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Baihar Nari Utthan Seva Mahila Mandal

Project Theme: Gender Justice

Project Period: 1st July 2012 to 30th June 2013

Project Name: Empowerment of Baiga women through capacity building of Baiga women and Baiga Jati MahaSangathan (BJMS)

Project Location: 20 villages in two blocks of MP and 30 villages in one block of Chhattisgarh 

Target Group: Baiga tribal women

Introduction:

Most of the villages in the project area are backward as compared to the other areas in the two states. Being located in dense forests, these villages are almost inaccessible. Without the proper infrastructure and means of transportation, there is no approach to these villages leading to isolation by the government machinery at times. 

There is a predominance of tribal groups like the Baiga, Gonds, Ahirs etc who have inhabited these forests for a long time. Most of these tribes, especially Baigas do not have land ownership rights. Traditionally they are a hunter-gatherer tribe and only in the last couple of decades have shifted to farming in patches on forest lands and their agriculture practices are far removed from modern techniques. And now due to stringent forest laws/ lack of land rights, the Baigas have to abandon their traditional habitation and livelihood leading to large scale migration. 

Baigas, being a submissive tribe do not have any representation in public forums, local Gram Sabhas or Panchayats. Their health and hygiene aspect is generally neglected as they prefer to go to their traditional doctor rather than a PHC which anyway is not easily accessible. The Baiga women prefer to deliver at home which results in high rate of IMR and MMR. 

The tribe also lags behind in the field of education especially that of the girl child. There is a large dropout rate amongst the girls after the age of 10years. Even though there is gender parity in the community in some aspects, women are not involved in any decision making process. 

The problem of child marriage also exists along with other forms of gender discrimination such as menstrual taboos and inadequate representation of women in the Jati Panchayats. The need was felt to intervene at all levels but in a proper and phased manner so that the community members are able to grasp the effects and respond accordingly. 

About the Project: 

The mandate of Nari Utthan is to work with marginalized sections of the society, especially primitive tribes and the scheduled tribes and castes (as detailed out by the Indian Constitution). Within this broader mandate, NU focuses its work on women from all communities as well as youth, landless laborers and marginal farmers from Baiga community.

The project will address issues of lack of access and control on resources at all level for the women, lack of women’s participation in decision making within the family, governance and community, violence against women, neglect of education of the girl child and gender inequality in family and society. 

The project will focus mainly on capacity building and awareness programs. Major areas chosen should show improvement in education of the girl child, better access to health services for women, capacitating women to participate in governance and decision making at family and community level, improved women’s access to welfare programs and schemes such as pension, credit schemes, tendu patta bonus for family after death of husband and other government schemes. It will seek to improve women’s access to resources by working towards joint ownership of land. Some part will be spent on networking and dialogue with government officers so that the service delivery of public services improves. 

Results to be Achieved / Impact: 

This year the focus will be on training the capacity of BJMS men and women leaders to act as resource persons and change agents at village cluster and block level. The BJMS leaders will also be trained to monitor the progress and manage the organisation so that in future women’s collectives - the Mahila Hinsa Roktham Samittee and SHGs, BJMS women’s wing can be handled. 

  • At least 300 men and 200 women have better understanding on how unequal power relations result in poverty and also lead to all forms of gender based discrimination and violence against women.
  • Gender stereotypes against men, women, girls and boys are challenged and changed in at least 40 villages in Balaghat district in Madhya Pradesh and 30 villages in Kabirdham district in Chhattisgarh.
  • BJMS is established and recognized as a strong gender sensitive forum which takes up issues related to violence against women with formal and informal justice systems.
  • Increased and effective representation of women in decision making forums in governance institutions in 20 villages in 1 district of M.P and 30 villages in 1 district Chhattisgarh by 2013.

Outcomes: We have so far achieved (Year 2011-2012):

Participation in the Gramsabhas: Due to BJMS and partners efforts, the Baigas are getting actively involved in the developmental processes by taking interest in the Gram Panchayat and Gram Sabha proceedings. Women initiated and submitted 112 applications for various entitlements and out of this 62 were sanctioned and the remaining 50 are in process. 

Capacity Building of Baiga Mukhiyas (Leaders) and strengthening of the BJMS: The major event of the year was a sammelan of the BJMS in March 2012, at Balaghat where more women attended than men. The issues included village development, overall Baiga identity and gender discrimination. 

  • In all 216 collective applications were made by women, mostly demanding drinking water supply in their villages. Construction of 25 houses were sanctioned and completed. 16 hand pump applications were also sanctioned immediately in the sammelan.  
  • BJMS is following up with the authorities on the progress of submission. Efforts are taken to ensure that benefits reach the concerned person directly. Thus malpractices and corruption is reduced a great deal.
  • The women presented a statement about seeking better treatment of women by various officers. It also pointed out atrocities perpetuated by them on women when they go to forests.

Empowerment of Women: The Mahila Hinsa Roktham Committees are becoming stronger and their understanding and capacity to handle issues of violence and discrimination has improved due to continuous training inputs. In all, 39 gender cells have been with membership of 423 women. Out of this 158 are very active and act as resource persons as well. The 66 SHGs formed, by partners over a period of 2 years, have membership of around 650 women who also participated in gender related programs.