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3. Training module on enhancing women’s participation

Main objectives of the training module for women local council members

  1. To explain the 73rd Constitutional Amendment to newly elected women panchayat members.
  2. To make women local council representatives aware of laws protecting women’s rights.
  3. To make women council members aware of their roles and responsibilities in local development.
  4. To enhance participation of women members in development planning within panchayats.
  5. To develop women’s leadership and communication skills for enhancing social mobilization.
  6. To make them find ways and means to interface with other layers of local self-governance within the State and claim the panchayat’s entitlements.
  7. To familiarize them with rural/women/child development programmes to reduce poverty
  8. To empower them to identify and break cultural barriers and improve their social-economic condition.

The 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act strengthens women’s participation in local development planning

Capacity-building of women in participatory local development planning

Systematic awareness-building and training is needed for enhancing rural women’s capacity to take up their new responsibilities as local legislators and decision-makers under Panchayati Raj.

The local government bureaucracy is also in urgent need of sensitization to women’s problems and issues linked to gender bias in local development planning. The panel responsible for formulating the training agenda should include elected women representatives besides local development personnel.

The training of women panchayat members should be based on their own local experiences and elicit their involvement in preparing a framework that will enable them to analyse and understand their roles and responsibilities in accordance with the 73rd Constitutional Amendment.

Design of a training programme for women village council members and Sarpanch

Broad contents of the training module for women local council members



Communication skills

Stress management

Gender sensitization

Training needs assessment of women council members

A quick appraisal of the trainees before the start of the training will help the trainer in designing the training programme. This can be done by: i) obtaining a brief bio-data of the participants and ii) SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis. Since the training is for elected women members at all three PRI levels and for officials dealing with PRIs, it will not be difficult to obtain their personal particulars.

Who are the women trainers/trainees?

What are the requirements for women trainers?

Examples of capacity-building programmes for elected women council members

Karnataka: use of satellite broadcasting, computers and promotion of social safety nets for women

The experimental programme launched by the Government of Karnataka was the second of its kind in the country. It used one-way video and two-way audio satellite broadcasting technology developed by ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) to beam programmes to 17 districts of Karnataka. The Department of Women and Child Welfare beamed programmes for elected women gram panchaya representatives. It is possible to organize video-conferencing among women panchayat members in villages, taluks and districts, and with anybody anywhere in the country.

In the Bellandur village Gram Panchayat, 30 km from the Karnataka State capital Bangalore, women panchayat members can access administrative data for five villages with the click of a computer mouse such as size of family land holdings, taxes due from them and the number of beneficiaries under various housing and employment schemes. The status of applications for power and water connections can also be seen on the two computers at the Panchayat office.

Set up in 1977, the Women’s Welfare Society, Belgaum, has been working to assist women in distress and children from poor families. Over the years, it has expanded its work in Belgaum city and to nearby rural areas like Hidkal, Hunnur and Aralikatti.

Sangathi, a family counselling centre started by the Society in 1993 in Belgaum, has helped settle matrimonial disputes amicably in some 900 families. Women in distress can get immediate assistance from Santwana, a 24-hour help-line. The Society has also established a short stay home at Hidkal in Hukkeri taluk for women and girls in distress, which offers food and accommodation free of cost. It also provides vocational training, like tailoring. Two printing press units in Belgaum and another in Hidkal, teach women composing, printing and book binding, to start their own ventures. The Society runs seven creches for children of working women.

Its Urban Family Welfare Centre at Vadagaon in Belgaum, provides health check-up and family planning services to the people. The Society is also providing education to slum children and has organized campaigns on AIDS awareness.

Project expenses are met from public donations and assistance from organizations like the Central Social Welfare Board, the Department of Women and Child Development, the Directorate of Health and Family Welfare Services, the Karnataka State Women Development Corporation and Nehru Yuva Kendra. The society has about 700 staff. Its efforts won the Society the 1996 State Award and the Rani Kittur Chennamma Award in 1999.

Kerala: exchange programme for women council members

The Centre for Rural Management in Kerala State and the Institute of Social Sciences, Southern Regional Centre, Bangalore, organized an exchange programme for women panchayat members in the two states. It enabled Panchayati Raj functionaries to understand and gain first-hand experience of panchayat functioning in states other than their own. Stressing the vital role of training and education in preparing effective and dynamic women panchayat leaders, the field visits also developed bonding with counterparts in other states, adding to their self-confidence. Unlike formal training programmes, exchange programmes are more responsive to specific local training needs.

Andhra Pradesh: women’s group enterprise development

Bindu Mahila Sangham of Srirangam village in Nizamabad mandal saved Rs.17 000, got a revolving fund of Rs. 25 000 and 80 000 from the National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development (NABARD). Anjaana Mahila Sangham and Sai Mahila Sangham make ready-made garments. Rudramma Mahila Sangham of Yedapally village makes leaf plates and earns at least Rs.10 000 in two months.

The groups use a marketing network set up with the help of the Mandal Development Officers. Similarly, Arvind Mahila Sangham was able to sell 200 000 rupees worth of soft toys at the annual industrial exhibition held in Hyderabad. Arvind Mahila Sangham of Dharmavarm village also successfully marketed their goods at the bazaar arranged by the state government.

The Baba Mahila Sangham of the Lambda’s is an interesting case. Located in Ausali Thanda, a hamlet of around 40 houses, two SHG groups made Bnjara garments and assorted ornaments made from German silver.

Nepal: women’s group enterprise development in Kushadevei village, Kavera District

The female community organization (FCO) in Kushadevei village, Kavera district of Nepal is a classic example for the study of social mobilization. The Kushadevei FCO initiated individual economic enterprises as well as collective, village enterprise development schemes. The self-rule adopted by the FCO is the backbone of their achievement.

At least eighty percent of the members actively participate in the meetings conducted regularly at settlement level. Each member regularly saves the amount decided by the CO. The manager takes decision on the basis of consensus on the agenda presented in the meetings.

The CO keeps account of the savings and investment, which are examined at every meeting. Members put forward suggestions on development initiatives and improving their settlement, which are subject to intense discussion during the meetings. The CO members have jointly undertaken some activities for the community through their own resources without any external support.

Examples of women panchayat leaders as effective local development managers

A large number of women grassroots leaders across India are disproving the perception in a section of the media that women panchayat representatives are merely proxies for their male relatives who do not take active interest in the affairs of their panchayats. The following examples demonstrate that women can run panchayats successfully:

1. Struggle against corruption

2. Efficient use of resources

3. Resolving disputes

4. Fighting alcoholism

Source: Bharat Dogra’s report on ‘Women justify reservation policy in Panchayats’ (Panchayati Raj Update: 2001)

Contributed by K. Subha, Institute of Social Sciences, Bangalore, India & M. Sarumathy, Assistant Professor, Centre for Panchayati Raj, National Institute of Rural Development (NIRD), Hyderabad, India.

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