Since 2013, community leadership in Delhi, Jaipur, Pune, Kolkata, Bhubaneshwar and Bangalore spearheaded community-centric social accountability program, Strengthening Social Accountability Process by Catalyzing Community Involvement across Six Cities.
The community and in particular women’s involvement is evident in these:
“Since 2014, the Women’s Forum had addressed more than 15 cases of domestic violence and actively stopped 28 child marriages in different settlements in Jaipur.”– Anju Pandey, Jaipur
“Daksh Samuh(CBO) has won several awards and competitions in Pune, wecompelled the men to recognize us as representatives of the slum rehabilitation committee and this has enabled us to monitor and ensure the just implementation of slum rehabilitation schemes in our settlements.”– Neeta Tupare (CBO), from Pune
“We not only help in reaching out to those most in need but also provide timely and concerted support to all concerned stakeholders, thereby enabling them to do everything possible to deliver the schemes.” -Vimla, Founder of Mahila Pragati Manch (MPM).
Across cities, the efforts ranged from understanding exclusion to mapping gaps to enabling increased quality access to various government programs, schemes and entitlements. These programmes include basic services related to right to food, right to education, child care, and social security. Supported by the Ford Foundation, the program evolved processes and strengthened mechanisms for community responsive delivery and enhanced voice, agency and involvement of marginal communities.
The work ranged from legal and social protection, strengthening women’s leadership, addressing domestic violence and child marriage, and building purposeful relationships with various stakeholders to ensure better implementation of programmes.
It was not easy as the women had to address and overcome many structural and systemic barriers, some of it successfully, while others continue to be a challenge. They made diligent efforts to partner with all stakeholders, in particular all city authorities, to ensure timely delivery of services and enable the officials to become more responsive and respectful of community priorities. This also meant intensive efforts to build their own collective understanding and capacities about the many complex and multi-dimensional issues.
Having had such meaningful experiences in diverse geographies, it was now time to hear their story, revisit their journey and collectively work to take the process forward.
To this end, a Consultation was organized on April 25, 2018 bring together community representatives, officials, school principalsand teachers from Delhi, Jaipur, Kolkata, Bhubaneswar, Bangalore and PuneThe consultation was unique as it gave each of them an opportunity to revisit their experiences and reflect on what was done and what could have been done better and ended on a high note and determination to continue the struggle with the same level of conviction and passion.
E-Mitra platforms of e-governance to provide quick and convenient delivery of services to citizens was initiated by the Government of Rajasthan in 2004. Currently, over 492 Government to Citizens (G2C) and Business to Citizens (B2C) services are being provided through these platforms, across rural and urban areas in all 33 districts of the State and new services are being systematically added to its fold. E-Mitras finds its origin in the Sanskrit word, Mitra (fe«k) meaning ‘Friend’.
Objectives of E-Mitras
– To provide a wide range of services of various government and private organizations in a citizen-friendly manner under one roof, so that citizens are saved the inconvenience of having to make repeated visits to Government offices; despite which they do not get benefit of the schemes.
– Empower women by providing them business opportunities and generate employment opportunities for people up to the grassroots level.
How the community led E-Mitra function
Deepa Sankhla and Deepshikha Salotery, in Nagfani and Jadugar Nagar settlements of Ajmer very well illustrate how the E Miras which has been named by them as ‘Basti Sewa Kendras’ can function successfully. The two young women are from the local community and operate with the support of 12 community volunteers. Their initiative emerged from their involvement in the day to day activities of the Sahaya Single Window, supported by the Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR). The volunteers from the two settlements include Hemlata, Chanda, Sameena, Tanuja, Pinki, Rekha, Parvati, Dhaneshwari, Krishna, Lajwanti, Bhawana, Rekha and Anjulata.
This group of women had come together and formed a Community Based Organization (CBO) in November 2017. They named it “Akshara”. As part of their effort to sustain and take forward their CBO, they took on the responsibility of facilitating the management of the two Basti Sewa Kendras on a daily basis. Their responsibilities include identifying beneficiaries, filling forms, ensuring that they are completed properly and submitting them to the online E-Mitras portal. They also conduct awareness activities and hold knowledge camps on the welfare schemes, with support from the Sahaya Single Window team.
The group of women also maintains records and documents, including a walk-in register, cash book, application receipt registers and a copy of token/receipts. The operational issues and challenges that come up every day for community members are also noted in separate registers. The technical issues are resolved fortnightly by the team of technical experts from local service providers (LSPs) designated by the Department of Information, Technology and Communication, Ajmer.
Both the community representatives, Deepa Sankhla and Deepshikha Salotery, were trained by officials of the Department of Information, Technology and Communication, Ajmer and Digital Empowerment Foundation, Delhi. Through E-Mitras they are providing the services on daily basis of online submission of applications of pension, Labor card, new ration card, corrections in ration card, new Bhamashah cards and corrections and also filing online grievances of ration.
Sharing her experience, 31 years old, Meera Devi from Jadugar basti getting her Jannai Shishu Suraksha yojna(JSSY) benefit, ‘I easily got the course correction in my Bhamasah card as required for getting the benefit directly in my bank account with the support of team of Basti Sewa Kendra providing services at our door step’.
Maya Devi, 42 years old, from Gulab Badi basti, despite of being a single woman applied three times for pension but got rejected, as volunteers approached her, application was submitted through the Jadugar Basti Kendra, the sanction message she has got last week, she is so happy to share that.
As schools across the country prepare for the commencement of the new academic session, Prayash Single Window, with the support of Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiatives, (APPI) launched, “Namalekha Sachetana Abhiyan”, a three day campaign, which commenced on April 6, 2018, to improve elementary school enrolment across Odisha, of children aged 6-14, particularly girls and those who belong to socially excluded houses. Under this initiative, Prayash Single Window will re-enrol children who have dropped out into government schools and anganwadis and also try to identify the reasons that are causing large numbers of children to drop out at the grass root level.
Therefore, it was but appropriate that, the campaign aimed at motivating slum dwellers to enrol their children during ‘Pravesh Ustav’ was held in five settlements – Maa MangalaBasti ,Akhandalamani,Harijansahi ,Pichupadiya Basti and Akhaykendra basti – of ward no 46. A host of community leaders, school teachers and children of Unit-6 Capital Primary School participated in the launch. The Single Window has, in fact, been conducting these campaigns annually to sensitize slum dwellers to the importance of schooling for their children but this year the focus was on enrolling vulnerable children and creating awareness among parents on how importance education was for the overall development of their children.
The launch concluded with Mrs. Archana Mohanty , Head Mistress , Unit-6 Capital Primary School, motivating parents to fulfil their children’s dream of going to school and getting an education. The School Management Committee and other stakeholders, who were present, also offered to organize door to door visits and rallies in their communities, to help parents to understand the importance of education.
Following the launch, the Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR) conducted a Pravesh Ustav programme at Unit-6 Primary School in the presence of Mrs. Kalyani Maharana, Asst. Block Education Officer, Mr. Manoham Biswal Cluster Resource Coordinator, teachers, parents and community leaders. Mr. Sukant Kumar Sahoo , CC Prayash Single window explained that the objective of this programme was to encourage the enrolment of children in schools.
Mrs Pujafulla Pattnayak, State Project Manager CFAR, added that education was one of the fundamental rights of the children, so parents, teachers, the community and others stake holders were duty bound to enrol children in school and also address issues resulting in the exclusion of children from schooling.
By the close of the Pravesh Ustav programme, 30 children, many of whom were drop outs, were enrolled in school – 20 children in class 1 and 10 in class 2. They were welcomed to the school with the Odia ritual of putting a tikka on the forehead.
To develop a shared conviction on access to sanitation as a basic life affirming entitlement and right, an Orientation Training was conducted for Community Management Committee (CMCs) members on March 28, 2018, in Delhi. Twenty seven (27) participants from Vishwas Nagar, Shastri Mohalla, Khichdipur , Janta Jeewan Camp, Janta Jeewan Camp, Amar Jyoti Camp, Sanjay Colony, Mazdoor Kalyan Camp and Janta Jeewan Rajeev Camp attended the training.
During the training, Lead Managers from CMCs in new settlements were identified and the roles and responsibilities of CMC members were established through shared visioning and problem solving. The participants were also trained to engage with the government not just as providers but as duty-bearers.
When participants were asked to share their vision for their entire settlement they spoke of how:
“Household toilets exit wastes into drains resulting in the drains getting clogged”
“Clean and sufficient water should be available but the pressure is so low at times that many houses do not get water”
“The drains are constantly getting clogged but they cannot be de silted because slabs have been placed over them and even houses have been built over them. So there is overflowing and dirty water and vermin enters our homes. If this problem could be addressed our basti would become livable”
The final session meanwhile focused on encouraging the group to arrive at an understanding of why it is important to work towards a sustainable sanitation agenda and how the community has a significant role in furthering it. Interestingly, the response to who should drive the effort ranged from pessimism to the need to work with the government to better their living area….
Sarkar to sirf bana ke degi usko rakhrakhav to hamko karna hoga (Government will only give us a toilet but its management has to be done by us)
Ganda hum karenge to sarkar pani dalney thodi ayegi (If we litter the place the government will not come to pour water)
Sarkar basti mein thodi rehti who thodi zimmedari legi (The Government does not live in bastis, why would they take the responsibility?)
Sarkar hamare vote se banta hai, sarkar to hum hi hai isliye humko ek saath mikar kaam karna hai (Governments are formed when we vote, so we are also a part of the government and need to work together)
A Helpline, which will operate from the Sahaya Single Window in Ajmer, was launched by Dr. Abhishek Gupta, District Social Welfare Officer, for the effective implementation of schemes that are being implemented by the Government of Rajasthan’s Department of Social Justice and Empowerment, under Palanhar.
The launch which was held yesterday (March 28, 2018) during a media interface event was attended by five (5) representatives from the print and electronic media, 45 community representatives, social security scheme messengers, members of the CBO Akshara and representatives of 12 settlements.
The decision to launch the Single Window was taken following demands by community representatives that information and counseling on Palanhar schemes be provided on a daily basis. The Helpline will therefore be providing information regarding all schemes to both urban and rural people through its Helpline number.
During the launch, Dr. Abhishek urged community representatives to spread awareness of this Helpline and said that he would be meeting the Zila Pramukh to plan how awareness building could be done in rural areas in all blocks of Ajmer. He added that if
this model was successful the Department would share this initiative with Directorate at the state level so that it could be replicated in other districts.
Seven beneficiaries of Palanhar then spoke of how they had successfully accessed schemes through the Single Window.
Sanjay, a resident of Sansi basti who had lost both his eyes 25 years ago said, “I gave money to a broker and waited for three years to get the benefits of Palanhar. It was only after Vidhya, a community representative, submitted my application and did continuous follow ups that I started getting the benefits”.
Ashia Bibi, from Khanpura, related how, “After being widowed I had to support my family with the Rs.1500 I earned every month by stitching clothes, so there was no money for my children’s education. Then Shakila, a community representative, helped me to file the application form, which is enabling me to avail of the benefits of various schemes under Palanhar, including those that are enabling me to educate my three daughters.”
Others like Pinki, Nirmala, Krishna, Puja and Jamuna also shared their experiences of accessing Palanhar schemes; under which beneficiaries gets Rs.500 for 0-6 year old children and Rs.1000 for each child per month. In addition to this Rs. 2000 is given annually to each child for purchasing school bags, clothes and shoes.
To date 1126 beneficiaries have availed the benefit of Palanhar schemes through the Single Window.
On February 23, the Chairman of the Odisha Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board, Mr Subash Singh and the District Labor Officer Mr Ambika Mishra, distributed 521 labor cards to construction labor in Khurda, at an awareness camp organized by the CFAR team in Bhubaneswar with support from the Odisha Nirman Sramik Sangh. The workers had applied for the cards through the Prayas Single Window and within a month of the public hearing (held on January 31, 2018), the Labor Department had sanctioned the labor cards.
While distributing the cards, the Chairman congratulated CFAR on its effort to organize and create awareness among construction workers and also expressed his gratitude to CFAR for supporting the department in identifying actual beneficiaries who were engaged in building and other construction work. He added that this had helped in excluding other unorganized workers for whom there are separate provisions, under a board for unorganized workers. In this context he suggested that CFAR should work also for the inclusion of workers in urban settlements in the board for unorganized sector so that they could avail of various entitlements.
At the event, Mr. Ramkrishna Panda, Member OB&OCWW Board informed the workers on the latest provision that had been included in the Board of spouse pension and explained that prior to this only the construction worker was eligible for pension after 60 years, but now after his/her death the spouse can also avail of the pension. Moreover, the girl child of workers were eligible for receiving promotional benefits under the Board, like exclusive scholarships, from class 5 and onwards. The DLO also declared that enrolment camps would be conducted by the Labor Department in CFAR’s settlements through the Praysh Single Window.
The Department of Labor put up a display of IEC material on the welfare measures available to construction workers under their Board and also distributed leaflets to the workers.