‘If we don’t engender governance, women’s lives will be endangered.
’ Book Review by Vibhuti Patel Engendering Governance Institutions: State, Market and Civil Society edited by Smita Mishra Panda; Sage Publications, Delhi, 2008; pp 369, Rs. 959. This edited volume by Smita Mishra Panda examines different aspects of governance in development through a gender lens. It is an outcome of papers presented on ‘Gender and Governance’ at the Silver Jubilee Symposium on the Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA). All papers in the book are aimed towards gender equality. The book is divided into 5 sections: Conceptualisation of Engendering Governance; State, Gender and Governance; Market, Gender and Governance; Civil Society, Gender and Governance and Assessment of Gender Sensitivity in Governance. In the introductory chapter by the editor gives a detailed narrative of efforts made by the UN system, civil society groups, and women’s studies scholars to attain gender equality in an unequal world. She avers that gender gap in governance in South Asia in all spheres is very high. Women’s representation in management and political positions is extremely low: only 7% in parliament, 9% in cabinet, 20% in local governance, 9% in civil services and 6% in judiciary (p 17). This is a result of subordinate status accrued to women in all private and public domains namely household, state, market and civil society. Hence, the need for engendering governance institutions. “Gender Mainstreaming, Equity and Good Governance” by Kumud Sharma discusses key debates on theoretical premises and approaches that have been attempted in the last three decades to institutionalize women’s concerns within structures of governance as a result of pressure of women’s movement. Three approaches WID, WAD and GAD have evolved out of collective wisdom of women of the world. WID- Women in Development model explains the reasons for women being treated as beneficiaries of the crumbs thrown at them, in the margin of the economy, consumer and an auxiliary labour force to be utilised in the crisis period and eased out the moment men are ready for take over. The discourse revolved around the economic growth paradigm. WAD- Women and Development model integrates women in the development work as active change agents. Affirmative action by the state and pro-active approach by the civil society through NGOs and women's groups are advocated by these models for empowerment of women against the forces of patriarchal class society. NGOs-voluntary organisations implementing this approach have become powerful force during 1990s. GAD - Gender and Development model is based on an understanding of gender relations and empowers the weak (he or she). Gender is socially constructed and gender relations are power relations. She concludes with a statement, “Enhancing women’s access to power and voices in governance is a desirable goal, but that demands a rethinking on the nature of politics and power, and engaging more effectively in democratic processes.” (p 53) J. Devika’s paper “Modernity with Democracy? Gender and Governance in the People’s Planning Campaign, Keralam” provides an overview of historical unfolding of discourse around
modernity in the Malyalee public sphere. In the early 20th century, women’s quest for individual autonomy reflected in the demands of streesamajams viz. equal citizenship, representation of women in legislature and public bodies, job reservation and equal citizenship. This also evoked backlash from the patriarchal forces in terms of sexual slander, heckling, public ridicule, indecent sloganeering, pestering, etc. Women’s participation in peasant, workers, fisher folks, agricultural labourers was always there but they were expected to remain subordinate to men. After 73rd and 74th Amendments in the Constitution of India, 1993 onwards, women have once again become active in local self government bodies. SHG movement has ensured new leadership among poor women. The state sponsored Kudumbshree mobilization has made collectives of women from the marginalized strata very proactive in contrast to relative passivity of women of the new elite. Case Study of Samakhya in Karnataka by Sangeetha Purushothaman and Suchitra Vedanth is an outcome of participatory action research. It analyses role of grassroots women’s networks in engendering governance. In their analysis they have used five indicators of Engendered Governance: Engendered Transparency, Engendered Accountability, Equity for Poor Women, Sustainability for Women and Participation of Women. They give an exhaustive profile of activities done by networks- federations, committees and naari adalats that deliver resources and justice to poor women. Bidyut Mohanty’s paper “Human Rights, Panchayats and Women” examines elected women’s role in furthering women’s human rights after 1992 as a result of 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act ensuring minimum 33% reservation of seats in Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs). She also agrees that the introduction of PRI system in a socially stratifies space has aggravated social and gender inequalities. She criticizes ‘Two child norm’ adopted by several state governments and states that it has violated women’s rights to contest election in panchayats if they have produced more than 2 children. She gives profile of demographic, socio-economic and caste characteristics, quality of participation, women as justice provider and women’s agency based on experiences of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Orissa and West Bengal. She concludes with an optimistic note that 33% reservation for women in PRIs has developed women’s collective agency for restorative justice in a cost effective manner. In her paper “City Consultation as an Approach to Gender Responsive Local Urban Governance: An Experience from UMP-Asia” Girija Shrestha critically examines the Urban Management Programme (UMP) with gender analysis. She supports an argument that gender equity and governance are premised on the primary responsibility of the state to safeguard and promote citizens’ wellbeing, state as a primary instrument for dealing with social and economic inequalities and injustices and people’s ability to participate in democratic processes and institution building to influence the quality of governance. She has used seven basic indicators to assess gender sensitivity in governance: survival of women, quality of survival, skill acquisition, workplace participation, control over resources, participation in public spheres and security. She has provided four case studies: Participatory Urban Poverty Reduction in Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Vientiane, Lao PDR; Delhi, India and Lalitpur, Nepal. “Redefining an Agenda for Governance: Gender and Policy Planning” by Meera Velayudhan shows the trajectory of planning process in India. Between 1950-1975, it was planning without
women. Debates and discussions around Towards Equality Report by Committee on Status of Women (1974) were responsible for paradigm shift that made women being seen as agents of development in the official discourse. The Sixth five Year plan for the first time came up with a separate chapter on Women and Development. In all previous plans, women were mentioned only in the context of welfare and population control. Chapter on “Engendering Market Mechanisms” by Nirmala Banerjee invites our attention to an omnipresent and omnipotent reality of market and women’s predicament. She gives detailed gender disaggregated data base on structure of agricultural work force, employment and unemployment status, work participation rates in rural and urban areas, women’ share in manufacturing employment, daily earnings of casual labourers and regular salary earners, marginal and subsidiary workers and shows the gender gap. While discussing gendering of women workers she examines roles of family, employers, trade unions and the state as carriers of patriarchal value system in the context of a secular decline in women’s paid work. She concludes that the state has to be the main ally of women in their struggle for improving their economic position (p 200). SEVA’s position paper on “Linking the Informal Sector with Mainstream Markets: Case of SEWA” focuses on the market set-ups in which women workers in informal sector are currently operating, barriers faced by them in integrating into mainstream market systems that have higher potential for growth. Self Employed women’s Association (SEVA)’s relentless struggles to organize, empower and integrate women workers in business processes and establish strong market linkages at all levels, from local to domestic to global markets are discussed thro’ three case studies: Sesame seed farmers and the SEWA Gram Mahila Haat (SGMH), Salt workers of Surendranagar and SGMH and craft artisans of Kutch and Oatan districts and SEWA Trade Facilitation Centre. Indu Agnihotri’s article, “Women’s Movement and Governance: Issues and Challenges” starts with critique of macro economic policies guided by the World Bank and IMF and their adverse impact on women’s survival struggles. With publication of Human Development Reports by UNDP, the issues of governance with respect to food security, right to work and population debate have taken centre stage. She rightly emphasizes the issues at stake are ‘tensions between the electoral arithmetic and power dynamics; the nature of economic development and enhanced inequalities; marginalization of people, including women, and an expanded base for continuation of a culture of dominance.’ (p.243). She concludes with a statement that ‘the women’s movement, along with other social movements, stands on the threshold of a long struggle ahead.’ In “Engendering Governance: A Preliminary Enquiry into Formal and Informal Institutions” Ratna M. Sudarshan gives definition of ‘Engendering Governance’ in three ways: 1. The numbers of men and women who are seen as being active participants in process of governance, behind which there is the sense of ‘critical mass’ as a necessary ingredient. 2. The sensitivity of processes and systems to gender concerns. 3. The agenda itself. With three indicators signifying numbers, sensitivity and agenda, she gives two case studies. The first one is a performance appraisal of women elected representatives in 13 zilla parishads, 95 kshetra parishads and 7055 gram panchayats in Uttaranchal following the 73rd Amendment of Constitution of India in 1992 on the basis of interviews conducted with women members of Mahila Mangal Dal, informal
groups of women in 4 villages of Shilling district, Almora. The second case study deliberates problems faced by women in the urban slum of Delhi. “Engendering Cooperative Governance: Case of Women Dairy Cooperative Societies in Gujarat” by Smita Mishra Panda bring to the fore positive impact of Women’s Dairy Cooperatives in Valsad district in terms of economic security, visibility of women in the village public domain, enhanced confidence to move out of the village to the outer public domain like independently interacting with the milk union, banks and cattle market and ability to derive benefits on their terms. In “Gender Audits as an Input to Engender Governance”, Vibhuti Patel accepts that increasingly the realisation has come that without engendering, development is endangered. Gender audit of decentralisation of political governance has revealed that elected women in PRI, legislative bodies and parliament have played a positive role in addressing, or attempting to address, a range of practical gender needs (inadequacies in living conditions such as provision of fuel, water, healthcare and employment). Their impact on strategic gender needs (affirmative action by the state, pro-active role of the employers to enhance women’s position in the economy and social movements) is not remarkable (UNDP 2001). Key indicators to address women’s strategic gender needs are gender balance in decision making bodies, finance committees, in business and financial support, share of expenditure devoted to women specific units, cells, departments and projects, share of women in education, employment, health, housing, political participation. In a state profile of Karnataka on “Engendering Governance in PRIs” N. Shanta Mohan begins with a premise that engendering governance is not a goal, but a process of that is equitable and ensures that the voices of women are heard in decision making over the allocation of development resources. She assesses performance of PRIs through indicators such as women’s participation in decision making, accountability-relational responsibility, answerability of public institutions and transparency. Process of engendering is done thro’ extensive use of participatory action research techniques, direct interventions and advocacy strategy. She admires work of NGOs working towards increasing and facilitating the participation of women in governance. At the same time, she also notes that ‘In spite of this achievement, there are several impediments to women’s effective participation in politics. Patriarchy, caste and class hierarchies, and their inherent unequal power relations hinder women from fully accessing and controlling political spaces.’ (p. 352) Wide range of areas covered by this edited work makes it crucial for meeting with challenges posed to women in the 21st century. This volume is a MUST READ for all development workers, students, academicians, administrators, policy planners, social activists, women’s studies scholars, decision makers in all spheres engaged in women’s empowerment and human development. Contact address: Prof. Vibhuti Patel, Mobile- 9321040048 Director, PGSR, 6th Floor, Patkar Hall Building, smt. Nathibai road, Mumbai-400020 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org