Uttarakhand

Districts where we work

Pauri District, Dehradun District, Almora District

Blocks

Pauri Block, Duggadha Block, Nainidanda Block, Dwarikhal Block, Chakrata Block, Kalsi Block, Raipur Block, Sult, Dwarahat, Takula, Bhaisiya Chhana, Hawalbag, Dhauladevi, Chaukhutiya, Lamgara, Syaldey, Bhikiyasain, Tarikhet.

Formerly a part of Uttar Pradesh, the new State of Uttaranchal and now renamed Uttarakhand was formed on November 9th, 2000 as the 27th State of the Indian Union. Bordering Tibet in the North East and Nepal in the South East, Uttarakhand has Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh as neighbouring states. Uttarakhand has traditionally been divided into two parts, the western part known as Garhwal and the eastern part known as Kumaon.

The Status of Women’s involvement in Panchayati Raj Institutions

In Uttarakhand, The Hunger Project (THP) entered into partnerships with, Rural Litigation Entitlement Kendra(RELK)/ PRAGATI in Pauri and Haridwar Districts and Mahila Haat in Almora District in 2004 and 2005 respectively. In 2007 new partnerships were entered with four new organizations, SBMA (Sri Bhubaneshwari Mahila Ashram) in Tehri Garhwal District, ARPAN in Pithoragarh District, Grameen Uthan Samiti in Bageshwar District and Kasturba Gandhi Mahila Ashram (Lakshmi Ashram) in Almora District.

More background on the Status of Women's involvement in Panchayati Raj Institutions.

SWEEP- Strengthening Women's Empowerment through Electoral Processes

Uttarakhand is expected to have elections in April 2008. The final election date has yet to be declared by the State Government. The Hunger Project therefore decided to implement SWEEP – Strengthening Women’s Empowerment through Electoral Processes – to encourage more women to contest in the Panchayat elections and participate in the election process as responsible and aware voters.  The objective is also to avoid election of proxy candidates and to appeal to the voters to elect genuine and capable candidates interested in bringing positive change to village Panchayats.

SWEEP will be implemented with partners, both in the Garhwal and Kumaon region of Uttarakhand. Districts of Almora, Bageshwar, Pithoragarh in the Kumaon region and Tehri Garhwal District in Garhwal region will be covered. In September 2007, The Hunger Project organized an orientation workshop to develop an understanding on women’s leadership and the SWEEP process with the new partners in Almora.

The Hunger Project’s intervention in the Kumaon region is significant, as very few organizations have worked on Panchayat issues and women’s leadership in Panchayats in the region. Therefore there are significant gaps that need to be addressed vis-à-vis women’s leadership and participation in Panchayats.

In the month of November 2007, THP had organized a training workshop and preparation meeting for SWEEP with all the partners. The State is gearing up for SWEEP as Panchayat elections are due in April 2008.

To develop and enhance the quality of the SWEEP campaign, The Hunger Project along with one of its partners Arpan organised a workshop on Local Capacities for Peace (LCP). LCP is a tool of analysis that helps one to understand the connectors and dividers in one's context of work. In a particular society, if there are dividers (factors of conflict) there are also connectors (factors of peace) that exist simultaneously. When evolving a campaign or any other activity, while it is important to keep in mind the dividers it is equally important to study the existing connectors so that strategies can be designed such that they are realistic, people-centered and directional.

The workshop helped the partners understand and cull out existing connectors vis-a-vis participation and leadership of women in Panchayats in the state of Uttarakhand. This exercise enabled the partners re-look and review their programmes and strategies for the SWEEP campaign.

The Hunger Project hopes this exercise would enhance the quality of the campaign and pave the way for effective strategies during the course of the Panchayat term.

Women Leadership Workshops

Haridwar is the only District in the state of Uttarakhand to have held Panchayat elections in 2005.  Along with PRAGATI, THP carried out six Women's Leadership Workshops (WLWs) for 201 newly Elected Women Representatives from this District.

Meanwhile in Pauri District, The Hunger Project is working with ward members of women headed Panchayats in very remote Blocks - Yamkeshwar, Birokhal, Ekeshwar, Duggada and Nainidanda.

The Hunger Project has been working with Mahila Haat for the last four years to empower and strengthen leadership among Elected Women Representatives in Almora district of Uttarakhand. Several WLWs were conducted and government officials were invited to interact with the Elected Women Leaders. Post the WLWs, Mahila Haat and THP decided to conduct a study on the impact of WLW on the effectiveness of women leaders in Panchayats in all 11 blocks of Almora district. A total of 121 women were interviewed comprising both WLW participants as well as those who had not attended WLW. The document is in the process of being finalized.

State-wide Open Forum

RLEK / PRAGATI and The Hunger Project jointly organised a State Wide Open Forum in May 2006 in Pauri where 300 Elected Women Representatives from all 13 districts of Uttarakhand congregated to interact with each other and with policy makers. This forum provided an opportunity for these women leaders to put forward their grievances and aspirations to the policy makers. Half way through their term and with the next Panchayat elections scheduled for 2008, this forum also provided women leaders an opportunity to look back, introspect and assess their performances and also strategize and plan for the years ahead. On this occasion, EWRs unanimously passed the Doon Declaration, a Charter of 13 demands on major issues ranging from health, education to water. 'We have to all fight together and bring about a revolution in Panchayats in Uttarakhand. We have many demands and the government needs to meet them for effective governance at the grassroots. This Doon Declaration is a reflection of our aspiration for the future,' said Ms Madhu, from Nainidanda district.

In these forums women leaders challenged the very ethos of governance and raised issues of education, unemployment and food security. 60% of the EWRs fearlessly raised their voices against embezzlement of funds, misappropriation of development schemes, tampering of water and forest resources and injustices against women in their Panchayat.

A brief profile of the new partners:

Arpan: It is a grassroots voluntary organization based in Askot, Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand. It has been working primarily on women’s issues since 1997. Arpan’s work area includes Kanalichhina, Didihat, Dharchula, Bin and Munsiari Blocks. The focus of the organization is to work for the empowerment of the rural women and Dalits. Mahila Adhikar Sangathans have been formed in the region advocating for women’s rights. The organization is also a member of Sajha Manch- a collective of various institutions and individuals in Uttarakhand for right-based issues in Uttarakhand. The strength of this organization is that it has a team of young committed social activists from the local region who are mainly women.

Grammen Uthan Samiti (G.U.S): It is, working since 1979 in the region.  It is based in Kapkote in Bageshwar. G.U.S is working in 7 blocks of three districts of, Pithoragarh, Almora and Bageshwar in Uttarakhand.. The main focus of the organization is to work with women and children.G.U.S has strengthened women’s group since many years and now they function as Sangathans/federation. These Sangathans plan to work in Panchayats as a collective group. The organization believes that social revolutionary change can only be brought about by women’s participation in local governance.

Sri Bhubaneshwari Mahila Ashram (SBMA): has been working in Uttarakhand since 1977.  It works in 13 districts of the state with partnership with other organizations and in four districts directly, Tehri Garhwal, Chamoli, Uttarkashi, and Dehradun. The organization works with the communities especially with women on issues of women and Panchayati raj, health, education, environmental issues and natural resources management.SBMA has been working with women and governance since 1994 and one of the pioneers of working on this issue at a large scale in the state of Uttarakhand. The organization has also built on a cadre of EWR’S as master trainers in the Panchayat programmes.

Kasturba Gandhi Mahila Ashram (Lakshmi Ashram), Almora District. The organization was founded by one of the pioneers of the Gandhian era Sarla Behen.The main focus of the organization is to work for the development of young adolescent girls and women since inception. The issues that the organization works on include education, women’s empowerment, environmental education among children and forest and land rights issues.Lakshmi Ashram stands for women's education in the hills, established by Sarala Bahen, an inmate of Gandhiji's Ashram. Lakshmi Ashram's pioneering work in women's education on Gandhian line is well recognized across the world. For the first time the organization would be working on the issue of governance at grassroot level.