Women's Leadership Workshops (Orissa, India)

The Women's Leadership Workshop's of The Hunger Project are capacity building workshops. The workshop seeks to instill and facilitate:

  • An understanding of each woman's identity as a political leader;
  • A shift from a mindset of "I cannot" to "I can;"
  • Critically analyzing social systems and their effect on these women's realities: hierarchies of class, caste, religion, gender and so forth;
  • Understanding political and social citizenship;
  • Understanding their role in local governance as stated under the 73rd amendment;
  • Articulation of a vision for their communities and themselves;
  • Emphasis on the importance of the participation of women in regular panchayat meetings and gram sabhas (general body meetings);
  • Acquisition of skills to be effective leaders; and
  • Creation of a sense of solidarity amongst themselves (elected women leaders).


Details of WLWs organized in 2007-08

.

Name of

District

Name of

Organization

# of

WLWs

# of

Participants

# of

Elected Women Leaders

1.

Dhenkanal

PIPAR

2

54

47

2.

Gajapati

IWD

14

340

218

3.

Nuapada

AYAUSKAM

3

70

54

4.

Khurdha

PECUC

2

104

69

5.

Angul

NSS

2

73

62

6.

Kalahandi

KARRTABYA

4

84

67

7.

Kalahandi

DAPTA

10

144

121

8.

Rayagada

ANKURAN

2

80

69

TOTAL

39

949

707



Experiences:

Women PRI members are coming in great eagerness and in large numbers to the workshops. Along with current elected women leaders, self-help group (SHG) leaders and workers, former elected women leaders as well as those unsuccessful in the elections are also evincing interest in being informed about panchayat matters.



They were specially excited by the introduction process where each elected women leader is made to be aware of their identity and feel special. The social status of women was another matter of interest for women PRIs and took longer than the fixed time.



Due to low literacy and language problems (in tribal areas), NGOs are using posters and group discussions to dissemination information according to the needs of a particular area. Accordingly, reading materials have also been developed and distributed in other areas.



Even in the WLWs, resource persons contributing to the training process included among others, Block Development Officers, Gram Panchayat Officers, G.P. Secretary, M.L.A, Officers from the SIRD (State Institute of Rural Development), and Ex-Sarpanches apart from The Hunger Project coordinators and workers. This direct interaction of elected women leaders with officers and other leaders is facilitating understanding of the various processes of the PRI system, thus aiding empowerment greatly. An instance of successful interaction could be seen at Balianta, Khurdha, where the elected women leaders could wrest a special ‘Grievances Day' for women on the third Saturday of each month, from the Block Development Officer (BDO), Mr. P.K. Sahoo.



Due to these initiatives, elected women leaders are feeling confident enough to preside over meetings now, where earlier there used to be a lot of reticence. Those who have been elected from the general seats in particular showed greater confidence than those from reserved ones. Interestingly, women from SC/ST (scheduled caste/scheduled tribal) categories were found to be more open than those from general categories. This was especially marked in the coastal belt of Orissa than in the western parts where there is a significantly larger tribal population.



As part of the training, monitoring formats were developed by LASK (DAPTA) and IWD, which the elected women leaders received with great interest, promising to plan and work according to the guidelines therein. This will help them to record and review their activities and note their constraints faced.



Participants particularly liked the "visioning" exercise, or process where elected women leaders envision a model village and then find ways to make their own villages a model one. They went back enthused enough to take small steps to realize their dream village.


The leadership component of the training could not be developed or explored fully in the given schedule. Therefore, it has been decided to pursue the leadership building exercise again in the follow-up WLWs.

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