Strengthening Elected Women Representatives with THP-India in 2012
Update to the Global Board
During this reporting period, THP-India trained 358 newly elected women representatives (EWRs) and coordinated bottom-up gender-focused programs involving 278,703 participants in more than 1,700 program activities in areas of women’s leadership, federation building, panchayat effectiveness, influencing public opinion and advocacy and alliances.
- Successfully completing SWEEP: Strengthening Women’s Empowerment in Electoral Processes in Tamil Nadu. SWEEP reached out to two million people in 5,321 villages (547 Gram Panchayats) of Tamil Nadu and encouraged citizens to be aware voters, and motivated women candidates to file their nomination papers and participate in the elections as polling and booth agents. Of the women trained by THP, 50 percent filed their nominations and stood for elections. Of those, 46 percent won the elections. THP has played a critical role in ensuring violence-free elections and one of the most significant achievements of the campaign has been that women from a village in Madurai voted for the first time in their lives despite having voting rights since independence in the 1940s.
- Elected Women Representatives (EWRs): Have taken a lead in all Jagruk Manchs as mentors, facilitators and political leaders. Jagruk Manch is a platform for both elected and non-elected women at Gram Panchayat (GP) to come together and understand the issues of the panchayats as well as to enhance their civic participation in local government and local development processes. In Madhya Pradesh, Sajha Manchs developed and planned strategies to attend Gram Sabha meetings and to build awareness as well as take actions around issues of domestic violence, malnutrition, functioning of the anganwadis (courtyard shelters), Public Distribution System (PDS), and campaigns against alcoholism and sanitation. As a result of this local-level advocacy and awareness campaign, several issues were addressed and resolved pertaining to water and sanitation, allotment of houses under the housing scheme, social security pensions, and ensuring effective service in the anganwadis.
- Jagruthi Vedikes support: In Karnataka, Jagruthi Vedikes have enabled EWRs to garner support of other marginalized women in the GP and include them in decision making processes. Jagruthi Vedikes have been able to regularize the supply of PDS ration for families below the poverty line (BPL) of their panchayats. Jagruthi Vedike members of Namagondalu Grama Panchayats mobilized women to protest against the irregularities in Gowribidannur. A memorandum was issued to District Health Officer and he has promised a probe into the functioning of the district hospital. In all three states, Jagruk Manchs are working as an important platform for EWRs to establish their identity and leadership amongst the citizens of the Gram Panchayats (GP).
- Malnutrition Awareness Campaigns: Federation members in Madhya Pradesh led a series of successful campaigns to create awareness on malnutrition. In five such campaigns, planned in districts of Chattarpur, Sidhi, Rewa, Katni and Dindori, 350 EWRs disseminated campaign messages in 30 panchayats. While the community was made aware of the endemic problem of malnutrition, they were also informed of ways to deal with it, the role of anganwadi and the availability of government schemes and services. Community members were motivated to access these services. Campaign design, planning and printing of informational materials was done in collaboration with the partner organizations. Interface with administrative functionaries in Odisha, Karnataka and Uttarakhand helped EWRs to strengthen and establish linkages with the local government functionaries. The EWRs have used these platforms to seek information regarding panchayats, government orders, schemes and laws from the officials. In Karnataka, 78 GP Presidents, 65 Vice Presidents and 708 Ward members met eight different district- and block-level officials and tabled issues of substandard food distributed to children in anganwadi centres with the Child Development Program Officer. Issues related to payment of honorariums and sitting fee of EWRs were also raised in these meetings.
- Formation of National Coalition Against Two Child Norm: In this reporting period there was considerable media attention around the birth of the seven- billionth baby. The reporting around this event seemed somewhat different from the sharp population control rhetoric of the past, but still showed that some of the earlier fears of population growth continue to dominate many minds. At the same time, many state-level processes were not very encouraging. Madhya Pradesh continued its dizzying climb up the sterilization ladder with targets and incentives. A commission on women's development in Kerala, headed by Justice Krishna Iyer, had proposed penalties for women who have three or more children. In Bihar, the state government was contemplating the introduction of Two Child Norm in panchayats. Currently, the norm is prevalent in states like Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, and Maharashtra.
- The National Coalition on Two Child Norm and Coercive Population Policies: Was formed to raise awareness among different stakeholders about coercive nature of different population control policies and to advocate for their removal from policies and programs at the state and the central level. The coalition is membership-based and both organizations and individuals can become members of this coalition. The secretariat of the national coalition is housed in the Centre for Health and Social Justice which is headed by Dr. Abhijit Das. THP-India is one of the key supporters of this National Coalition. Initial activities of the coalition include investigating the current status of Two Child Norm and developing a consolidated report of the previous studies that have been conducted in the past. A brochure is being developed, a blog has been started, and the membership base is currently at 25 members and increasing.