This section summarises the presentations made in the various sessions of the workshop.
R. B. Singh, Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative of the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, delivered the opening remarks. Dr Singh stated that the region is marked by diversity in culture, political systems, area occupied, population size and size of economies managed. He highlighted the importance of women as crucial human resources for development. His statements included a declaration by the UN Secretary-General on the importance of including women in the development process and the commitment of FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf on the role of women in achieving food security. Dr Singh also cited the Sustainable Development of Water Resources Director's declaration on the role of policymakers to focus on integrating women in agriculture and rural communities. He also quoted Chairman Mao's slogan “Women hold half the sky” to illustrate women's roles in nation building.
The Assistant Director-General applied genetic principles of exclusion and inclusion to social systems. He stressed that, based on the principles of inclusion, the participatory process promotes partnerships hitherto excluded. The local planning process helps us to learn from each other and helps us to think and act for local development. He emphasized the importance of making planners understand and acknowledge the contribution women make. He cited the example of India, where one third of the seats in Parliament are reserved for women, and thus it is up to women to use this opportunity. He commented on the timeliness of “Gender and food security - The role of information”, published by the Women in Development Service, FAO Rome, and indicated that the participants should receive copies.
Dr Singh concluded that in this workshop all participants should identify ways to increase the real inclusion of women in participatory local planning, and should make recommendations based on experience that would help FAO develop strategies for local planning.
The Asian Institute of Technology: The Asian Institute of Technology is an academic institute which focuses on research. AIT has undertaken research on the local planning process. Its findings indicate that the local planning process in projects is done with a participatory rural appraisal (PRA) component. The belief is that in a bottom-up process PRA is essential to get community-based data from women and men groups. However PRA does not always ensure women's participation or represent women's needs as such. When the new PRA team arrives in the study area, the women prefer to express only socially accepted issues.
Chulalongkorn University: Chulalongkorn University, as an academic institution, is not oriented towards field-level development interventions. About ten years ago, research with UNESCO focused on the scientific study of women at the local level concerning their choice of vocational training. The findings indicated that women always worked in the domestic sphere. When training turned to technical aspects, women would not get the training. Men wanted to receive technical training themselves and according to them they would transfer the knowledge to their wives. Women should have training for their roles as mothers and wives and in domestic skills. Health and maternity care were important, but women wanted training to raise their earnings. In the end, the women's workload was heavy, but they still had no control over their earnings. More time was needed to create an attitudinal change among men. Based in Chulalongkorn University, the Social Research Institute (CUSRI) has a women and youth studies programme, which currently focuses on indicators of children's rights and child labour. It also has the Social Water Project, through which a database on women is placed in the CUSRI website. CUSRI mission and activities are very much gender sensitive. A two-year project on indicators of wellbeing as understood by villagers uses focus groups to collect information and CUSRI insists that women of all ages be included in the focus groups.
ESCAP: ESCAP has no field activities on gender-sensitive local planning. The focus is on micro-credit institutions as they function to improve women's access to resources, to review the effectiveness and modalities for micro-credit outreach and to identify effective tools from this review. ESCAP efforts are directed to strengthen community-based organizations through training on how to involve women in development.
Kasetsart University: The Centre for Cultural Studies at Kasetsart University promotes gender-equality issues and focuses on the socioeconomic impact of the crisis. Its studies indicate that women have less time than men to participate in community work and that it is difficult to get women on decision-making seats. Baseline data still lack gender-disaggregated data. The village head has a strong influence in the community. Women don't raise their voices. People's partnership is still wanting.
UNDP: Participants representing UNDP informed the meeting on projects in Thailand on poverty alleviation, and the integration of components with the projects that relate to agriculture and gender-sensitive planning at the village level. The emphasis is on building the capacity of rural farmers in a bottom-up approach with the involvement of nongovernmental organizations. UNDP officers exchange views and pay as much attention as possible to gender aspects in the field of poverty eradication. NGOs, government offices and others have undertaken exercises on gender-sensitive planning, which have resulted in work plans with more visible gender aspects.
UNICEF: The UNICEF main office in Thailand is in Bangkok. Two area-based offices have recently been opened, namely in Chiang Mai and Khon Kaen provinces. UNICEF area-based staff monitors and follows up projects supported in the Upper North and Northeast, respectively, to make sure UNICEF support has real impact. In the Northeast, gender matters are relatively new issues. It was found that a large number of women participate in community activities.
The country presentations were prepared following the terms of reference provided beforehand.
Mrs Nargis Shamsun Nahar
Government of Bangladesh
Women's fundamental right to equality is guaranteed in the Constitution of Bangladesh and women are entitled to special provisions in their favour from the State. In spite of this, women in Bangladesh face much deprivation and discrimination and many disadvantages. This adverse situation can be attributed to the cultural legacy, traditional societal expectations, their disproportionate burden without equitable remuneration, lack of opportunity and social and religious taboos. The gender issue has been addressed in the national development plan with a view to integrate women in the development process. Specific projects and programmes in different sectors have been taken up with this end in view. Appropriate policy backup and institutional framework have also been provided for effecting positive socioeconomic changes among the womenfolk.
In Bangladesh a tiered organizational arrangement achieves local planning. At present the local government in Bangladesh is based on four tiers, viz. village council, union council and municipality, upazilla (sub-district) council, and district council. Of the four, only the union council has been activated. So far elections have been held for the union councils, pourashavas (municipality) and one city corporation. The union council has played a vital role in village development for more than a century. It is the entry point of grassroots politicians. A union council has a chairperson, nine (male and female) members and three female members, all directly elected.
Local and regional planning, district planning and rural area planning are relatively new ideas. At present, there is no distinct local planning countrywide. The successive five-year plans of the country have emphasized local-level development with a focus on the rural poor, in one way or another, but actual achievements have been rather limited due to constraints, at the top of which is the lack of participation by stakeholders, who have had hardly any role in development initiatives. In accordance with the present government's fundamental principles, the Fifth Five-Year Plan envisages that each of the local-level institutions will have well-defined and extended functions. They will participate in the preparation of development programmes and projects at the local level. Standing committees for such fields as law and order, health and family planning, agriculture, irrigation and the environment, education, social welfare, development of women and children, sports, culture, and fisheries and livestock will be established. The standing committees will assist the local government bodies at all levels to conceive, design, formulate and implement local-level development programmes and projects. Local government bodies therefore will be vested with roles and responsibilities. They will focus particularly on how these institutions can be made participatory to enable the local people to provide inputs for planning, and how, through a process of bottom-up planning, the development programmes and projects of the various tiers of local government will be integrated.
The local government ministry has a direct network at grassroots level - in other words, with local people. The departments and agencies under the division carry out various programmes and projects undertaken and financed by the division.
The Ministry of Agriculture and its agencies, including the Department of Agriculture Extension (DOAE) and the Agricultural Research Institutes (ARI), are responsible for providing support services for the production of food crops. DOAE is responsible for the transfer of new technology from ARI to farming communities and it provides feedback to the research system on the technological needs of the community. DOAE has an administrative structure up to the union level and its supervisors are the extension agents who contact individual farming families.
To make local planning more effective the local institutions have to be activated in proper ways, community-based working groups have to be formed from the grassroots level and rural people have to be trained so that they can participate in the process. Above all, policy commitment on devolution needs to be given effect expeditiously because devolution will provide the necessary framework of partnership in the development process between the national and local levels.
Data for local planning can be collected from censuses and other survey reports published by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), such as the Household Expenditure Survey, Labour Force Survey and Agricultural Census. Besides, other studies and surveys are carried out from time to time by the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, NGOs, UNDP, UNICEF and other private organizations. A series of district study reports were prepared by BBS, and afterwards the Planning Commission prepared some 30 district reports. The data available are usually gender-based. Regarding data about women's development, some inventories have been prepared at various times. These data are generally used by the Central Planning Organization, various actors in the socioeconomic development scenario, viz. sponsoring ministries, executing agencies, NGOs and development partners.
The government of Bangladesh has endorsed, without any reservations, the Platform for Action of the Fourth World Conference for Women held in Beijing in September 1995. Accordingly, the government has already formulated an action plan on the basis of recommendations of the sectoral-need assessment teams for the 12 critical areas of concern identified by the platform. The Ministry of Women and Children Affairs has been designated as the modal ministry for follow-up and implementation of the platform for action. Furthermore, the government adopted the National Policy for the Advancement of Women and spelt out policy measures in the current, Fifth Five-Year Plan.
Focal points have been established in nearly 46 line ministries to identify Women in Development (WID) projects, to assist in the formulation of sectoral plans and to coordinate and take care of gender aspects in the respective sectors. An inter-ministerial WID Programme Implementation and Evaluation Committee, chaired by the head of the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, has been formed to review, evaluate and coordinate WID activities. The National Council for Women's Development, consisting of 14 ministers, secretaries of 13 ministries, one member of the planning commission, five members of Parliament and up to 10 prominent women to be nominated by the government, was formed in 1995. The Prime Minister chairs the council.
Since rural women's integration in development is a multi-sectoral approach, each ministry has its projects for that purpose and is funded from the respective sectoral allocation. Besides, there are some special allocations for the advancement of women, such as housing loans for woman-headed families, female education stipends up to secondary level, monthly allowances for widows and destitute women, skill development, entrepreneurship development and special credit programmes.
The local government division which is responsible for wide-ranging local-level development has taken measures to ensure access of women to various local government bodies to take part in governance and the decision-making process. As per provision three seats in each union council are reserved for women, who are directly elected. At present, there are 12 828 female members in union councils who can take part in local-level decision making. Moreover, 22 women have already been elected as chairpersons in 4 276 union council bodies. In each city corporation, there are three or more women members or ward commissioners, depending on the size of the city corporation, elected indirectly by the elected commissioners of the city corporations. Accordingly there are at present 372 women ward commissioners. Women are also eligible to contest all the general seats for election.
The government is pursuing the promotion of greater participation of women in the planning and formulation of sectoral programmes and projects at all levels (union, thana, district and national). The Local Government Engineering Department and the Public Health and Engineering Department have introduced the process of involving women in identification, preparation, implementation, operation and maintenance of projects at local level in rural infrastructure, water resource and public health. For this purpose, women user groups and stakeholder groups are organized on a systematic basis.
Two committees on women's development and coordination were formed recently at district and thana levels, consisting of members from different government, NGOs, women social workers and persons involved with women development programmes. These committees will act as conduits between national and local-level development plans aimed at accelerating WID and mainstreaming women in the entire gamut of development.
As local planning is at a nascent stage, the scope of people's participation, especially women's participation, is still narrow. Even in the institutional setup, female members cannot play their due roles because of traditional dominance of their male counterparts. There is a general tendency to assign relatively less important roles to them in spite of their being directly elected. Even as stakeholders they face constraints in voicing their views.
Line agencies identify needs of the community in their own sector and bring them up to the ministries. Interaction takes place with the community through the representatives in sectoral agencies.
Women are active in homestead production that contributes to household food security.
Gender-neutral projects serve the needs of women and can be beneficial to women and men in addressing their livelihood needs (for example: mushroom growing).
The women's association is helpful to rural women. NGOs facilitate the formation of women's groups. They also train women's groups and provide credit and skills training.
A persisting problem is the lack of coordination between agencies and lack of focal points in various ministries. A suggestion could be that ministries should do the coordination more carefully. Coordination will be easier through local planning.
There is cooperation and coordination between NGOs and government, yet a lot remains to be done. Sometimes NGOs are given the responsibility to arrange certain training activities.
All ministries look after the men, so there is no special ministry for them.
The adverse situation (relative underdevelopment of the female population and recent positive changes) can be attributed to cultural legacy, traditional societal expectations, disproportionate burden among women without equitable remuneration, lack of opportunity and social and religious taboos.
Domestic violence exists and the government has to face it. Steps have been taken to punish the offenders.
Ms Khiev Bory
Director of Social Planning Department
Ministry of Planning
Royal Government of Cambodia
After two decades of war that weakened human resources, ruined the quality of basic production, health services and education, the situation has not yet improved appropriately, and poverty remains one the main obstacles to the socioeconomic development of Cambodia. The situation of children and women in Cambodia is the worst in the Southeast Asia region. The proposed activities directly address this situation through participatory approaches that fulfil children and women's basic rights.
The population is overwhelmingly rural, with 85 percent of it estimated to live outside the large urban centres. For this reason and because rural incomes and social indicators lag well behind those of the urban areas, the development of Cambodia's rural areas is a prerequisite for national development. Since the rural area is the first priority of the government's objectives, the Community Action for Social Development (CASD) programme has been created.
CASD is a community-based development programme initiated by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in cooperation with the Cambodian government to improve the living condition of children and women. The basic strategy of CASD is to enhance the capacity and creativity of the family and the community to address systematically the main problems of children and women, namely infant, child and maternal mortality, malnutrition, lack of primary health care, lack of basic education, gender disparity, extreme vulnerability, and unemployment and low income.
The implementation of the CASD programme extends from the national level to the provincial level and then to the village and community level.
At the national level, CASD works with nine ministries. The Ministry of Planning works closely with CASD on policy and resource mobilization issues and the Ministry of Rural Development is responsible for coordinating CASD activities in cooperation with other participating government ministries, namely the Ministry of Women's Affairs and the Ministry of Inter-ministerial and Inter-agencies Coordination for Technical and Strategy Issues. Focal points are from the ministries of Women Affairs, Health, Education, Agriculture, Social Action, Interior and Finance.
At the provincial level, the coordinating working groups made up of members of relevant departments and training teams manage the programme. The coordinating working groups have been established under the provincial rural development committees, which are chaired by the governors.
The role of the working groups is to provide planning and budgetary support, technical assistance, management, and coordination of material assistance, communication, analysis, monitoring and feedback to villages.
At the village level, a cadre of elected village representatives was started to facilitate the programme, but it was eventually replaced by the Village Development Committees (VDC). Thus, VDC is the primary structure for CASD implementation. The main role of a VDC is to mobilize the community and to provide a communication channel. The committees help the villagers to assess their problems, analyse potential solutions and develop village action plans. The main challenge at their level is to develop their capacity to mobilize for social development at the family and household level.
The main challenges are:
lack of assurance for programme funding,
lack of a budget line in the government,
lack of a broad spectrum of skills among counterparts to meet the need for high human resources at the initialization of programmes,
lack of training opportunities for women, and
lack of women in decision-making positions.
Cambodia's paper presents a special programme. UNICEF is involved in the project and only works in social programmes. The national plan focuses on improving the situation of women after the war and covers economic and social aspects.
The project plays a big role in changing attitudes and thus has a very strategic objective to assist women.
Ruifa Hu Linxiu Zhang
Centre for Chinese Agricultural Policy
Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences
In China, the State Development Planning commission (SDPC) is the national planning agency responsible for the overall development plan in China. Its line agencies are located at province, prefecture and county levels. The government at each level has a planning committee and makes development plans at the beginning of each year. Apart from these line agencies, there are special development offices which are responsible for sector-specific development programmes. For example, the Leading Group for Poor Area Development office is a special office set up by the State Council to deal with poverty alleviation issues in rural China. Such as office is organized to deal with multidimensional poverty issues across the ministries. The Great West Development Office, which was set up last year under SDPC, is another example. Such special development offices can be found in each ministry. Under the Ministry of Agriculture, there are various development offices, which are responsible for certain agricultural development programmes.
In China, the county level is an important level for development planning. Almost all the counties have their unitary development plans. In China, the township level is the lowest administrative level that receives government budgetary support. The township's plan-making process is based on the objectives of the county plan and the village committee's suggestions.
The villages are the lowest administrative organizations in rural China. However, the management and decision-making processes in villages are different from those at the township or higher levels. The village committee is the comprehensive decision-making and governing body at the village level. Self-governance is the most distinct characteristic of the village committee. Because all village leaders are elected by farmers in the village, they often must listen to the opinions of farmers during the plan-making process. Of course, their decisions must conform with township and higher-level plans. In all village committees in China, it is compulsory to include at least one woman to represent female farmers. Thus, most of the plans of agricultural production and rural development are gender sensitive. A decision at the village level must get the agreement of most committee members, including the women's association representative.
In order to ensure women's participation in the decision-making process and to protect women's rights and interests, China set up one of the world largest women's organizations - the All China Women's Federation, immediately after the founding of the People's Republic of China. ACWF has been given full play, to its advantage, in organization, propaganda and coordination and in active cooperation with the government to carry out activities that suit women's needs and promote women's involvement in socioeconomic development. To further strengthen the work related to women and children, China set up a National Working Committee on Women and Children at the State Council in 1990. In 1991, the government also set up a special women's committee under the All China Federation of Trade Unions. These countrywide organizations have, to a large extent, ensured necessary dialogues between women and the government, between the government and NGOs and across sectors in reflecting women's needs. Apart from the above-mentioned women's organizations, there are various kinds and different levels of organizations (both governmental and nongovernmental) which deal with special women's groups' issues.
Women's participation in the planning process at regional and sub-regional levels is reflected by a set target on female leadership positions in government agencies. In China, all counties have a female governor or vice-governor. About 50 percent of the townships have a female governor or vice-governor. These female leaders play an active role in the planning process at all levels.
Institutional assurance by no means guarantees that women enjoy 100 percent equality. Due to traditional beliefs and other constraints, women in rural China still suffer from discrimination in accessing resources and opportunities. As a result, women's educational level is relatively lower than men's. Such human quality difference restrains participation in political as well as in economic decision making. For example, although the Chinese government set a compulsory goal to have a female governor at each governmental level, it is often the case that the female governor's voice is not well heard. This is either because of the biased opinion from men in society or due to the vocal quality that makes women's voice seem less convincing and decisive. Thus, there is still room for improvement in order to strengthen women's participation in the decision-making and planning process in China. This may require efforts from all sectors.
Due to the socialist structure, the All China Women's Federation operates as a semi-NGO structure with support funding from the government. ACWF has the responsibility to address women's rights issues. Women articulate their issues via this structure from village working committees to higher levels.
Recently there were local elections in which female candidates participated. There is equality between men and women. At the village level the women rank higher than men. The mother is the head of the family. Women work outside the village and this is happening more often in the whole area due to the crisis in rural economies.
Ms Bharathi Sivaswami Sihag, IAS
Ministry of Rural Development
Government of India
India already has implemented a 33-percent reservation for women at all three levels of local government, the gram (village) panchayat, intermediate panchayat and the district panchayat levels. Mandatory constitutional reservation for women has given women space and profile in a dramatic fashion and brought them to the very centre stage of politico-economic decision making. More than a million women have been so empowered. There is however some concern about the quality of participation due to the wide prevalence of illiteracy and lack of exposure of the elected women. Clearly capacity building is a matter of urgent concern if confidence levels, exposure and knowledge base of Panchayati Raj functionaries are to improve. This is an essential though not sufficient condition for true democratic decentralization. Many of the Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI) functionaries are first-time political office holders; some or perhaps a substantial number are neo-literates and even illiterates. Both rural men and women are disadvantaged in this regard. The condition of women particularly merits attention, however, functioning as they do in a highly paternalistic environment within the home, and with systemic oppression due to their organic link with the larger and iniquitous economic system at the lowest end of the pecking order. At a fundamental level, increases in allocations for health and education can only serve to augment the overall quality of human capital in general and women in particular. Strengthening of group lending strategies, improving access to and availability of micro credit will considerably improve the quality of female participation in development processes. The general unevenness in levels of implementation of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment is a matter of concern. The capacity of local people is a crucial variable for participation. While currently, with a few exceptions, local government institutions depend almost entirely on devolution from the top, a sustainable strategy would be to demarcate areas of revenue mobilization by local governments. Without this, it is hard to envisage the future vibrancy of PRI.
The democratic decentralization campaign in Kerala is of unique significance in the history of India for it seeks to establish politics of social change which restructures the systems of power, of production and of relations especially between the state government and the people who imagine the alternatives and build them. The decentralization campaign going on in Kerala is one of the most radical of its kind and conveys important lessons for all of us.
The following gains will automatically accrue by focusing on this new agenda:
prioritization according to local felt needs of the population
better local resource endowment
better regional distribution of the gains of development
better class distribution
improved local resource mobilization
intensified people's participation
The panchayat is a nurturing ground for change in the Indian public image with the involvement of women. Women learn to think big through participation in the panchayat. Previously women were not seen at the political level. There is a fear that all is going in one stroke to the women. If women would be brought into the political process at the local level, it may mean that more money needs to be allocated for health and education. Education is necessary for women to improve their status and be empowered.
The panchayat system is in favour of women. They will have more access to land and capital but not to resources. Without equality at the policy level, democracy can be promoted, but it will not work. Resources should be shared. Assets should be shared equally without waiting for outside support.
The local level is politically divided, and the lowest tier structure is very small in which two of the five people must be women.
Union councils are not financially viable. Every society wishes to be free of tax. This has implications for raising revenue for the local planning of community development.
Frequent changes of the system disrupt linkages with local-level administration and line departments.
In India the debate is open on how long the country can avoid taxing the agricultural sector. The rural and urban parties should more equitably share the burden.
The taxation process should be right with a policy from the state level. From the democratic process perspective, a whole set of parallel policies will be needed. Now the state and government have the right to tax. By giving the local level the right to tax, local governments will have funds at hand to enable improvement in health and education.
Mr Y. B. Pradhan
Nepal has gone through many periodic development plans for local development but their outcome has not been satisfactory. The main causes of this situation are faulty planning and lack of accountability, ineffective implementation and insufficient participation by local communities.
In the process of rural development of the country, His Majesty's Government of Nepal has launched programmes such as the Participatory District Development Programme and the Local Governance Programme. These programmes aim at strengthening decentralized participatory development planning by enhancing the capacity of local-level government institutions and by mobilizing community organizations and civic societies. The Ministry of Local Development at the central level is the focal agency for local development planning. Under this ministry, there are 75 District Development Committees (DDCs), 58 municipalities and 3916 Village Development Committees (VDCs). These are all the people's representative units of local government except the ministry. In these institutions, female participation is relatively small.
At the village level, the development committee is responsible for the local planning, whereas in the case of the municipal area, the municipality is responsible for formulating and implementing the municipal plans and programmes. In the same way, the DDC is responsible for district-level planning. The lowest tier of local planning is a village council, the general body of VDC. The VDC authority prepares its annual plans and programmes through multi-sectoral consulting including women's groups. The district development council approves plans and programmes prepared by the VDCs. In municipalities, the executive body formulates its annual development plans and programmes after multi-sectoral consultation. The local development plans and programmes of the municipality are finalized after the discussions and approval of the municipal council. On the other hand, the Ministry of Local Development allocates its funds to the DDCs, VDCs and municipalities as local development grants to support the local development planning. On top of the planning process is the National Planning Commission, an advisory body to the government, which coordinates and allocates the development funds to the concerned ministries and government agencies, and approves the National Priority Development Plans to implement in the fiscal year. In other words, the National Planning Commission allocates development budgets, issues guidelines to the ministries to formulate the annual plans, coordinates among different ministries, and prepares the national annual plans. Nepal thus applies a bottom-up planning approach.
Complementing this local planning structure are the government line agencies for the planning and implementation of the rural development plans at the district level. At the district level there are government offices of the different ministries to deliver different services for rural development. The district development committee is the sole agency of local governance regarding rural development activities. The district-level offices of the Agriculture Development Bank are responsible for agricultural credit to the local farmers. The Agriculture Inputs Corporation takes care of managing and delivering production inputs. The veterinary hospital is responsible for livestock development and irrigation offices manage the irrigation facilities. All these units within a district form a committee to deliver agricultural inputs for rural development.
The participants of the planning are the people's representatives elected by the villagers. For example, one VDC has nine wards or blocks. The inhabitants of each ward elect five representatives, out of whom one is a ward chairperson (who represents the respective VDC) and the remaining four, including a female member, are ward members. Whereas the ward chairperson functions as a bridge between VDC and the local ward people, the members have the responsibility to assist their chairperson in executing the local plans and programmes. Besides, they are all members of the VDC council.
The funds allocated for local development by the Ministry of Finance as development grants to the local governments (VDCs, DDCs and municipalities) are channelled to them through the Ministry of Local Development. On the other hand, the line agencies of the national government established in the districts have their own development undertakings to deliver rural development services. Local resource mobilization also contributes to the funds for rural planning. VDCs, DDCs and municipalities can raise funds by levying local taxes.
Most of the local governments have prepared their local profiles. Much of the information related to development works is incorporated in these local profiles, through which one can identify the local needs to be fulfilled on a priority basis. Local profiles are prepared by the concerned units and are featured in the introductory booklets on VDCs and DDCs put out by the Central Bureau of Statistics and in “Mechi to Mahakali” (East to West boundaries of Nepal) published by the Department of Information.
Different governmental organizations, nongovernmental organizations and, in some cases, international nongovernmental organizations collect the data and prepare local profiles. With an in-depth study of the concerned village profiles, the VDC planning unit can identify and prioritize their development needs. In this way the locally available information is used in the formulation of the local plans.
The socioeconomic status of the Nepalese women is still far behind the times. The active participation as well as contribution by women in nation building will be lessened unless socio-cultural norms and values support their involvement. Lessons learned from irrigation and rural drinking-water supply projects show that gender analysis is a useful planning tool as it helps to identify gender-based differences in access to resources and how different members of households are affected by a project.
The existing development models have acknowledged the indispensability of women's increased participation in the all-round national development process and in making them equally enjoy the outcome of development. Although various measures were taken up for the development of women in the past, inequality between men and women still exists in various areas. In order to create an egalitarian democratic society, the government has defined strategies in the current Ninth Five-Year Plan to bring women into the mainstream of the national development.
These are the policies and programmes envisioned by the national government to ensure women's active involvement in the mainstream of national development. The District Women Development Branch Office under the Ministry of Women. Children and Social Welfare is responsible for implementing gender-mainstreaming actions at the district level in Nepal. This is the only government office established at the district level to support different women-related development activities in their respective districts. The plans and programmes implemented by Women Development Branch offices are fully funded by the government budget. Another way to support women in development works is through the local governments, VDCs, DDCs and municipalities, by means of local development grants and the mobilization of resources by the local government.
Owing much to illiteracy, poor health, poverty, orthodox traditions and the discriminatory legal system. Nepalese women are still found suppressed, exploited, neglected and forced to live insecure lives. Taking these bitter facts into consideration, the role of women in development has been integrated since the Sixth Five-Year Plan (periodical) as a national policy. Several sectoral women's development programmes were implemented and institutional development efforts carried out. However, the progress in gender equality is not satisfactory.
In Nepal, the government formulated the Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment National Work Plan 1997, considering the Beijing Declaration of 1995. According to this national work plan, serious attention has to be paid to women and poverty, education, health, violence, armed insurgency, economy, policymaking bodies, institutional structure, human rights, environment and children. A number of programmes have been selected for implementation in the current Ninth Five-Year Plan. If these programmes can be implemented satisfactorily, they surely will be instrumental in uplifting the social and economic status of rural women.
Rural women's participation in the local planning process is minimal. In order to increase women's participation in politics, the Nepalese Constitution has made it mandatory for all political parties to field at least five percent women candidates in elections, from the ward level to Parliament. Consequently, the number of women ward members today comes to about 36 000. Still, the main obstacle to their greater participation in all sectors of society is the high rate of illiteracy among them. Rural women are the ones who are most adversely affected in male-dominated society. Besides illiteracy, poor health conditions, rural poverty and discriminatory legal systems virtually cripple them. Awareness-raising programmes and easy access to educational facilities, especially for the rural poor women, can bring forth a qualitative change in that direction.
Preparation of plans at the local level is done by VDC, which is chosen by the villagers. Autonomy is ensured at every level without interference from officials.
It is often true that national planning institutions have a national policy, but the problem is one of implementation.
Mr Abdul Ghani Sameen
Ministry of Environment, Local Government and Rural Development
Pakistan has a federal form of government in which the president is the constitutional head and chief executive as head of the government. The functional jurisdiction and division of subjects are constitutionally demarcated among the federation and the provinces. At the federal level, the ministries and divisions with multifarious duties have sundry departments which are responsible for the administrative policies and programmes of their respective sections. The number of ministries and divisions is not fixed and may increase or decrease at the will of the chief executive. To ensure people's participation at all levels, the Constitution provides for national and provincial legislative assemblies and senates. Pakistan has a predominantly agrarian economy. This sector is the trendsetter of the country's economy.
Plan formulation and policy guidance are a political function and the result of interaction between the planners, politicians and experts. The National Economic Council (NEC) is the supreme body to decide on the shape and size of the plan, targets, inter-sectoral priorities and resource mobilization. The chief executive chairs the council while the federal minister, provincial governors, provincial finance ministers, provincial chief secretaries and federal divisions concerned are the members. There is also an executive committee of the council, ECNEC, which is headed by the finance minister. The cabinet division provides the secretariat services to NEC and ECNEC. The planning machinery in Pakistan consists of the planning commission and planning and development at the federal level, and planning and development departments and boards at the provincial level. Sectoral ministries and departments running large development programmes have their own planning cells for designing their plans and project proposals.
The sanctioning authority consists of ECNEC and the Central Development Working Party, which are at the federal level, and the Provincial Development Working Party at the provincial level. These ensure that the general policy, objectives and pattern of development laid down in the planning document are followed properly. The need to decentralize programme and project planning is particularly stressed so that felt needs, aspirations and thinking of the communities concerned originate at appropriate levels and move up.
The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development was formed in 1976 at the federal level, headed by a minister with a secretary as the executive head. The ministry is responsible for framing policy on local government and rural development, issuing guidelines, arranging training for NBD personnel and elected councillors, carrying out research and coordinating with international agencies and governments in the field of local government and rural development. There are local government and rural development departments at the provincial level working under the provincial minister and provincial secretary. These departments also have their offices at district level for local-level development planning for the urban as well as rural populace.
The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and the Local Government Department are not responsible for delivery of agricultural inputs. There is a Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock at the federal level and agriculture departments at the provincial level for delivery of services. The ministry is responsible for policy guidelines, research, grant in aid and fixation of prices for agricultural inputs and crops. Provincial departments, having their access even below the tehsil level, provide consultancy services, improved seeds, agriculture machinery, social conservation services, pesticide and other agricultural extension services.
A new local government system has been introduced with devolution of powers to the district. The intermediary tier between province and district, i.e. the division, has been abolished. The district is the hub of basic governance, planning and development. The new system is comprised of three tiers, the union councils, tehsil councils and district assemblies. Each union council has 26 directly elected members out of which 13 members are women. The chairperson of the union council is elected directly and represents the union council in the district assembly. The tehsil council consists of 34 members elected by the members of union councils, out of whom five are women. The district assemblies are comprised of 66 members: 50 general seats, 10 seats for women, 3 seats for workers and farmers and 3 seats for minorities. The women, workers and farmers and minority members are elected indirectly by the members of the union councils. The 50 members are elected directly, one from each union council; they each discharge the twin responsibilities of chair of the union council and membership of the district assembly. The district assembly has the right to tax and to get its share of finances from provinces.
Every district elects its chief mayor and deputy chief mayor through direct vote. The chief mayor is responsible for district administration and for choosing a district coordination officer and SP from the panel of officers, subject to verification by the district assembly. The heads of NBDs also are posted according to the choice of the chief mayor.
All the planning, processing and implementation of the district-level schemes and projects are undertaken under the supervision of the chief mayor through NBDs.
In consonance with the bottom-up methodology and participatory development, the formal planning system begins at the union council ward level for both urban and rural areas. Municipal and development needs are communicated to the tehsil and district levels respectively. The tehsil and district administration and planning departments prioritize development initiatives based on locally identified priorities commensurate with financial capacity. The development inventory is part of the tehsil and district budgets and the respective councils and assemblies are responsible for passing these budgets. In addition to this, the union councils, with expanded and strengthened capacity for revenue generation and implementation, are empowered to initiate development schemes. The schemes targeted for development by the union councils are communicated to the tehsil and district levels to complete the integrated planning picture of the district.
There are numerous federal, provincial and local agencies engaged in data collection. The main source of information is the Statistics Division, which provides up-to-date information on population, labour, agriculture, manufacturing, prices, foreign trade, finance and economic development, health and education. In spite of the institutional arrangements noted above, the database on the rural sector is very poor. Talking particularly of the rural development programme, the monitoring and evaluation arrangements have been lacking, and specific data is hardly collected on a regular basis. One often finds different and sometimes conflicting figures in reports and studies of the various organizations, and no system crosschecks and controls errors.
The Ministry of Women's Development, as the national focal point for women, requires a network of offices not only at the federal level but also in the provinces as well as other agencies so as to facilitate the task of women's development. Through prolonged and persistent follow-up the provincial governments created the women's development departments. In the federal government, 19 ministries have established focal points by designating a senior-level officer to coordinate with the Ministry of Women's Development on women's issues and review various activities of that ministry in line with the national policy on women. The Ministry for Women's Development started a systematic gender sensitization training programme for officers of various ministries in the federal government and provincial departments to improve the existing process of identifying, planning, implementing and evaluating the performance of women's programmes and projects.
Although Islam and the Constitution of Pakistan accord equal rights to women, they lag behind men due to a long history of social, cultural and economic biases. They suffer from malnutrition, poor health conditions, low life expectancy, low education, high birth rate and non-recognition of their direct and indirect earnings, work and contribution within the family (with very few exceptions). The issues relating to women's development are very complex and cannot be solved easily.
During the Eighth Five-Year plan, the thrust of women-related policy and programmes remained on four areas: i) improving educational status, ii) expanding health facilities, iii) providing more opportunities and openings for income generation and iv) removing discrimination in education and employment and other gender-related problems and issues.
The number of women's seats in local bodies has almost doubled. A bill for the restoration of women's seats in Parliament has been moved. The establishment of an ombudsperson for women is being proposed.
The Ministry of Women's Development has instructed all provincial governments and departments, federal ministries and divisions, semi-government organizations, autonomous bodies and attached departments to implement the cabinet decision regarding women employment in their organizations. According to the latest census of federal employees, women have a 5.5 percent share in federal government services.
A national plan of action for women was launched in 1998. It aims to establish coordination units, monitoring and evaluation units, resource centres and gender management units at federal, provincial and district levels.
In the states of Pakistan, data collection and field-level activity are carried out by NGOs. Currently, a structured mechanism for data collection and management does not exist.
In the past, some women were in very high ranks and undertook leadership functions. The current 5.5 percent quota for inclusion of women is the minimal criterion that organizations have to employ. A problem in setting quotas is that women have a low education level, thus it is difficult to find qualified women. At the village level, the quota is necessary as an indicator of integration. There is a need for capacity building.
The FAO role in people's participation should be to look into female farmers' situation from the perspective of improvement and not merely to focus on the number of female government officials.
Donor organizations are very active in capacity building through support to vocational training centres. Donor involvement is mostly through NGOs.
Most women's problems will be solved through better and higher education. Special programmes with focus on education for women are needed. In Pakistan there is a special department that works on education and educational kits, and provides adult education for men and women.
Mr Chavalvut Chainuvati
Deputy Director General
Department of Agricultural Extension
Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives
Thailand's agricultural sector plays an important role in fulfilling food security and in earning national income. In this sector, women provide much labour. Therefore it is essential that both men and women be given opportunities to sustain agricultural production. Thailand has yet to demonstrate satisfactory achievement in rural development with gender equity. Most often, rural development activities emphasize male groups rather than female participation, but at the household level all family members contribute to production. These days, rural women themselves seek opportunities rather than just doing household work. Thai rural women make decisions and contribute to agricultural production. They face difficulties in doing their tasks. Rural women have very little opportunity for participation in decision making and project planning for resource utilization and management at sub-district level. Women account for only eight percent of the committee members of the sub-district administration.
Various institutional and resource problems have impeded progress in rural development. Hence it is necessary to find solutions that call for a new development modality promoting a learning process with local communities and development action centring on the tambon (sub-district) level. The government has launched the Tambon Agricultural Technology Transfer Centre as a local planning modality to be replicated countrywide. There are tambon centres in all 76 provinces at present and the aim is to extend them to every district - altogether 800 centres throughout the country - and to further replicate them in 6 000 tambons by the year 2003. Such a project to increase the capacities of local communities for agricultural development emphasizing community people's participation will benefit farmers and enhance government efficiency. Agricultural development becomes systematic and increasingly efficient through implementation by government officials, farmer leaders, professionals and all concerned agencies.
The sixteenth constitution, promulgated in 1997, strongly intends to assure gender equality and to solve problems of the labour force. The following norms are clearly stated in Section 30: Equality - men and women have equal rights; unjust discrimination against a person on the basis of sex is not permitted; measures determined by the state to eliminate obstacles to or to promote a person's ability to exercise his or her rights and liberty as other persons do shall not be deemed as unjust discrimination. It is further stated in Section 80 that the state shall promote equality between women and men and create, reinforce and develop family integrity. In the eighth national development plan, human resource development has been emphasized with special attention on woman and children. Labour problems are to be solved and women's participation in the decision-making process is to be encouraged for parity income distribution, poverty alleviation, natural-resource and environment conservation including development of the quality of life among women and families to meet the basic minimum-need criteria. The National Commission on Women's Affairs has been assigned to set up the policy and long-term plan on women's development. The objectives of this plan are to develop the potential of women physically, intellectually, skill-wise and spiritually; women are to be given opportunities to receive social and economic services that will lead to their holistic development. All discrimination will be eliminated in order to create equality particularly for the less developed groups of women. Women also will be protected in all aspects and will be encouraged to participate in the development process for the peace and wellbeing of the family, community, nation and international community as well as for a good quality of life.
Increasingly it is realized that farming women should become partners in agricultural development planning and implementation. Hence, the Department of Agriculture Extension (DOAE) has undertaken activities such as basic training for agricultural extension workers and home economists, forming farming women's groups as a means to receive agricultural technology and home economics information, and organizing local community centres to improve women's access to information, training, credit and technology. Since 1976 DOAE has realized the importance of farming women's roles. Seven hundred home economists were recruited to work at the district level in order to improve the life quality of farming families. These home economists directly help farming women and rural youth. The objectives of farming women's groups function with multipurpose objectives, such as to improve knowledge and skills, disseminate information, increase income generation potential, and ensure development and leadership.
In keeping with the rapidly changing needs of the local communities, the government has decentralized in order to respond quickly and to allocate resources directly to the local community.
It is government policy to support bottom-up planning.
Women own land. In some areas of the country, the customary system is to provide land only to women.
Regarding vocational training, relatively few women are trained in non-traditional skills.
Mr W.H. Munasinghe
Human Settlements Division
Department of National Planning
Ministry of Finance and Planning
In 1987 the Sri Lankan government enacted the 13th amendment to the Constitution under which many administrative and development responsibilities were devolved to the provincial councils. With this amendment, provincial development planning and implementation became devolved subjects. Local and divisional level development now involves the devolution of powers and functions to the provincial and district levels, the decentralization of administrative machinery and the creation of an institutional framework for the realization of both economic and social development objectives.
During the past twenty years, the government has implemented about 21 integrated rural development programmes covering 16 of the country's 25 districts as part of its strategy to decentralize development. Further decentralization resulted from the Act No. 58 of 1982, under which the government transferred activities and services from district secretariats to divisional secretariats within the province. Administrative arrangements have been made to assign district secretariats the responsibility for the supervision and coordination of the work of divisional secretariats. This shift from a centralized and sectoral system of planning and development management to a decentralized system has increased the importance of generating comprehensive multi-sectoral, spatially based development programmes at the local level.
On the basis of resource allocation and delivery of goods and services, there are two state bodies that operate at the lowest local level. They are the divisional secretariat (lowest-level decentralization of national government machinery) and the pradeshiya sabha (lowest-level local government body).
Of these two the divisional secretariat is a body of state officials, whereas the pradeshiya sabha is a body of elected local government representatives as well as state officials. As the geographical boundaries of the responsibilities of these two formal organizations are generally coterminous and they form a cohesive unit, one for administration and the other for service delivery, they can be considered an efficient spatial unit for planning strategy for development. This spatial unit can be used to mobilize local resources, ensure popular participation in planning and implementation and to forge a stronger link between the government, the community and other organizations such as NGOs.
At the local level, the divisional secretariat functions as the administrative arm of both the national government and the provincial administration. The delivery of services and the regulatory activities formally administered at the district level have been transferred to the divisional level. The objective of this is to ensure that delivery of services to the people is undertaken at the level closest to their place of residence. The divisional secretariat will coordinate the activities of all line ministries at the local level including those activities which do not fall directly under it but are of a local nature. It is a multi-functional secretariat, which deals with both devolved, and reserved and concurrent functions under the 13th amendment to the Constitution. As regards local development planning, the coordination of various grassroots-level programmes and projects and development activities from village-based institutions takes place at the divisional level.
At the local level, pradeshiya sabhas are local government units concerned with the delivery of traditional local government services in the area of their authority which is coterminous with the area of authority of a divisional secretariat. At this level of local government, the pradeshiya sabha is responsible for the regulation, control and administration of all matters relating to public health and other public amenities and with the protection and promotion of the comfort and welfare of the people within the area.
Development plans prepared at the local level will be integrated with planning at provincial and national levels. They will also conform to national development policies and priorities led down in the public investment programme. The local planning process involves the preparation of the annual budget by the divisional secretariat. The divisional secretariat calls for development proposals relating to devolved functions from provincial organizations operating at the divisional level, prioritizes them and sends them to the provincial council for possible funding. The line ministries also receive development proposals from the local level, formulated and prioritized on a sectoral basis, and relating to reserved and concurrent functions. On the basis of national development requirements, the ministries prioritize these again, and funds are allocated to the relevant provincial councils under the Province-Specific Development Grant for those proposals that have been accepted. National bodies coordinated by the divisional secretariat implement the proposals.
The existing machinery for the exercise of the functions of the divisional secretariat is through the district coordinating committee. There is a subcommittee called the divisional coordinating committee. The district coordinating committee is seen as providing a forum through which development expenditures for grassroots-level programmes such as the village advancement programmes of the integrated rural development programmes, the programmes of the pradeshiya sabhas and expenditure from the decentralized capital budget could be coordinated. The decentralized capital budget is a grant for each parliamentary division, given for investment purposes following certain procedures laid down by the Ministry of Plan Implementation. The main planning tasks at the divisional level are to integrate and reconcile the various social mobilization and village advancement programmes implemented by the integrated rural development programmes, the samurdhi programmes, NGO programmes with other programmes such as the decentralized capital budgets of MPs and provincial councillors.
The Urban Development Authority (UDA) has prepared guidelines which are designed to integrate physical planning with economic planning in order to improve the level of planning at the divisional and local authority levels, particularly at the pradeshiya sabha level. With these guidelines each local authority and its corresponding divisional secretariat will be able to tailor their planning to their own resources and increase the complexity of planning as capacity increases.
The Regional Development Division of the Ministry of Plan Implementation has the mandate to prepare division-level resource profiles with the help of divisional secretariats. The ministry updates the resource profiles annually. The Department of Census and Statistics conducts household income and expenditure surveys every five years. Information on average household income and average household expenditure per month is available from the surveys. At the local level information is available on the geographical area of local authority, its population, registered votes, people representatives, number of grama niladhari divisions, annual income and other factors. At the local level, development plans consist of projects and programmes, and therefore statistical information is widely used in project formulation, appraisal, implementation and evaluation.
The recent creation of the Ministry of Women's Affairs is a significant pointer to the importance that the government places on the development of women in the country. The ministry has the mission to advance women through initiating, formulating and monitoring policies and programmes to facilitate mainstreaming of gender equality, ensuring human and fundamental rights with the coordination of public- and private-sector agencies, NGOs and international agencies. The new ministry has appropriate policy objectives and will implement the national plan of action which conforms to the policy guidelines adopted by the government through the Women's Charter. These guidelines are in tune with international standards and programmes embodied in the Beijing Plan of Action adopted by the World Conference on Women in 1996.
In Sri Lanka, difference in sex is recognized as biological and therefore, the enjoyment of equal rights and opportunities to a large extent is guaranteed by society. But this normal practice is different in the rural environment when compared with the urban. There are more opportunities for urban women to participate in community activities than for rural women. Traditionally, women have played a major role in both agricultural and domestic activities. Many of the religions practised in Sri Lanka, particularly Buddhism, have accorded women co-responsibility with men in the family unit and equal status with men in society. Over time, however, the position of women has deteriorated.
There has been a remarkable increase in labour force participation by women during the last two decades mainly due to equal opportunities in education. However, in the census data women's contribution to agriculture is considered to be unpaid family work. These women in the informal sector still lack access to land, credit, technology and skills (Six-Year Development Plan, 1999–2004).
The government, in recognizing the potential for the marginalization of women in Sri Lankan society, has maintained a policy for them of equal opportunity and status with men. Further, the role of women in organizing and implementing small-scale development activities has been recognized. Women individually and collectively often represent an important force for family and community stability and growth, and hence can be expected to assume a significant role in community and micro-scale enterprise development.
It is evident that women in Sri Lanka are important in the development of the local economy and are responsible for the welfare of the community and families. A number of organizations have been set up at the local level such as women's rural development societies, mahila samithi, women's chambers of commerce and others.
Women are entering former male preserves; however, the majority of women are concentrated at the lower levels of the employment structure and are particularly vulnerable to exploitation.
Education and higher literacy rate did help the women. Now they suffer less. Currently, Sri Lankan women's political participation is higher and their economic situation has improved. Still Sri Lanka needs to pay attention to the plantation sector and minority women.
Professional women are widely accepted. Every ministry has a focal point for women.
Women are also involved at the local level and use radio programmes and the local newspaper well.
Ms Pham Thi Tuoc
Deputy Director of Planning Department
Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development
Prior to 1988, Viet Nam's economy was driven by a central planning mechanism. All social and economic activities were regulated by central planning organizations. Since 1988, Viet Nam has shifted to a market-oriented economy operating under the state administration. Planning plays a role to guide the social and economic activities.
The organizational structure of planning agencies is as follows:
National level: the Ministry of Planning and Investment coordinates all economic and social resources and development;
Sectoral ministries: departments of Planning and Investment;
Province level: departments of planning and investment of the provinces;
District level: divisions of planning and investment of the districts; and
Commune level: the basic level of the planning system.
In local communities, banks and business organizations have an increased presence in Viet Nam. The planning process is hierarchical, though there is a provision for local inputs to be presented to the central people's committee. The national plan must be submitted to the National Assembly for approval. Budget allocation is made to decentralized administration in the provinces, districts and communes. The government coordinates the budget among provinces. The national statistic agency provides data for planning. The data at the local level are available through pilot surveys, but they are not always sex segregated. It will be necessary to request the planning agency to use some indicators differentiated by men and women in the planning system to improve the quality of local information.
Following the Beijing Conference, the Government of Viet Nam promptly authorized the National Committee for the Advancement of Women in Viet Nam to formulate a national plan of action for the advancement of women in Viet Nam by the Year 2000. This plan has the overall objective to improve the material and spiritual life of women, and makes 11 specific recommendations on how to bring this about. The programme for the advancement of women could not be implemented separately but would be integrated with other socioeconomic development programmes. At all levels such as ministries, sectors or localities, a gender development programme has been inserted into different programmes and action plans. Therefore, there is no fund separately allocated to the programme for the advancement of women. In 1988, the Council of Ministers promulgated Decision No. 163/HDBT, dated 19 October 1988, defining the responsibility of all levels of local authority to ensure the participation of women unions in state administration. According to this decision, during the local planning process or decision making on social or economic issues relating to women and children, it must be discussed with the women's union at the same hierarchic level. Women participate in local planning through their representatives in the women's union.
The main obstacles for rural women's participation in local planning processes are:
Rural women must work hard in agricultural activities and household work while community meetings and social activities are often reserved to men.
The higher consideration for men is still popular in rural areas.
Qualification and knowledge of rural women are still limited.
In the Constitution, women and men are equal. There is an improvement due to government efforts but still women in rural areas have the disadvantages of high poverty.
To promote women, social and development programmes should be given priority. Due to the high prevalence of poor people, overcoming difficulties cannot be solved quickly. There is a need to improve gender sensitivity in the planning process. Though sex-disaggregated data are available, they often cannot be used as indicators. Integration of gender sensitivity in the planning process is also difficult.
Two secretariat papers were presented by the officers of the RAPS technical group at the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific by the Regional Rural Sociologist and Women in Development Officer and by the Regional Rural Development Officer, respectively.
Regional Rural Sociologist and Women in Development Officer
National development programmes aim to create relevant changes for the people. In these days of globalization and communication revolution in every developing country change is inevitable and organizations have to adapt to manage change. Hence, transformation of development organizations is a prerequisite to achieve people-centred results. Transforming development organizations should strive to focus on issues of equality and human rights, with specific emphasis on gender equality and women's rights. Hence, development planning processes should also become gender sensitive. An historical review of the development planning paradigm indicates that the commitment to gender integration, including women's specific resource and service needs, has evolved over time. In the Asian context of devolution of power, planning responsibility has moved to local government. Such a shift from centralized planning to local planning with involvement of the local community presents a unique opportunity to include the hitherto marginalized clients in the planning process, women among them. But the social prejudices and cultural biases at work in the local communities may also impede women's participation as key stakeholders. Rural women may not always articulate adequately in many societies. Most often, due to various reasons of cultural conditions and resource and social constraints that are gender specific, women are not effectively integrated in the local planning process. The gender-sensitive local planning approach demands transformation of planning institutions. If the statements on gender equality and advancement of women are to become implemented actions for achieving relevant results, then the organizational culture among planning institutions has to change. The most common planning tradition that places importance only on biophysical realities and valuing the knowledge in certain biophysical subject areas has to be reviewed.
People-centred stakeholder-responsive planning would require multidisciplinary contributions and would demand the inclusion of social sciences. The inter-sectoral competition for resources has to be replaced with inter-sectoral resource-sharing cooperation for local development. Planning is a creative process. It is a process that focuses on the future. It is a forward-looking process. Hence the challenge lies in finding creative means to change the organizational culture and traditional biases to make the planning process stakeholder responsive, gender equal and women inclusive.
Historically, training women through agricultural extension programmes has not been impressive and FAO agrees that training programmes for rural women must be strengthened.
Projects benefit not only women but the whole household; thus, it is important that planned interventions should include women in the planning process.
For good planning the effective use of information is important. The data should be sex disaggregated.
Targeting women is related to assisting them in the many roles women have in their households.
Rural Development Officer
FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
In order to improve social equity and food security at the community level, it is essential to improve the participation of rural poor women in local planning and development programmes aimed at sustainable agricultural and natural resources management.
Development concepts, policy approaches, planning methodologies and tools will have real impact on living conditions and activities of the rural poor when they are in harmony with local values and truly functional in terms of:
ensuring the mobilization of the rural poor;
creating real transformation of local poverty conditions by providing wider opportunities for the participation of the rural poor, as equal and dignified citizens in society; and
promoting a more equitable distribution of economic development resources and opportunities at the community level.
Local development planning should be comprehensive in order to cover the very wide differences in local conditions and in the nature and intensity of the needs of rural poor women, as small and landless farmers, rural disabled, youths or aged and as members of an ethnic minority, among other factors. Achievement of gender-responsive local planning and equity in local development will ultimately depend upon the degree of empowerment of poor rural women, in particular as small farmers and landless rural workers.
Empowerment of women at community level will be demonstrated:
by improved access to information, formal and informal education and training, and mobilization;
by improved levels of awareness, commitment and self-help capacity in building savings and assets, in entrepreneurial and leadership roles at the individual, household, group and organization levels.
The increased emphasis given by the main development agencies to good governance, participatory decentralized planning and related institutional restructuring provides a useful basis for the promotion of participatory local planning, bringing prosperity and equity among poor women, as small and landless farmers, within their rural communities.
Gender-responsive participatory local development planning procedures for decision making and project planning and implementation methods and tools should provide for adequate flexibility, in terms of goal setting, time dimensions (short, mid and long term), availability of facilities for financial resources, transparency of criteria for financial entitlements and effective distribution mechanisms.
Government policies, legislation, resources allocation and institutional capacity-building programmes in support of gender-responsive local planning will have more impact and be more sustainable if they include coalition building and partnership with local rural people's organizations. Such partnership can be established on the basis of informal and institutional platforms that facilitate regular policy dialogue and project collaboration at local, district and national levels.
The rural development policy advice and technical assistance of FAO in the field of promotion of participation and institutional capacity include concepts, methodologies and tools and field-level experience in the Asian and Pacific region, which are relevant to the promotion of gender-responsive local planning development.
An issue was raised in relation to promoting local programmes to be in harmony with local values, particularly as related to women's participation where local values may undermine women's social position and articulation.