Districts Covered: Tumkur, Hassan, Kolar, Bangalore (R) Mandya, Mysore, Kodagu, Chikmangalur, Chamrajnagar

The Hunger Project has been working with elected women representatives in Karnataka since the year 2000. Since then we have been holding women’s leadership workshops and have trained more than 21000 women representatives from various districts of Karnataka.

Elected Women leaders of Karnataka

Elected Women leaders of Karnataka

Karnataka is one of the few states in India that has made remarkable efforts to make Panchayats stronger and therefore has made several provisions for devolution of power to Panchayats. In the 2005 Panchayat Elections, 39318 women representatives have been elected to 5653 Gram Panchayats in Karnataka, constituting 42 % of the State’s grassroots governance (total of 91402 elected representatives), being the highest percentage of women’s grassroots leadership in India.

The Hunger Project has focused on expanding partnerships at the grassroots so that a large percentage of elected women representatives in various districts can be trained through the Women’s Leadership Workshops.  New partnerships have been forged, taking our work to nine districts of Karnataka.

Besides this, there has been emphasis on strengthening our partnership with the government and other organizations working with Panchayats. It is imperative to build an enabling environment where women leaders can flourish and achieve their potential. The Hunger Project therefore feels it is mandatory to work in partnership with as many stakeholders as possible. In 2005 – 2006, we have been able to work with several Secretaries to the State Government. The Hunger Project has received unfailing support from Mr. V.R. Sudarshan, Chairman, Legislative Council, Government of Karnataka and Mr. K.V.R. Tagore, IAS, Information Commissioner, Department of Information, Government of Karnataka.

Between June 2005 and March 2006, The Hunger Project along with partner organizations has been able to train 2208 newly elected women representatives. We have been able to reach out to a considerable proportion of elected women representatives and 1396 of them have come back for our follow up workshops. The Hunger Project has also conducted two media workshops and a press-meet and was able to orient 103 media persons about our work. The other major strategy to strengthen women’s leadership has been to mobilize Gram Sabhas. Four successful Gram Sabhas have been organized. A Legal literacy workshop was also conducted to increase understanding on legal issues.

The most satisfying part of the work has been that of building women’s leadership in Panchayats. Post the workshops, the elected women representatives have gone back with a renewed resolve of making a difference in their Panchayats. Many women leaders have been successful in their endeavours, while others continue to strive, and fight severe challenges in their efforts to remove hunger and poverty from their communities and villages.

Woman directing young man with jugAn elected woman

Left: Representatives struggling to bring water and food to their villages; Right: an elected woman.

Aagaz Academy ~ Centre for Women’s Leadership

Participants at the Aagaz Academy

Participants at the Aagaz Academy

The year 2005 was marked by the launch of Aagaz Academy in Bangalore. Initiated by The Hunger Project, it is being implemented by an anchor NGO, AIKYA with the joint support of seven other partner organisations. Aagaz Academy is an institution for learning designed to encourage leadership that is transformative in the personal and public sphere of grass root women leaders. The focus is laid on the value of Self and the need for every woman to be comfortable with herself, her family and her community. Issues of fear and other inhibitions are tackled and conquered, such that the elected women can then effectively deal with important obstacles during their five year tenure. The training team includes Philomena Vincent, director of AIKYA, M M Kumaraswamy, the founder of Society for Human and Social Development, Kalpana Sharma and Dr. Shashi Rao.

39 women leaders enrolled to be a part of the training. There are 5 Presidents, 4 Vice Presidents and 30 Ward Members in the group. Out of the 39 participants, 32 are literate and 7 illiterate; 6 belong to the General category and 33 belong to the SC/ST Category. All participants of the Aagaz Academies have undertaken the Women’s Leadership Workshops. One year and three phases later, 34 elected representatives have completed the entire course.

Woman learning to use a computer

Woman learning to use a computer

“I think that patience and the ability to mobilize people are some of the most important qualities of an effective leader. I want to build a hospital for my village, as the nearest health center is 4 kms away. I have 5 years to make this dream come true and am willing to meet as many people as needed to raise the money for this project.” …Shivamma, Mysore District

World Women's Day

World Women's Day ceremonial

March 8th 2006: In a massive effort undertaken by The Hunger Project to disseminate information, 4000 elected women representatives came to Bangalore from all corners of the state to interact with state officials, learn about latest government legislations and come together in spirit to share, inspire and organize themselves as a federation. It was a platform for exchange of ideas, building contacts and for sharing  information.

The function was attended by Mr V.R Sudarshan, Chairman, Karnataka Legislative Council, Mr Dominique Dreyer, Ambassador of Switzerland, 60 year old Muttamma, representing the EWRs and THP Country Director, Rita Sarin.

Applauding the achievements of the women leaders, Ambassador Dreyer said, “There cannot be economic progress without the involvement of women. There can be no progress without social justice and it has to start from the grassroots’’.  Congratulating The Hunger Project on its role in strengthening women’s leadership in local governance, he said his country was proud to partner with THP in Karnataka.

Federation of Elected Women Representatives

Women sitting under banner

In the second year after the Panchayat Elections, elected women representatives are discovering the strength of collective action. This was evident at the state level convention held on International Women’s Day this year. They have expressed the desire to meet each other at regular intervals, to discuss and debate various issues concerning them and draw support from each other. More importantly, the EWRs have realized that they are not alone in their struggle and collectively they can lobby for policies favouring their leadership. The Hunger Project is in the process of facilitating the building of a federation or a forum for women representatives in Karnataka. The federation intends to work like a network and become a support structure for women’s leadership at the grassroots.

Partnering with the Media

One of the key strategies of The Hunger Project, media workshops are held in every district on a regular basis to facilitate the interaction between the media and the elected women representatives. Elected women representatives face many challenges in their work. Despite their daily struggles, they strive towards reducing poverty and hunger in their communities. The media workshops act as a platform for women representatives to share their experiences, achievements and struggles with the media and answer their questions.

In Karnataka, while these workshops managed to bring their achievements to the vanguard, there was also a need to showcase the larger issues that affect their work. Some of the issues have been identified by the women themselves but they need to be discussed, debated in open forums and a path of action needs to be planned.

Right to Information is one such issue that the elected women representatives have taken up this year in Karnataka to address. In several Panchayats, there have been instances where the elected women representatives have not been given information regarding the government orders, programmes and schemes. As elected representatives, women leaders need updated information on a regular basis. To facilitate this, The Hunger Project has been holding workshops on Right to Information so that elected women representatives can make full use of this powerful Act to access the information that they are rightfully entitled to.

Future Plans

The Hunger Project in Karnataka dreams of training more elected women representatives in the coming year. Continuing to build on the work that the trained EWRs have begun, The Hunger Project is keen to track their achievements and measure the impact of their work in the villages. The Hunger Project also plans to organize workshops on Right to Information Act for every elected woman representative in Karnataka. As part of the Right to Food campaign, The Hunger Project has undertaken a process of hunger mapping in Panchayats.

The Hunger Project in Karnataka faces the most challenging job of facilitating the formation of block level and state level federation of the elected women representatives in the coming year.

Woman laughingGroup of women

Our Partners in Karnataka

ASEDA, Kolar

BWS, Kolar

Belaku Trust, Bangalore ( R )

Green Foundation, Bangalore ( R )

ODP, Mysore

SAKTI, Bangalore ( R )

SUMANA, Mysore

Vikasana, Chikmagaloor

Vidyanikethan, Bangalore ( R )

WLARS, Tumkur

Woman holding child in lap

Partnering with Investors

Five years of work in Karnataka has only been possible with the support of committed individuals and corporates houses. The Hunger Project takes this opportunity to thank all the investors for their contribution and invaluable support. Your investment for a world free from hunger will give every woman, child and man equal opportunity to health, education, nutrition and a better livelihood. The Hunger Project looks forward to your continued support in the coming years.

Prema Kumari, 45, is Member of Mudugere Gram Panchayat of Gauribidanur Block, Kolar district. She is actively involved in many activities and has remained the President of Milk Producers Cooperative Society for 5 years.

She has great concern for the destitute and established a Nagajyothi Mahila Mandali in Bommasettihalli village. As Secretary of this Mahila Mandali, she trained 500 women in tailoring with the support of government departments. She provided them 500 sewing machines so that they remained self employed.

During her term she was successful in sanctioning 72 sanitary latrines in her village including two for government higher primary schools.  She provided pensions for physically handicapped of her village and constructed a community hall for SC/ST community.   She also provided drinking water connection with taps particularly for the dalit colony and also made a drainage system.