Society for Participatory Action Research and Knowledge(SPARK)

Project Theme

Transformative Women's leadership

Target Group

Women

Project Period

01 Jul 2014 - 30 Jun 2015

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Introduction

SPARK is a rights based organization and works with a mandate to create a gender just and egalitarian society. During late nineties while pursuing his diploma in rural development, Mr. Imam Hussain Fatmi and his friends realized the division of society at various lines of caste and class and forms of discrimination prevailing in the community. There was also a strong realization that women in general and more specifically the tribal, Dalit and Muslim women suffer from many forms of discrimination and their human rights are violated at various stages of life which includes lack of education, economic disadvantages, social disempowerment, domestic violence, trafficking and political invisibility. It was this period that vague ideas were taking a concrete shape in the minds which was finally translated in the form of some organized intervention in the native village and work for sustainable development through organizing groups of women and youth in rural areas, make judicious use of government resources for the large benefit of the people and advocate for enhancing justice with specific focus on gender justice.

Impact by partner
  • The elected women representatives have completed their four years in the capacity of PRI members. They initiated their journey as “proxies” of their male relatives and have gradually moved out to establish their identity as PRI members.
  • Over 270 elected women representatives have made a constant effort to generate awareness among community women and have also ensured their presence and participation in Panchayat Samiti meeting, Gram Sabha. As a result over 3060 community women have participated in the Gram Sabha/Mahila Sabha. Of these around 527 women have put up the women’s issues on the agenda of Gram Panchayat. 
  • As part of CBM, around 50 federation members and Field staff were oriented on various participatory process of monitoring various forms of violence in the community, identification of perpetrators and the institutions inflicting violence, vulnerability mapping and violence matrix. 
  • To a large extent federation members have been able to make horizontal linkages with govt. Bodies and PRIs, however, vertical linkages with Govt. officials is yet to be established. 
  • Over the period of one year 905 applications (of women) were submitted under various Government schemes, out of which 862 women received support. 
  • Around 190 cases of various forms of violence against women were taken up by Jagruk Samiti and Federation members.

Case Study

Ms. Anita is a Ward member of Bariyath village and also an active federation member. She was married just after she completed her board exams. Though her in laws were not very conservative, yet the common cultural practices stopped Anita from taking any outgoing step. Thus for years she remained at home as a housewife and performed the entire gendered role. However, Anita could not stop her inner urge to do some work and therefore she constantly negotiated with her husband and later her husband agreed to help Anita to start a sewing center where girls could take up a sewing course and also earn through stitching. This was Anita’s first success. In the mean time the PRI elections were announced and 50% reservation was declared by the State Government. Thus seeing reservation as good opportunity, Anita once again asked her husband whether she should contest. Initially there was a strong rejection from her husband and father in law. Even the women in the family were not happy with this decision, yet Anita took the stand and later she succeeded in getting support from her husband and other family members. With their support she contested and was elected as Ward member. As she says “ jis din hum chunao jite the wo mere jiwan nka sabse yaadgar din tha”. But later she realized that though she was elected she had no idea as to how the PRI functions and what is her role and responsibility.

This was the time when she was called by Mahila Mukti Sansthan to participate in the training program for EWRS and the male counterparts. This was the first time she understood that there is so much of scope to work for the development of her village and that much can happen if women are mobilized. From then onwards she was constantly associated with the organisation and was part of the efforts being made for collective empowerment of women through the formation of Jagruk Samiti and the block level federation. She attended various meetings and also led various awareness meetings at village and block level as well.

Apart from several successful initiatives (channelizing the Panchayat funds for reopening of girls toilet in the school, construction and repair of roads in the marginalized communities, awareness generation on safe migration etc), Anita made a major dent in building rapport with the Local MLA, police department and other parallel tiers of administration.

As part of federation meeting in December 2013, various women’s issues were discussed and the major issue was having toilet for women in the main market of Ichak block. The market is around 3 Km from bariyath village and Ichak vegetable market is the largest local market of vegetables and all other utilities as well. However, as the transportation facility is very poor, women have to wait for long hours at the bust stand which is located in the main market area. Therefore federation members took it on priority basis and planned to give a letter to the local MLA. The federation members in the leadership of Anita met the Local MLA when he had visited the block and placed their demand. Though he was initially adamant on accepting the fact that there is any such demand from the community, however, he verbally promised that he will look into the matter.

On 24th January, 2014, on the occasion of Girl Child Day, MLA Bateshwar Prasad Mahto, was invited as chief guest for the occasion. During the occasion once again the demand for toilet was placed and this time women and girls in huge numbers raised the voice for demanding the toilet in Ichak market. There for under the public pressure, he once again committed to allocate money for the good cause; however, the final nod from MLA yet seemed to be difficult. However, after repeated meetings and follow up calls, the MLA has finally called up to declare that Rs, two laks have been allocated for the toilet construction and the process of building toilet will be initiated as soon as Govt. /Private space is allotted for the construction. Anita says “ab to andar se himmat ho gayi hai didi , jab paisa alott karwa liye to zameen bhi le hi lenge”.

The women’s leadership building process has empowered women to create new identities for themselves and transform lives of women in the community as well.