Strengthening Panchayat-led Governance on Rights of Girls and Women (2012-15)
A three-year project, titled Intensifying Coordinated Response on Sex determination, Girl Child and Women’s Rights’ was undertaken with the focus on strengthening Panchayat-led governance processes relating to securing the rights of girls and women. The project covered fifty four selected Panchayat samitis and 180 gram panchayats across six districts in Rajasthan–Pali, Jodhpur, Jalore, Jaipur, Sikar and Dausa. A total of 22095 persons- 7895 men and 14200 women as well as over 5600 pregnant women and lactating mothers were covered during the course of the project.
The attempt was to address the larger social determinants creating and affecting the demand for sex determination tests and impacting sex ratio while continuing advocacy on supply reduction issues. Building an appropriate crisis response mechanism to reduce and prevent the violence women face for bearing and raising daughters was also integral to the project.
The strategy adopted got a shot in the arm when the Government of Rajasthan decreed on 2nd October, 2010 that the 20 development schemes for women and 8 schemes for the girl child would be administered by the 249 Panchayat Samitis.
CFAR was intrinsically involved at various levels to ensure that the implementation of law is not diluted and the issue of the sex-determination finds prominent place in policy and implementation. They were part of high level discussions at the State level, having been nominated as members in various committees and Task force and also networked with various agencies and departments.
CFAR worked closely with the PCPNDT Cell of the State Government for ensuring effective implementation of the law. CFAR team members intensively interacted with state unit for implementing the Gazette notification issued by Government of India restricting the use of portable ultrasound machines from standalone ultrasound centres. They also actively participated as members in Inspection teams visiting ultrasound centres in different districts. A resultant aspect was that several CFAR members were called as witness in several cases filed under PCPNDT Act by the State and District Appropriate Authority in the different districts i.e Sirohi, Jaipur, Jodhpur and Ganganagar. They made more than 24 court appearances in these districts. CFAR members also closely worked with the National Inspection Monitoring team that visited Rajasthan in May/June 2012.
“CFAR is viewed as an equal partner in ensuring the implementation of law. CFAR functionaries are always available we have to give one call and they are there!” – Krishna Ram, Incharge, PCPNDT Cell GoR
Engaging with PRI’s was a key strategy of the project. Some of the key components on engagement with Panchayats were:
- Creating awareness and acceptance of the issue of sex determination and the need to address it: Creating an awareness and acceptance of the issue across locations and stakeholders was a key area of work. Panchayat and community members, who initially denied that sex selection and determination existed or that declining sex ratio was a problem in their panchayat, began to understand the importance and the implications of the decline and partnered with CFAR to work towards addressing it. As a result many Resolutions were drafted and issued by all gram panchyats covered in the project.
|The issue of the girl child was included in the agenda of 179 gram panchayat across 54 Panchayat Samities. The minutes of Meeting indicated that the PRI members made commitments to address gender discrimination, malnutrition, immunization, ensuring education of girl child, ANC registration, organizing awareness camps, rallies, balika janmotsavs, sending badhai patras, and so on . A total 540 prastav( Resolutions) were passed in the Gram Panchayat, Panchayat Samiti and VHSNC meetings and 280 prastav were followed up by Officials, PRI members, Health worker and Resource Pool members.|
- Reinforcing and enhancing understanding on the issue through orientation/ training
- Members and representatives of the panchayat were also oriented on the issues of the girl child. A total of 4018panchayat members were oriented across 6 districts on issues of declining child ratio, gender discrimination, safe abortion and reproductive rights of women, PCPNDT, MTP acts and government schemes for girls and women. The orientation helped reinforce issues and create a better understanding of context’ and redressal mechanisms among panchayat members. The orientation also created a greater concern for the issue, further motivating panchayat members to take cognizance and action; it also equipped them with better ‘know-how’, enabling them to address the issue more effectively.
A total of 122 Orientation Workshops were organized for panchayat representatives in 54 Panchayat. Through these trainings 5477 stakeholders were trained including 3823 panchayat representatives, 655 District and block officials and 568 GP/PHC officials.
Post the training the members started taking up issues of the girl child and facilitated the process of taking prastavs, issuing orders to Health workers, organizing awareness activities.
- Enabling and ensuring action at the panchayat level
The Gram Panchayat, panchayat samiti, gram sabha and mahila sabha meetings were used as platforms by CFAR to advocate on the issue. During the meetings members were encouraged and supported to take action.
184 Balika Janmotsav were organized to celebrate the birth of new born girls with the involvement of health workers and panchayat leaders. Through these events, the birth of 2027 girls was celebrated and parents were motivated to take care and ensure basic entitlements such as birth registration, immunization and health care for their daughters.
Thus engaging with panchayats ensured that the issue of the girl child becomes a part of the Panchayat agenda. A space was also created to talk about the issues of survival of the girl child and gender discriminatory practices at the household and community levels.
“It is often observed during the meetings of Gram Panchayat that the discussions are confined to topics relating to infrastructure issues and its maintenance. Issues like health, education and most gender inequality are never touched. keeping in mind the constantly decreasing Child Sex Ratio, we have decided to include the issue in the panchayat agenda. I contributed my salary towards opening saving bank accounts for 78 girls who are under 1 year of age in the post office” – Girdhari Lal Meena, Head, Gram Panchayat Vatika
The Report of the External Review undertaken in 2014 notes: “the project has been conceptualized in a holistic manner by weaving in the issue of governance and women’s rights with the issue of sex selection. This also emerges as a model that can be further strengthened and pursued. The engagement with the PRI has emerged as an important thrust area and has demonstrated that panchayats can become spaces where women’s issues can be discussed”.
Discussions in the various panchayat representatives also revealed that, CFAR been able to break the first level of denial among the PRIs and service providers, of the declining sex ratio. CFAR team members were also able to establish credibility of CFAR as an organisation which is seriously committed to furthering the interests of the girl child and stopping sex selective elimination of girls. At the policy level, CFAR has helped the State machinery in taking prompt action against errant medical practitioners and service providers who are not adhering to the laws. (Report of external Review 2014, CFAR)
“Being a woman and head (Sarpanch) of the village, I still feel that girls are given lesser preference and are neglected as compared to boys. In my Gram Panchayat, birth of girls was never celebrated while birth of boys was celebrated with huge pomp and show. To change this attitude and perspective of the community, I brought up this issue in Gram Panchayat meeting and discussed it thoroughly. I proposed that we should honor the parents of newborn girls with birth certificates, greeting cards and birthday celebrations. Health workers were instructed to compile the information of all newly born girl children in last year to be presented in next Gram Panchayat meeting.” A proposal and resolution was passed on 05.2.2014 We celebrated birthdays of 35 girls in Gram Panchayat office with the help of public representatives and health workers. Parents of all 35 girls were congratulated with greeting cards on the occasion“- Manju Devi, Sarpanch, G.P Motlawas, Sikar
“Girls are sent to government schools whereas boys are sent to private schools due to gender discrimination. In the areas like education, health and even birth registration, gender discrimination persists. To change this conservative and orthodox culture, all the 5 departments that come under the Panchayat will have to work together hand in hand. With the help of all departments, parents of 9 new born girls were honored with greeting cards and birthday celebrations” – Chandan Bharati, G.P Kharda, Pali
“Avery old tradition in my Panchayat, was beating a bamboo sieve used for grains on the birth of a girl child. To break this tradition, I organized a meeting in my Gram Panchayat in which all the public representatives, health workers and other sensitive people participated. I initiated the change from my own house. I celebrated the birth of my own granddaughter by Thali Bajana in place of ‘soop’ just as it is done on the birth of boy. Other families of the village also followed my footsteps and broke the years old custom” – Ghuta Ram, G.P Godan Jalor