Participation of Youth in Empowering EWRs (Rajasthan, India)

"The Participation of Youth in Empowering the Women Elected Women Representatives"

A three-day, state-level workshop - October 6-8, 2008 - Hotel Palms, Jaipur
Organized by The Hunger Project-India, Rajasthan

The Hunger Project is working with eight partner organizations in nine blocks in Rajasthan to build the capacity of elected women representatives (EWRs).

In the last four years, The Hunger Project has observed that though the EWRs have the capabilities to lead, there is a need to connect with one another, and they require support and guidance. The women not only aspire to change their present conditions, but are also to work towards achieving long-term change. For this, they require regular and firm support, which would facilitate them to surpass the hurdles they face enroute.

With this in mind, The Hunger Project decided to create groups of energetic youths at the panchayat (village council) level. These groups would assist the EWRs in carrying out their official, daily responsibilities. To put the concept into practice, The Hunger Project created a program called "The Role of Youth in Empowering the Women Elected Representatives in Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI)" to be carried until December 2008.

The most important objective of this program is to put in place a cadre of select youth ages 16-30, of whom 60 percent would constitute the young women of the village bolstering the 50 percent reservation set for the women in the PRIs of the state. The Hunger Project believes that female youth will be instrumental in getting women into the election processes and helping the EWRs take on future challenges.

There has been a marked improvement in the conditions of the EWRs on various fronts, as seen over three reservation phases offered to the women. Yet, it still remains a challenge to bring the active participation of the EWRs in decision making process at the gram sabha (general assembly) levels. The female youth groups will connect other women with the gram sabha and simultaneously provide support to the EWRs. It will be possible to present these female volunteers as role models to the women at large.

To prepare the youth, a three-day workshop to train the trainers was conducted in Jaipur from October 6-8, 2008. In this workshop, two representatives from each partner organization were invited, along with one female youth and two young males from their respective work zones/areas/ fields.

The important objectives of the training program were:

  • Create a consensus on the contextual role and participation of youth in PRIs;
  • Design a training program module to develop the capacities of the youth;
  • Define the structure of the program;
  • Establish the roles of the representative partners and field workers in the context of the program; and
  • Prepare plans for the coming three months.

Some interesting and participative activities were integrated into the training program. Comprehensive discussions were held on the necessity of educating the youth and getting them constantly involved and the roles of the functionaries and local institutions. During the workshop, plans and provisions for the period between November 2008 and March 2009 were discussed. At the commencement of the workshop several issues were discussed, which included:

  • The current status of the youth in PRIs;
  • Their potential role in strengthening women EWRs; and
  • The assistance that can be provided by the partner organizations to these youth.

There was a special discussion over encouraging voluntary involvement of the youth in the empowerment of the EWRs. A subsequent three-day workshop was designed to develop the capacities of the youth.

Through these discussions, the participants gained clarity and agreed that this will immensely help women get elected. Even former representatives would benefit from the structure and were encouraged to get re-elected. Similarly the new EWRs would join the system with much-needed confidence.

At the end of the session, the participants decided to build groups of 20 youths in two panchayats over the next two months within each block falling in their work zones. The work will be carried further with their training.