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Strengthening communities in inclusive governance through Prayas

Strengthening communities in inclusive governance through Prayas

To mainstream marginalized communities, women and unorganized workers, ‘Prayas’ a Single Window structure, set up in Bhubaneshwar by CFAR in 2015 with support from Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiatives, has facilitated 6,021 community members to access entitlements such as the public distribution system, voter card, Aadhar registration, widow and old age pension, subsidy for constructing toilets andschemes for skill development.

To showcase the effort, CFAR organised a press meet,at Bhubaneshwar,with community leaders from 15 settlements where Prayas is being implemented. The meeting sought to highlight the successful establishment and functioning of the single window system in strengthening the community-government partnership. Media persons from leading news agencies of Odisha were apprised ofthe monitoring role played by community leaders in ensuring effective delivery of government schemes and programmes.

Ms. PujafulaPattanayak, State Project Manager, CFAR spoke on how Prayas had been able to ensure that the pro-poor package of government schemes and services reached the intended beneficiaries. Official directives, orders, circulars and letters of the municipal corporation and the various state departments were evidence of how many more people now had access to safe drinking water, clean toilets, lived in cleaner neighbourhoods and had access to health services.

Community members who were the main instruments in bringing about the change recalled their fight against corrupt practices in ration shops, anganwadi centres and pension offices.

“The ration shop owner would force us to buy potato or incense packets in return for subsidized rations,” said Ms Mamta Ojha of KelaSahi. The community members, empowered through Prayas, complained against the dealer in the Department of Food and Civil Supplies, following which the dealer’s licence was cancelled. In another instance, the community advocates got together to fight for those who were denied rations for lack of Aadhar card. 

Ms. Pinki Nayak, a resident of Rickshaw Colony said social audit of anganwadi centres, such as in ward no. 52,had led to an increased awareness in the community regarding the quality and quantity of food that an anganwadi centre must provide to children and pregnant and lactating mothers.  Anganwadi workers too benefitted from the social audit as they were made aware of the important role they played in the effective delivery of the ICDS, said Ms Kabita Nayak, member, lunch committee of an AWC, showing a booklet, compiled and printed by CFAR that would help anganwadi workers and the community to monitor the quality of service provided by an anganwadi centre.

Recounting the community’s experience in accessing benefits under the Madhubabu Pension Yojna,Ms. BimalaSethy of JharanaSahi pointed to the gaps in the system. She said that a number of people had been unable to go for aadhar enrolment and thus, were refused pensions. Of the 108 people who had applied for pension, only 40 were sanctioned. The community leaders had approached the relevant departments and had persuaded officials to release pension for the very old. The community was now fighting for pension for single women who had been left out of the scheme.  

Similarly, through its advocacy work, Prayashad helped rejuvenate the School Management Committees (SMC). According to Ms Ranjulata Nayak of HarijanSahi, the SMC members now seem to have woken up to their role in ensuring better environment in schools and quality education for children. Agreeing with her, Mr Sujoy Kumar Mishra, Chairman, SMC, Capital Government Primary School, Unit 6, said SMC members had been able to take up matters related to the school with the education department, thanks to the helping hand extended by CFAR. The members were pushing further to install a complaint box and a toll-free number that the children could use, to register complaints.  

The project was also involved in creating open-defecation free wards, persuading people to use toilets, working with Swachh Bharat Abhiyan cell in the municipal corporation to not only release subsidy amounts for construction of toilets for individual households but also construction of shared toilets where the space was limited.  Mr Sameer Ranjan Dash, Project Coordinator, CFAR said the process of making a ward ODF required much handholding as it involved not only constructing of toilets and applying for subsidies but also pushing for a behaviour change. In several places, members of the Community Management Committees were actively involved in advocacy for creating ODF settlements, persuading people to construct and use toilets.

The remarkable part of the Prayasproject, it was pointed out, was that a number of women had emerged as leadersand were taking an active part in the decision-making processes for the development of their communities. JagrutiParishad, a community-based organisation, for instance, had 100 members (all women) working across 15 urban settlements in Bhubaneshwar, towards rights and entitlements of marginalised communities.