. Some laws on Right to Information also empower citizens to officially

Ganga Devi, ex-pradhan and Federation Chair-Person, from Sra village, Yamkeshwar block of Pauri, Gharwal district counts her life’s experiences as a success story. While she narrates her struggle and subsequent achievements, one cannot miss the feeling of satisfaction she radiates. Her journey towards actualizing a fair and sound position for women around her began when she joined the sangha in 1995-96. Soon she was trained by MS to understand the challenges before her in the programme, “Information on Open Meeting or Khuli Baithak”. For Ganga Devi, it was a chance to get information on basic necessities like health and also to understand the potential of political empowerment through participation in the panchayats. This was a long and arduous learning process that she readily took on. The different issues covered in the various training sessions were to prove an enormous help. They Ganga Devi included understanding the role of a panchayat member, significance of a voters list, understanding the Gram Sabha, understanding Gram Panchayat documents, budgets and budgetary allocation in the panchayats, access to monetary resources available from different sources such as the central Government, state, district and block; financial management including account keeping and cash book maintenance, pass book maintenance and the purpose of revenue stamps in official documents. During training MS showed women the actual documents required in the Panchayats. Ganga Devi says this training programme strengthened her knowledge and information base. Thus, she was able to address large groups of people with confidence, and subsequently ventured to contest the Zilla Panchayat elections at district level.
Source: Interview with Ganga Devi, ex-Pradhan and sangha member, Pauri Gharwal district, Uttarakhand, June 2010.

Inspect any Government work or to take samples of material used in any work. http://www.rtiindia.org/guide/fundamental-facts-about-rti-2/what-is-right-to-information-6/, (accessed on October 25, 2010).

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WOMEN IN SELF-GOVERNANCE

The workshop focused on gender concepts, and panchayat related functions which EWRs have to perform (Box 5.5). Several joint activities are conducted to elicit male support. For instance in a workshop, husbands were asked to hold a pen with their wives and write a few words or draw an image. Often men were more literate than women, so they had a firm grip over the pen.

Gender Training For Male Family Members of EWRs
Box 5.5:

The training conducted for men focuses on gender issues and the Domestic Violence Act (2005) with the objective of showing how women's rights are ignored. The discussion on violence against women is conducted subtly as otherwise it leads to men becoming defensive. Participants acknowledge the inequality among men and women in subsequent dialogues. Discussions are then held on the imbalance of opportunities among men and women and on strategies to bring about equality. This activity sets the stage for participants to be active and open to new ideas. The men are asked to describe specific characteristics which a man should possess. Participants list out different stereotypical characteristics of men (for example, being physically strong, brave and so on). The discussions following this exercise allow the participants to realize that a single man cannot possess all these characteristics. The deliberations help them realize that every man is different, the notion of masculinity is an illusion and cannot be generalized. During the training, men openly voice their sense of losing power in the erstwhile male bastion of the PRIs after the reservation of seats for women. There is confusion among men regarding their roles when women assume power, replacing men in the panchayats. Participants are informed that women being delegated power through reservation is a global phenomenon in the international effort to bring about gender equality. The current leadership role of women is discussed at length with the men. Examples of interventions by women in the public domain are used as illustrations. This helps the participants realize the importance of supporting their wives in their functions in governance.
Source: Interview with Rabinder Singh Jeena, Coordinator, Centre for Advancement for Rural Empowerment, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, September 2010.

Gender training for men, Bazpur, Udhamsingh Nagar, Uttarakhand

MS Uttarakhand has recognized that there should be a procedure to gauge the progress of EWRs members who had received training held by MS. Data is now collected on the basis of which, profiles of all EWRs are compiled to track their performance over a period of time. In the initial years, the expected outcomes targeted for capacity building by trainers included a few basic changes in perspectives

Interaction between trainer and participants in gender training, Udhamsimgh Nagar

They helped their wives to hold the pen and together helped them to write or to draw. A group discussion followed in which men realized that they were playing a more prominent role in the writing or drawing and instead agreed to work to support their wife play her role independently in the panchayat.

among women. One of these was the need for women participants to come out of their homes so as to be exposed to external influences. A second was the need to effect a change in their perspectives towards patriarchy and to develop a rightsbased approach. At the outset, it was hard for women to imagine a separate sense of identity, or to exercise choices that may differ from those of their families. Women had to understand that it was development and social problems in the village that needed attention and the local government had the potential to address and resolve these. Capacity building for EWRs was expected to increase their confidence in order to discharge their duties during, and even after their term ended.

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If this happens then it will have strong roots and there will be a day when there is no need for MS to guide them any longer'. 8

Bringing Women's Issues into the Panchayats
As MS was new to the concept of panchayat literacy in 1996, a clear-cut vision was initially absent in this initiative. Issues like

Gender training, Udhamsimgh Nagar

Principles of MS that inform the PLP
From the women's movement perspective, politics is broadly defined as, 'the collective action of women against oppressive patriarchal power with the long term goal of social transformation that would ensure women's rights and their liberation from subjugation, superstition, degradation, and injustice' 7. The PLP is informed by this perspective crystallized in the Eleventh MS Plan document which challenges traditional leadership stereotypes and centre stages women in leadership roles.

Sangha women and EWRs

Process Orientation and Relevance to Women's Lives
One means of empowering women to deal with their issues is to bring them into decision making arenas, especially into local bodies of self-governance. MS principles related to women's rights, their collective strength, discrimination against women such as those caused by domestic violence, and other developmental issues have been woven into the PLP. This is an inclusive programme wherein, 'the entire concept of the Panchayat Literacy Programme is women friendly. Preference and respect is given to women in the trainings. This ensures a healthy environment for women to learn and be inspired. Awareness is part of life-skills. If a woman is cognizant of the schemes and whom to approach for them, she becomes confident and makes decisions of her own'. In essence then, as suggested by Gita Gairola, State Project Director, MS Uttarakhand, the programme has great potential given that, 'this is the first programme by which community women can enter the panchayats The functioning of any programme is different in MS. The programme has to be understood as process oriented and not target centred and most important of all is the fact that its relevance be understood by all women and community members.

sexual harassment and rape were not even discussed within the panchayat. These issues were suppressed as the women feared dire consequences if they exposed them within the larger community. The literacy work increased discussions within the sanghas regarding exploitation of women and the need to bring such issues to the forefront. Though social in nature, these were related to the community and hence ought to be resolved in the panchayats. The panchayats argued that it would be difficult to register women related cases in the proceedings register of the panchayat. The sanghas replied that if the panchayats took up the cases, it could be resolved within the village itself instead of being heard in the courts, a more tedious and expensive procedure. The sangha women played the role of a pressure group in discussions with the panchayat elders. If women chose to seek active and speedy remedies through the panchayats, they also had to understand the intricacies of the local governance system and party politics. Hence, they needed to be educated in various ways, to be seen in public fora and to address the community. This needed time and effort, to let them develop their confidence while in office. The vision of the PLP gradually emerged to ensure that women's issues enter and are addressed by the governance process.

Elements of Political Empowerment and the Participation of Women
The patriarchal social structure constrains the active participation
8 Interview with State Program Director, MS Uttarakhand, Dehradun, June, 2010.

7

Patel, V. (Ed.), 'Getting a foothold in Politics' in Readings on Women Studies Series No.5, Research Centre for Women's Studies, SNDT University, Mumbai, 1986

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Figure 5.1:

Facets of Political Empowerment

Increase in number of elected sangha women to PRIs
50% reservation for women & MS’s inputs for sangha women

Increased demand and access to literacy programs by EWRs

Increased participation in electoral process

Increased support to women elected members in domestic and public sphere

Pr 73r e- d A ele m c e ca tion ndm mp aw en aig ar t & n ene ss

MS trainings for male family members

In pr form og a s ra tio p ch m n MS rov em s an on i tra ded es d ini in ng s

Networking with government departments and Use of RTI

Increased awareness to utilize the right to vote

Mock elections in MS trainings

Increased ability to intervene in village development and access to public resources like MGNREGA

of women in the public arena. Community members often perceive women as ignorant as far as politics is concerned. Even when elected as Pradhans, women continue to remain subservient and unable to function effectively in public office. However, when sangha women are elected, a need to develop and strengthen their capacities on political participation is felt and expressed. The PLP has responded by empowering them politically and enabling them to harness community support in the democratic process. Figure 5.1 shows the various facets, especially in relation to political empowerment, as envisaged through MS philosophy. It depicts the varying degrees of impact on different aspects of political participation with the highest being the achievement of a critical mass of women in the Panchayati Raj Institutions. Through this initiative, the stereotypical image of a woman as a rubber stamp is challenged. Women are now not just active participants of PRIs and Gram Sabhas, but are engendering these institutions by making sure they address women's issues.

n y o te tud era e s l it as of f c ce R e o tan W Us por E im

Ability to choose the right representative

Political Empowerment

Pre-election awareness campaign MS training for sangha women on Gram Sabha and their entitlements

Ability to raise issues at public for a such as GS and block meetings

Ability to interact and access information from officials at police stations, block and panchayat offices

Impact of Empowerment
Building a Critical Mass of Women in the Political Sphere
The primary impact of the PLP has been in bringing large numbers of women from the sanghas into power in the last two terms. As a result of this intervention, the number of sangha women elected has doubled in 2008 as compared to 2003 (Chart 5.2). After getting women to contest, most sangha women who ran in the elections won handsomely thereby quelling fears of defeat and consequently a loss of face for themselves and their family members. (Box 5.6) The vision of the PLP could only be translated into reality if the women brought into the panchayats had a clear women's consciousness. Therefore, sangha members with a strong women's perspective had to be brought into leadership. In the

e Us

I RT of

Ensure accountability in governance

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WOMEN IN SELF-GOVERNANCE

Chart 5.2:

Women Sangha Members Elected to Panchayats
Sangha Women elected as EWRs
3565

Chart 5.3:
53 52 51 50 49 48 47 46 45 44

Proportion of Sangha Women EWRs: 2003 and 2008 Elections
53

Number of Sangha Women elected

4000 3500 3000 2500 2000 1500 1000 500 0

51 49 47

1832

2003 Elections

2008 Elections

2003 Elections

2008 Elections
Non sangha women as panchayat members

Year of Election election year 2003, out of 2,317 EWRs across these six districts, sangha women occupied 1,095 seats (47 percent).Similarly, out of 360 women Pradhans across the six districts where MS

Sangha women as panchayat members

Chart 5.3:

Box 5.6: Overcoming

educational barriers: Sangha Women Compete for Panchayat Elections

Sangha Women elected as Pradhans

Proportion of Sangha Women Pradhans: 2003 and 2008 Elections

70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0

62 56 38 44

Dulari, a woman from Nainital, was persuaded by MS and the sangha to run for elections. Although initially hesitant, Dulari decided to take up the challenge and confront whatever difficulties she might face in the process. She decided to attend literacy camps and appear for the open board exam which gave her the ability to read relevant documents at the panchayat office. She won her seat as a Pradhan in the Gram Panchayat and began her work in earnest. She was trained by MS on her roles and responsibilities as an elected panchayat member and as the Pradhan. She has since undertaken many activities such as getting housing facilities and paid employment for the deserving through programmes, thereby discharging her responsibilities as a true leader and people’s representative.
Source: Interview with Dulari, Nainital District, Uttarakhand, June 2010.

2003 Elections

2008 Elections
Non sangha women as Pradhans

Sangha women as Pradhans

38 and 44 percent) which is testimony to the success of the PLP. Clearly, the impact of MS' capacity building efforts is visible in the 2008 elections where sangha women occupied the majority of seats (more than 50 percent) for both Pradhans and EWRs. Many of these women leaders were already exposed to government programmes through their work as sangha and federation leaders, with the result that their capacity to perform as elected representatives, both as Pradhans and as ward members, tend to be higher. Sanghas have thus enabled deserving and capable candidates, with strong leadership skills, to come into power with the ability to table women's issues.

operates, sangha women occupied 224 seats (62 percent). (Charts 5.3 and 5.4) This strategy of sangha women claiming political spaces was deepened over time as seen in the increase in women's participation both as members and presidents in the panchayats between the two elections held in 2003 and 2008. Chart 5.3 indicates that non-sangha EWRs reduced in 2008 to 49 percent. Chart 5.4 shows that the proportion of sangha women Pradhans is higher in both election years with 62 and 56 percent respectively as compared to non-sangha women Pradhans (only

Channelling women into politics
Bringing large numbers of sangha women into politics has provided them the strength and allowed their voice to shape the political agenda. By bringing issues like rape squarely on to the

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Box 5.8:

Tabling women’s issues

Sangha members active in PLP, Nainital

Kaushalya from Gadauli GP of Pauri District contested for the position of the Pradhan in the 2003 elections and won. In 2006 she participated in the PLP, after which her awareness and information increased as did her confidence and courage. Her decision making powers grew and she was able to resolve many important issues, especially those that mattered to women. She contacted many parents for their girl’s education and ensured that drop out girls were registered in a KGBV nearby. She also stopped the practice of alcohol production in 32 households of Gadauli village. In one case where a girl was divorced in her village, Kaushalya got the divorce revoked and resettled the girl back in her in-laws family.
Source: Focus Group Discussion with MS field staff, Tehri District, Uttarakhand, June 2010.

agenda of the panchayats, sangha women have started to engender the political process (Box 5.7) A wide range of women's issues such as alcoholism, girls' education and abandonment are now being addressed through the political process (Box 5.8).
Box 5.7:

Bringing gender justice into the panchayats

Most issues raised within the panchayat do not include women issues, but are mainly development issues where women have no role to play. However, in 1998, the rape of a Dalit woman in Betalghat block, Nainital rocked the community. The women demanded that the issue be raised and solved within the panchayat. The men were initially opposed to bringing the case to the panchayat. The women argued this was not an issue of just the panchayat but that of the whole village. Finally upon their insistence the issue was put forward to the panchayat and justice was delivered to the woman. The man was convicted of the crime and was ostracized by the village.
Source: Focus Group Discussion with MS field Staff, Nainital District, Uttarakhand, June, 2010.

women can be credited for 104 proposals won through the Gram Sabha alone. This was accomplished both through facilitating women's active participation as well as through building capacities of the Pradhans and EWRs on the programmes themselves. Women are able to access employment from programmes such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) especially by raising the demand for it in the Gram Sabhas (Box 5.9). The employment guarantee scheme appears more successful in Uttarakhand where women have been able to get relatively higher number of days of employment in their villages (Table 5.1).
Box 5.9: EWRs

access MGNREGS for Right to

Work
In September 2009 in Aleru village, sangha women organized meetings with the Pradhan to complain about not getting work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). The issue, however, remained unresolved and so it was reported to a local MS staff who queried the Pradhan in the Gram Sabha about the issue. It was noted that the Pradhan did not have proper information about the scheme or the money allocated to the village under the scheme. Due to such ignorance infrastructure development of the village remained poor. The local MS staff held a meeting with the villagers including the Gram Sabha Pradhan and other Gram Sabha members to inform them about MGNREGS and its benefits. During the meeting sangha women prepared a resolution demanding development work in the village which was sent to the block office with individual and community resolutions. As a result the Block Development

Expanding Women's Access to Resources through the Gram Sabha
By training women on the importance of the Gram Sabha, MS has been able to emphasize its relevance and significance. Women now realize the need to articulate their issues in the Gram Sabha where problems and priorities of the villages are tabled and addressed. They now insist on adequate participation and on a minimum quorum. Through these interventions, sangha

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Office allocated 1,85,000 rupees to check soil erosion in crop fields. On getting the soil check system in place the women were happy with this success that benefited marginalized people and became conscious of their potential. As a result they express increased confidence in their ability to plan and make decisions. Nearby villages too have been inspired by these sangha women and are in the process of demanding allocation of work to them under MGNREGS.
Source: Focus group discussions with MS staff, Tehri District, Uttarakhand, June 2010.

Box 5.10: Achieving

a Full 100 days of

employment
Sangha women from Galla GP of Ramgarh earlier had discussed the issue of job cards and work under MGNREGS with the GP Pradhan who ignored them. Based on information which they got in Sangha and cluster meetings, they approached the BDO and got their job cards and then requested work. Sangha women also assisted other people in their village to get job cards. They also got their bank accounts opened without any extra charges. Women formed a group of 10 and worked under MGNREGS. Seeing women work in groups other villagers sought information from them. As a result over time the whole village formed into groups of 10 and got work under MGNREGS. Today all families in the village have got 100 days of work under MGNREGS, with workers receiving daily wages as high as 250 rupees, at times.
Source: Focus group discussions with MS staff, Nainital District, Uttarakhand, June 2010

Number of women employed under MGNREGS
Table 5.1:

District Nainital Uttarkashi Pauri Tehri Champawat Udhamsingh Nagar Total

No. of women 965 536 7,280 8,753 774 786 19,094

No. of working days 1,504 11,792 19,6560 15,2372 4,782 19,650 38,6660

Nationally, studies in other states show that the number of days reported per person employed under MGNREGS was only as high as 10 days while in Uttarakhand the highest reported was 27 days per woman in Pauri district (Chart 5.5) In interviews, some women even reported getting 70 to 100 days of employment (Box 5.10).

Women elected members have not only challenged corruption and misuse of funds under programmes but have raised governance standards by voluntarily declaring the benefits that they themselves have received (Box 5.11). Women have chosen transparency even at the expense of giving up benefits for their own families.

Box 5.11:

Protest against fake job cards

Chart 5.5:

Employment of Women through MGNREGS
25 6 17 27 22

Udhamsingh Nagar Champawat Tehri Pauri Uttarkashi Nainital

2 0 5 10 15 20 25 30

Average employment days per women

In Paata and Nathuwakhan villages of Ramgarh block many families were given duplicate job cards under MGNREGS. In many of the job cards, children’s names were listed instead of the family head. Every elected member and government official from Pradhan to BDO was involved in this misconduct. Hema Devi, the Pradhan of Paata village raised the issue at village and block levels citing her own example where her family was provided two job cards - one card in her name and another in her son’s name. The Village Development Officer tried to brush aside her allegations in the Gram Sabha when she cited benefits for her own family. But Hema Devi spoke up emphasizing that according to norms each family in a village should have only one job card. She told him that 22 families in their village did not have a single job card while six families had three job cards each. She asked for issuance of job cards to families who needed it. To set an example she returned her extra job card. Eventually, the 22 families were issued job cards and got employment under MGNREGS.
Source: Interview with Hema Devi, Nainital District, Uttarakhand, June 2010.

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Ending the “Pati-Pradhan” Era
Women in the panchayats had no knowledge of their rights. The PLP transformed this situation. Now the women Pradhans are able to impress upon others that nobody can occupy their seat in the panchayat office. EWRs are clear that while they want their husbands' support, this cannot translate into their husbands dominating their work. So, women Pradhans understand their responsibilities and fiercely guard their roles against male interferences. They have resolved that husbands will not be allowed to interfere in their work, as they are elected by popular votes and these voters have not provided their husbands with the mandate to rule de facto (Box 5.12).
Babita Rana

present”. Today she is a strong woman and feels that these instances will help the future women leaders.
Source: Interview with Babita, Udhamsingh Nagar District, Uttarakhand, September 2010

even though they were the elected Pradhans, they realised the need to attend the PLP training. In the course of gender sensitisation of male members, husbands now play a facilitative and supportive role even sharing domestic work at home (Box 5.13). Women Pradhans are now able to support and openly advocate for the political party and ideology of their choice. At times, (Box

Discussion during gender training for men

Women leaders are now able to function without their husbands or other male family members acting as proxy for them. When the women found officials paying more attention to their husbands
Box 5.12: Woman

Box 5.13:

Women Pradhans Function Independently

Pradhan Guards her Chair

Srimati Babita says “If a woman is elected as a GP president then she is hardly acknowledged while the husband’s image is projected in that position.” It was difficult for her to change the perception and mindset of villagers initially when she was elected. Babita is aware of her role and regularly monitors Mid Day Meal implementation and MGNREGS work like road construction. Proper monitoring of food and education provided to the children in the school is done and if any irregularity is found, action is taken against the person responsible. Babita said, “I ask my husband not to sit on my seat in GS meetings. He helps by accompanying me but that doesn’t means he should take my chair”. Narrating another incident, when one of the participants occupied her seat, she states, “I embarrassed him in front of the whole GS and since then nobody dares to occupy my seat in GS and GP meetings even if I am not

“I contested for the Pradhans election inspired by my husband and won. That year the seat was reserved for a woman. I am a graduate but when I was elected as Pradhan, I faced a conflict on how to fulfill my roles and responsibilities as a woman and a Pradhan. I learnt about the roles and responsibilities of a Pradhan in these meetings and started sharing them with my husband. On one occasion when MS Uttarakhand organized training sessions for elected representatives and their husbands, my husband and I participated in these training sessions. We learnt many things and I was surprised about my powers as a Pradhan. I used to consider myself an ordinary woman. Earlier I felt my responsibilities were towards domestic chores only. But subsequent to the training sessions I realized that my role was not a limited one. I had political and social responsibilities as well. I recognized that my husband was there to help me but ultimately implementation of my work was to be done by me alone. I also felt that it is

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I who needed to get information and learn the ability to talk with officials. My husband started feeling the change I was going through and reflected on whether his role was hindering me in taking on my responsibilities. We both understood our situation. My husband then told me that as a woman Pradhan, I have to explain my role and interact with government officials who were visiting our village. I started fulfilling my role with his support. Now my husband helps me in household chores which are a support for me. Now I meet line department officials and form plans with them.”
Source: Interview with Poonam Bhandari from Thauldhar block in Tehri Garwahal District, Uttarakhand, June 2010

encapsulate the grit, determination and the desire to learn and take up challenges head on. It is perhaps these very forceful qualities that gained her an audience with the then Prime Minister of UK, Gordon Brown during his visit to India. Three years ago a national publication from Delhi, “Aha Zindagi”, covered her story. She says that no matter where she had to speak in public, be it the Vidhan Sabha or with the District Magistrate, it is the training and knowledge she received from MS that has made her what she is today.
Source: Interview with Ganga Devi, Pauri Gharwal District, Uttarakhand, June 2010.

5.14), they help their husbands perform in the panchayats. In a complete role reversal, women's access to government officials have enabled their husbands develop linkages for their own work in governance. The capacity building efforts of the PLP programme, especially for
Box 5.14:

those elected as Pradhans, provides the training grounds to fight for the rights not just of women, but of populations who need help the most. Elected leaders carry this learning with them into the panchayat. Box 5.15 illustrates how a woman Pradhan uses a more inclusive approach through ensuring that other women and marginalized populations, such as the elderly and widows, benefit from government services.
Box 5.15: Woman

Women Gram Pradhans Forge Ahead

Pradhan Accesses Resources from Various Line Department Offices

Ganga Devi from Sra village, Yamkeshwar block of Pauri Gharwal district was elected as a Pradhan in her panchayat from where she began her journey towards political empowerment. Her successful term as a Pradhan and the capacity building inputs from MS motivated her to continue her political career further. Her dedication, persuasiveness, and knowledge got her village adjudged as the best Nyaya Panchayat amongst twelve villages. In 2001, Ganga Devi contested the district panchayat elections, which unfortunately she lost. In 2008 her husband won the elections and became the pradhan and she now helps him in his work. As the Federation Chair Person, Ganga Devi worked towards economic empowerment of women of the community. At the individual level she assisted women in getting old age pensions. She helped the women of the community understand the financial rules for taking personal loans from the mahasangha and co-operative banks. Familiarity with basic process of withdrawing money, and tapping financial sources in times of need was hugely beneficial to the women of the community. Though money could be withdrawn from the mahasangha at a nominal interest, the women were told not to get indebted for uneconomical ventures. The controls that Ganga Devi insists upon have built her economic aptitude and resulted in her being elected the Chair Person of the Cooperative Bank. This further enhanced her status in the community. Ganga Devi’s life and her work in the public domain

Through her active participation in group meetings, cluster meetings and district and block level workshops, Ketki Devi from Garsari Gram Panchayat has been able to develop her skills, abilities and knowledge. With help and backing from her family, Ketki Devi secured the seat of the Pradhan. Further, support of MS Uttarakhand ensured that she discharged her duties and responsibilities judiciously. She developed the confidence to visit several line department offices in the blocks to claim benefits due to women During her tenure she could claim several achievements that included prioritizing the involvement of women in panchayat meetings, linking women with development, procuring job cards for women under MGNREGS and obtaining jobs for them, developing infrastructure in the village, registering the names of single women in family registers, and ensuring disbursement of pension allowance among the elderly and widowed populations.
Source: Interview with Ketki Devi, Nainital District, Uttarakhand, June 2010.

Due to the official needs of the panchayats, regular visits to service providing centres such as police stations, the Block Development Office, the block panchayat office, Revenue Department, banks and markets are essential. EWRs actively follow up on the progress and sanctioning of GP plans submitted at the Block Development Office. Today, they are able to access information in places where previously they may not have been entertained and even assist other women in their interactions at

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such offices. Increased assurance has enabled them to visit government departments at district level, thereby expanding their horizons and making them far more mobile than EWRs who have not been through the PLP.

Transforming the Attitudes of Men
In the beginning, women were not playing an active role in the male dominated panchayat meetings and consequently their demands were never heard. Slowly but surely, women have learnt to voice their demands, occupy public positions without male interference, earn the respect of their communities and the

Importance of Education in Governance
Elected women from sanghas realize the importance of literacy as a means of empowerment. Cases are narrated of EWRs who have been falsely indicted in fraud cases by male family members taking advantage of their illiterate status (Box 5.16). An EWR has to learn to stand on her own feet, failing which she could be cheated even by her own husband or other family members. Case stories are narrated during training followed by group discussions in which women are cautioned about possible challenges. Women Pradhans attend classes (Box 5.6) to acquire basic literacy enabling them to manage panchayat

Box 5.16:

EWRs learns Financial Management
Gender sensitisation

Bhagwati was trained in panchayat literacy at Pauri after she became an elected member of the panchayat. She was an active member of the sangha. From her training, she understood the relevance of finance. In the training sessions, case studies are shared on the importance of understanding financial management. One well known case study is that of a woman Pradhan, Kamla whose husband opposed her activities in the panchayat and wanted to teach her a lesson. In collusion with the panchayat secretary he withdrew 20,000 rupees from the panchayat accounts in her name. She was arrested on the pretext of fraud and embezzlement, indicted for theft, and she imprisoned for a month. This case study is presented to participants to emphasize the importance of knowledge basic literacy and of account management.
Source: Interview with Bhagwati, Tehri District, Uttarakhand, June 2010.

support of their husbands. They have even begun explaining the process of governance and the responsibilities of the panchayat to the Pradhans. Men realized that many women are able to bring about change and have begun to respect their work.

Box 5.17:

Women Member gets Support from Husband

functions. Women now appreciate the importance of the more technical aspects of their work such as keeping account of expenses, financial management, and bank transactions. They have opened accounts in banks, are able to access loans and seek help from local administrators and bank managers. These components are dealt with in trainings that rigorously emphasize on precision and repeated checking of financial transactions. Women GP members have also become members and active participants in committees such as the Village Education Committees (VEC) or in the management of the Mid-Day Meal programme (MDM) popular in educational institutions across the country.

Dulari Devi of Bichwa GP recounts her journey of political empowerment attributing MS’ support and her own determination to succeed. Gopal, Dulari Devi’s husband works in the fields to support the family, but he is sensitive to the needs and responsibilities which Dulari has to fulfill. He says, “In our family all of us including my children get up early in the morning and I help my wife with daily chores in the house. After that she goes to the panchayat office, children to school and I go to the fields.” Gopal feels his wife has undergone a tremendous change. Gopal was instrumental in, and supported her mobility outside and even mentored her to contest elections. She became informed and confident after associating with MS. The sensitization which he underwent gave him insight into gender inequality in society. Gopal was liberal in his attitude towards Dulari but feels these trainings have given him opportunity to gather varied information on gender. He accompanies her wife to areas where male members are very dominant. He helps her in doing the paper work of the Panchayats and is sure that by next year she will be able to

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manage that herself. This confidence grew as he has seen her evolving in her interactions with the community over

help in running the Panchayat. I encourage my wife to attend the Block Development Committee (BDC) meetings and I never attend the BDC meetings as husbands are not allowed. Only those with a valid ID card are allowed’.
Source: Interviews with Bikram Singh and Shiv Kumar, Ranjit Singh, Participants in Gender training workshops at Udhamsingh Nagar, Uttarakhand, September 2010.

The support of their husbands and their families has increased women's confidence. Women have grown from strength to strength influencing increasingly higher spheres of governance from village to block levels. (Box 5.19).
Box 5.19: Woman

time. Dulari is now able to read and write. As a final note Gopal says, “I feel that if any mishap takes place then Dulari should be able to withstand it and run the family even without me.”
Source: Interview with Dulari Devi and Gopal, Udhamsingh Nagar District, Uttarakhand, June 2010.

Block Panchayat Member Addresses Public Forum

Men who did not understand their own traditional attitudes, slowly transformed themselves, through the PLP, from typical 'patriarchs' to supporting women in their roles both at home and as panchayat leaders (Box 5.17). The PLP gender sensitisation initiative with husbands has resulted in many men acknowledging the role of their wives as Pradhans, the need for EWRS to take independent decisions, and recognize that as husbands, they are not eligible to attend meetings meant for the EWRs (Box 5.18).

Men’s perception of Women in Panchayats
Box 5.18:

Rama Bisht is a powerful Block Panchayat (BP) Member from Nathuwarvaan Ghar Gaongaon Panchayat in Ramgarh block of Nainital. She testifies that the enormous support provided by her husband, family and the sangha women was instrumental to her being elected. MS staff and sangha women helped her to file nomination papers for the post of BP member and conducted publicity and campaigns on her behalf. She adds, ‘My education was appropriate for the post I was elected to. But due to the lack of opportunities since childhood I was not able to express myself. Department officials ignored my suggestions and demands. It was depressing for me. During this time my husband and MS supported and motivated me. They helped me prepare resolutions for the Block Development Committee meeting and articulate them. Over the years I learnt my work sincerely and today I can express myself with assurance in any public forum. Community and government officials listen to my ideas which have added to my self confidence. I have secured a different place for myself in society’, she adds.
Source: Interview with Rama Bisht, Nainital District, Uttarakhand, June 2010.

‘We attended training on gender in July 2009, because we felt we need to know more about the PRI system. We got to know about the roles and responsibilities of the Pradhan, the importance of her position in the village and how proposals are translated into actions under her supervision. We also knew that there should be three Gram Sabha meetings in a year where the work of the Panchayat is planned. In the training, we learnt about the number of registers maintained in the Panchayat and how the registers are prepared in the GS meetings. Earlier our knowledge about the role of the women Pradhans was limited. So, we tried to help them in whatever manner we could, providing advice as and when needed. Now, we realize that our wives can handle their own affairs and do not require our

After successfully winning elections at the Gram Panchayat level, several women participants have started contesting elections at higher levels. Women members monitor activities of the panchayats and attend Block Development Committee (BDC) meetings voicing their concerns. Overall, EWRs or Pradhans reported being able to successfully articulate and bring up issues for discussions in panchayat meetings. This has brought about a visible difference and transparency in the functioning of the panchayats.

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Lessons Learnt, Recommendations and Policy Implications
Governance is an area that is dynamic and ever evolving impacted as it is by changes in the political environment. 'Poor people's mobilisation around rights issues helps to build their individual and collective political capabilities necessary to engage in negotiations over policy. Because empowerment is a process by which people learn to think critically about their own circumstances and possibilities, unlearn prior social conditioning, and see things differently, it tends to be a precondition for the kind of collective action that historically has allowed poor and excluded groups to make their voices heard by re-framing their relation to institutionalized power.9 In conceptualizing the process of empowerment, the emphasis on rights has been spelt out by researchers for increasing individual and collective political capacities. In a patriarchal society, strengthening women's participation requires strategies that go beyond mere reservation and the PLP is a commendable move in this direction. Yet there are areas where the PLP could evolve, adding many more dimensions that have the potential to make participation of women that much more effective. Some of these measures are outlined below.

programme funds are to be allocated for women. When women's needs do not specifically fit into existing provisions of public goods and services, the gender budgeting tool could be employed specifically to better utilize untied funds. When both male and female elected representatives have access to these innovative tools, there is greater focus on women's issues in planning, increased awareness of issues tabled by women, as well as the means to address them, and consequently, increased access to resources by women can be expected. Exposure visits to organisations engaged primarily in governance would expand the scope of the PLP. Specialized inputs on Gram Sabha and capacity building modules could be sourced from UNDP or Debate, which can also provide inputs on sectoral planning, on resource mapping, and on availability and use of untied funds or other resources for the panchayat EWRs also require access to information on new state and national priorities, new programmes and the latest guidelines on panchayat management. Information on the National Rural

Engendering Governance
Despite being in power, EWRs cannot truly engender governance and fully represent women's issues without knowledge about the Gram Panchayat planning process and resources available. The planning process itself is technical in nature, requiring in-depth comprehension of Gram Panchayat activities, conducting situational analysis, prioritizing needs, creating a vision document for the panchayat, understanding the resource envelope to conduct resource mapping for GP plans, projectising the wish list in the Gram Sabha into actual projects with budgets and sources of funds, and finally creating panchayat plans. This requires detailed training, otherwise EWRs cannot effectively participate in the planning process nor can they access resources for their constituencies. The Data Exhibition, as popularized by Assam Mahila Samata Society, is one method of displaying public services available to residents of a constituency. Along with this type of capacity building, further steps are required to engender the planning process. For instance, the initiative would benefit from technical inputs on Gram Panchayat planning from organisations working on governance in India like Debate10 and PRIA11. Training could be designed to inculcate specific aspects of the Women's Component Plan where 30 percent of most
9 Eyben, Rosalind, Naila Kabeer and Andrea Cornwall (2008), Conceptualizing empowerment and the implications for pro poor growth, A paper for the DAC Poverty Network, IDS. 10 Registered as a Trust based in Bhopal in 2002, Debate is guided by its philosophy of identifying and strengthening mechanisms that promote debate at the group and at the individual level. For this purpose, Debate has identified Panchayats as the basic structural unit towards which it will direct its interventions so that the processes of Debate are rooted as close to the community as possible.

Panchaayt leader, Nainital

Livelihoods Mission released in September 2010 as well as emerging programmes such as Kishori Shakti Yojana12 would help women and girls access relevant resources. The recent announcement by the Ministry of Panchayati Raj labeling 2010 as 'The Year of the Gram Sabha' confirms that strengthening the governance process is a national priority (Box 5.20). Therefore, capacity building of EWRs by MS staff is an on-going requirement along with continuous exposure to new developments through online information networks such as Solutions Exchange where training modules on such aspects can be accessed. Such online services also attend to specific queries
11 Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) is an international centre for learning and promotion of participation and democratic governance, http://www.pria.org/ 12 http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:Tke_uZfN1SUJ:wcd.nic.in/KSY/ksy Guidelines.htm+WCD+Kishori+programme+new+government+of+India&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk &gl=in

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Box 5.20: 2010:

The Year of the Gram Sabha

‘In a bid to make the year of Gram Sabha (2010) an eventful and meaningful period for future planning, the Ministry of Panchayati Raj has issued specific guidelines. The objective is to make unabated inroads for the developmental schemes across the rural areas in the country. Under the guidelines, the activation of Gram Sabha, Ward Sabha and other People’s Assemblies during the year of Gram Sabha is one of the priority targets for accomplishment. For rural local governance to be effective, energizing Gram Sabhas is the real challenge. Moreover, there is a direct relationship between proper functioning of the Gram Sabha and empowerment of the PRIs’.
Source: “Guidelines for activating Gram Sabha, Ward Sabha and other People’s Assemblies during the year of Gram Sabha”, Press Information Bureau, Government of India, January 2010.

According to one government official in Tehri, 'MS have done a great deal of orientation work before panchayat elections, on how best candidates can be fielded in the panchayat with the help of sanghas. After the elections, training for EWRs was conducted at regular intervals. In Uttarakhand seats are reserved for women and nearly 53 to 54 percent of members elected were women. Many women didn't have the prior experience of panchayat functioning so the training organized by MS was very beneficial'.13 To scale up, MS would benefit by capitalizing on these linkages at state and district levels where MS can provide a pool of resource persons to engender government training programmes. This would broaden the scope and reach of MS' initiatives and help it institutionalize its philosophy into mainstream training programmes. This will not only improve the quality of the mainstream capacity building programmes but engender them as well.

and clarifications. Additionally, exposure visits to existing MS sites where technical areas in financial and budgetary allocations in the Gram Panchayats are already being handled, such as in MS Kerala, can enhance horizontal learning.

Building the Rights-Based Approach to Gram Sabha Participation
The Gram Sabha has the constitutional mandate of holding the Gram Panchayat accountable and ensuring that it executes its mandated functions. It is the forum where the work of the Gram Panchayat is reviewed and monitored by all citizens. An active Gram Sabha has the power to ensure that panchayat budgets do not lapse and that panchayat members do not misappropriate funds or engage in patron-client relations. The Gram Sabha, therefore, plays a pivotal role in making the operations of the panchayat transparent and accountable to citizens. Women sanghas in particular have a vital part to play in the Gram Sabha in tabling their needs. On women's growing awareness of their rights, a Gram Pradhan from Dharima Gram Panchayat, Betalghat block, Nainital district noted that 'Women have become enlightened on their political rights. They know that they have a right to vote and exercise their franchise without external interferences. Moreover, women have also increased their participation in the Gram Sabhas and are raising issues and concerns in these meetings. They are also attending Block Development Committee meetings where they are placing their demands without hesitation.' While there is evidence of increased participation of women in Gram Sabhas, new capacity building strategies need to be designed to further strengthen women's voices. First, the importance and powers of the Gram Sabha as the foundation of decentralized governance has to be understood by all community members. Women need to be educated about the primacy of Gram Sabhas in governance and encouraged to participate in the

Engendering governance

Future Areas of Growth in Capacity Building
Future linkages could include stronger networking with government departments to ensure long-term sustainability and to build the visibility of MS, already present at block and district levels. Many officials have, in fact, lauded the efforts of MS in panchayat literacy initiatives, hinting at the need for further joint collaboration that could be extended to flagship programmes such as the NRHM, NRLM, and Bharat Nirman, among others. MS Uttarakhand can capitalize on the positive perceptions of officials to increase the reach of the programme to more women.
13 B. S. Jaswal, ZP member association Uttarakhand (Zila Panchayat Sadasya Sangathan Uttarakhand)

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as the parliament while the Gram Panchayat is the government'. The PLP has acquired strong legitimacy at panchayat and block levels (Box 5.21). Government officials have acknowledged that compared to programmes initiated by MS, state capacity building programmes for elected representatives are often weak in content and divorced from a pro-woman's perspective,. Often the timings of government programmes clash with the household responsibilities of women. If government programmes could be better designed to inculcate a strong rights-based, gender sensitive approach, on the lines of the PLP, BDO, Ramgarh, Nainital both men and women could be more informed of their choices, understand and exercise their political rights. Therefore, to add value and create an enabling environment for women in mainstream capacity building mechanisms of the state, MS staff with their vast experience can

Women panchayat leaders, Nainita

proceedings of this forum. Secondly, as the Gram Panchayat is accountable to the Gram Sabha, the demands raised by the Gram Sabha have to be recognized by the Gram Panchayat in its power as the final authority on village development plans. Increasing participation by women in matters of the Gram Sabha will advance engendered demands of the citizenry to higher decision making bodies. Thirdly, the rights of citizens within the Gram Sabha include participation of all ‘We consider Mahila Samakhya as citizens in planning, a social auditor to the programs we implementation of are running. We have involved MS plans, transparent in the social audit of MGNREGS in distribution of Ramgarh block. The Village resources, and in Development Officer is not involved monitoring the Gram in the documentations of the Sabha. This, in turn, proceedings in the discussions with would influence the community. All the proceedings accountability of the in the audit are documented by Gram Sabha, which MS.’ could be enhanced by Interview with Himanshu Joshi, BDO of providing sangha Ramgarh block, Nainital District, Uttarakhand, June 2010. women inputs on conducting social audit. Thus, voluntary disclosure of work undertaken for the village in the Gram Sabha meetings by EWRs can be stressed as necessary to avoid having to intervene at a later date on the irregularities observed. In such an intensive rights-based approach to Gram Sabha participation, the preparation of a citizen's charter could include demands for entitlements for the community. Understanding and internalizing these aspects of the Gram Sabha combined with the mobilisation of women into sanghas can be expected to motivate women to participate effectively in the Gram Sabha, articulate their needs and give them courage to exercise their rights to question the Gram Panchayat. Only then can women, as key players in the Gram Sabha, internalize the concept that the 'Gram Sabha acts

Box 5.21: Panchayats Acknowledge Panchayat Literacy Program by MS

‘We have known the name of Mahila Samakhya for long. After we were elected as Pradhans, we also hoped to collaborate with MS on Panchayat literacy and women’s education. But the opportunity has not come as yet in terms of an active partnership. Working with the government would be mutually beneficial to both MS and the PR Department. Then the government would be cognizant of the work of MS in the area of Panchayat Literacy’
Source: Interview with Kundan Singh, Gram Pradhan, Nayyar, Ramgarh block, Nainital District, Uttarakhand, June 2010.

now act as resource persons in government programmes. They can influence the design of state programmes in terms of its timings, security arrangements, gender sensitivity and ensure that the content has a rights-based, pro-woman perspective. This role in influencing state programmes would be vital if the PLP is to

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have greater reach and for MS to capitalize on the experience garnered thus far.

Box 5.22:

Men demand the PLP

Support Systems for Elected Women Representatives
Women elected representatives often report feeling isolated and needing support. MS in Andhra Pradesh has facilitated a network of EWRs to address this need. To support their work, EWRs said that they would require a platform of their own, which they lack. The new central government initiative of the Ministry of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, the Panchayat Mahila Shakti Abhiyan (PMSA) has the twin objectives of building awareness about gender issues in governance and facilitating EWRs to perform their mandate to the best of their abilities. The PMSA enables women panchayat leaders to come together and articulate their concerns. It would allow them to discuss institutional mechanisms required to strengthen EWRs to discharge their roles and responsibilities effectively. The PMSA supports a core group comprising EWRs, activists, and academics nominated by the Government to facilitate a charter of women's issues to be mainstreamed into policy and advocacy for their concerns to be addressed and adopted by the state and the three-tier PRI system. Finally, under this programme, the association of the EWRs would allow them cascading representation from block to district levels.14 MS can shape this new initiative to create an environment for peer learning and support and simultaneously use it to build the strength of EWRs.

“The training provided by the government is a two day formality conducted by two officials from the Panchayat Raj Department and not sufficient. We need to attend the trainings organized by MS to obtain a clearer picture. Usually, we are not invited to the training by MS. But this would be an important step for a fruitful future collaboration. MS has provided training to women elected members from my block. Men have also requested MS to train them. Especially men who are elected for the first time need information about their rights and responsibilities and about women’s needs, as much as women elected representatives. I feel that since the problems of the village concern both men and women, both need to be trained.”
Source: Interview with Dham Singh Bhandari, Gram Pradhan, Ramgarh, Nainital District, Uttarakhand, June 2010.

Uttarakhand, paving new opportunities for them to gain political power through the ballot and empowering them to participate in the democratic process without fear or hesitation. In more ways than one, the programme has been pivotal in enhancing the role

Support from Men within the Panchayat
The primary opposition to women elected representatives comes not only from male family members but also from elected male representatives in the panchayats. Thus, extending gender sensitisation to Gram Panchayat male elected representatives would be a more effective strategy to ensure support for women in power (Box 5.22). In conclusion, the role of the federation has been crucial for women to retain their voice in the political sphere. As stated in Joint Review Mission of 2009 (MS GOI DFID, 2009), 'In Uttarakhand, the visibility achieved by MS has led to political parties taking an interest in joining, directing or even attempting to take over the leadership. Where the mahasanghas are strong, they manage to retain control in their hands while maintaining links and negotiating with the local level political forces.' These and many other lessons on democratic processes are brought into the panchayat by sangha and federation women leaders, thus creating a new model for governance. The PLP has been instrumental in breaking the glass ceiling for women in
14 Department of Panchayati Raj (2009-10), Annual Plan of 2009-10 http://india.gov.in/allimpfrms/alldocs/12897.pdf (last accessed on 6 November 2010).

of grassroots women in decentralized governance especially by centre staging sangha women in the political realm, raising their status both in the Gram Sabha and Gram Panchayat, and giving due importance to women's issues in governance and development.

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DFID India, British High Commission B-28 Tara Crescent, Qutab Institutional Area, New Delhi 110016 Tel: +91-11-2652 9123 http://www.dfid.gov.uk/countries/asia/india.asp *Disclaimer: The views presented in this paper/product are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of DFID. National Project Office Government of India Ministry of Human Resource Development Department of Higher Education Shastri Bhavan New Delhi - 110 115
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Best Practices Foundation. 1 Palmgrove Road, Victoria Layout, Bangalore - 560 047, Karnataka Tel: +91-80-25301861 Website: www.bestpracticesfoundation.com

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