Social mobilization enhances participation of rural poor in local governance
Social mobilization is the cornerstone of participatory approaches in rural development and poverty alleviation programmes. It is a powerful instrument in decentralization policies and programmes aimed at strengthening human and institutional resources development at local level. Social mobilization strengthens participation of rural poor in local decision-making, improves their access to social and production services and efficiency in the use of locally available financial resources, and enhances opportunities for asset-building by the poorest of the poor.
Role of Gram Sabha and public information in social mobilization
The Constitutions 73rd Amendment has made the village council, the Gram Sabha, into a very powerful tool of social mobilization. Many types of neighbourhood groups, health and literacy programmes, Mahila Mandals (village womens groups) and the mass media - newspapers, radio and TV - also play a vital role in social mobilization at the community level. Social mobilization of rural poor at community level will be successful if directly linked with issues affecting their livelihoods. For successful social mobilization of the rural poor, there is a need for improved access to public information on local development issues directly linked with their livelihood interests. An effective way of doing this is by facilitating free access to public information on local development programmes and activities, which has been a critical factor in the success of Panchayati Raj in the States of Kerala and Andhra Pradesh.
Examples of successful social mobilization
Total sanitation programme in Avanur Gram Panchayat, Kerala, India
This example of successful mobilization of the entire community by a gram panchayat to meet a basic need has been widely recognized. It has brought national honour and a cash prize of Rs 1.2 million to the panchayat. In 1996, a survey held by the Avanur Gram Panchayat in Kerala State found that over 2 000 of Avanurs 5 000 households were too poor to afford basic sanitation facilities. The Gram Panchayat President convened a series of awareness-building meetings for all families below the poverty line.
As an outcome of these meetings it was agreed that the Gram Panchayat would provide all these families building material for a sanitation unit, with the condition that each beneficiary family would complete 20 percent of the work on its own. The meetings focused on awareness-building of women as main beneficiaries. Much to the surprise of all, the campaign was successfully completed within three months. The Gram Panchayat spent only 20 percent of allocated resources because 80 percent of the work was done by the beneficiary families themselves. In this way, a total of about Rs 12 million in assets could be mobilized for the poorest families.
Total housing scheme in Avanur Gram Panchyat, Kerala State, India
The Avanur Gram Panchayat used the cash award of Rs 1.2 million to start a Total Housing Scheme for families below the poverty line. This led to 500 houses being built during 1997-2000. The Gram Panchayat gave each family an amount of Rs 20 000 in three stages, as a grant. The beneficiary families contributed their own labour and material worth Rs 30 000 for each unit. The scheme created assets worth more than Rs 25 million.
The Gram Panchayat has also successfully implemented a drinking water scheme and neighbourhood units in Avanur, and was declared the Best Panchayat in Kerala for its innovative work.
The Janmabhoomi programme in Andhra Pradesh: a learning model for capacity-building for participatory local development planning
Janmabhoomi was inspired by South Koreas Saemaul Undong programme and launched in January 1997 as a mass mobilization effort to involve people in rural development planning and decision making through PRIs in Andhra Pradesh.
It aims to take the administration closer to the people, make it more responsive to their felt needs and to promote transparency and accountability in public affairs. It is also directed against the caste system. It has specific programmes for disadvantaged groups like women, the Scheduled Castes and Tribes and people with disabilities to integrate them into the mainstream of development.
Janmabhoomi has activated the Gram Sabha, which is convened every three months and presided over by the Sarpanch, the Mandal president, the ward member and government officials.
Box 4.1 Rural development activities under Janmabhoomi
Impact of the Janmabhoomi decentralization experiment in local development planning
The programme has so far completed 13 rounds of participatory decision-making in local development. The most important impact has been to generate public awareness, galvanize the administrative machinery and open up access of rural poor to local governance. Janmabhoomi has also developed a strong community spirit among the people and improved transparency in administration.
Participation of rural poor in social mobilization programs as part of decentralization in Nepal
In Nepal, a citizens charter has been prepared and district development councils (DDCs) organized under the Local Self Government Act (LSGA) with subject-wise sections (for e.g. on agriculture & livestock), each equipped with computers and accessories. Job descriptions of the section have been prepared and staff trained in different areas to become more professional. Institutional reviews to identify DDC capacity gaps have been initiated and an internal communication system established.
Local development fund (LDF) bylaws have been approved and the LDF made operational from July 2002. The LDF has developed pro-poor policies with at least 50 percent credit capital earmarked for the poorest of the poor. The repayment period and credit activities are defined according to the local poverty profile and first priority for seed grant utilization is given to the poorest of the poor.
District development plans are published annually and all village development committees have prepared and published five-year plans. There are regular meetings, interaction and coordination and initiation of different development activities with line agencies, I/NGOs and private sector. Development activities, income and expenditure are published regularly in district bulletins. Internal revenue increased from NRs3 328 882 in 1997 to NRs12 281 500 in 2001. External resources are mobilized from various international donor agencies.
Decentralization programmes in Nepal emphasize social mobilization as an instrument for the more efficient allocation of local resources. As an example, community organizations in the countrys Kavre district identified the poorest of the poor on the basis of consensus, which facilitated their participation in village development programmes.
For example, the local womens group built a community centre without outside help. They organized weekly meetings for members of their group, who contributed only five rupees each, every week. Yet, this enabled the womens group to mobilize NRs 48 000 and invest NRs 85 000. This example was followed by village men, who established 34 mens groups, which met every Saturday, with each member contributing NRs 15. These local womens and mens groups were able to save and invest their capital for the construction of a bridge near the centre of the village at a total cost of NRs 140 000, which is a sizeable contribution from the local poor.
The core elements in the strategy for social mobilization and capital formation among the poorest in the Kavre District, are self-governance; institutional development of community organizations (COs); social capital development; skill and enterprise development; micro-finance activities; and infrastructure support. Local capacity has also been developed and strengthened by human resource development, strategic management, organization structure and culture financial and information management.
The guiding principles are sustainability, a participatory approach, gender equity, good governance, decentralization and human rights.
Contributed by K. P. Mukundan, President of Avanur Gram Panchayat, Kerala, India.