Ensuring Better Access to Government Schemes and Programmes : An effective tool for Women’s Empowerment

A workshop was organised at Krishi Vikas Kendra-Zonal Research Station, Darisahi, Jharkhand on 26th August 2014 on the theme: Ensuring Better Access to Government Schemes and Programmes : An effective tool for Women’s Empowerment. The workshop was organised by Swadhina and supported by Action on Hunger & Poverty (AHP) Foundation. The aim of the workshop was to highlight government schemes and supportive programmes as an effective tool for empowerment of grass-root women whereby their basic tenets of empowerment : Education, Livelihood, Healthy living and Awareness are addressed in an adequate manner. The workshop was also an opportunity to support the bridge of communication between the grass-root people and grass-root representatives with that of government officials and representatives from different supportive institutions like banks.

Attended by 60 participants, the workshop saw a interesting mix of participants – from government officials of high rank to media representatives to grass-root panchayat leaders to marginalized farmers from East and West Singbhum.

The inauguration was done by Ms.Sonia Samant- the Zilla Parishad Chairperson. Speaking on this occasion, Ms.Sonia Samant stressed on the need for women’s awareness, literacy and access to government schemes and programmes as the basic foundations for empowerment.

Women representatives from the villages who had earlier conducted survey in East and West Singbhum on the real situation regarding access to government programmes at the grass-root level handed over the survey and findings report to Ms.Sonia Samant.

It was also a wonderful opportunity for interaction between the government officials and the society representatives. On one hand the grass-root representatives got an insight into the different schemes and programmes that the government are functioning and proposing for the upcoming days. Block Development Officer, Mr.Kundan Kumar, explained that the government schemes normally addressed three issues: a) Health and Survival b) Education and Awareness c) Livelihood and income-generation. He also patiently explained the different schemes that are running and are upcoming. On the other hand it also gave an opportunity for the people’s representatives to put forward their problems and queries to him. For instance, village representative Ms.Kalpana Soren put forward the query as to why, irrespective of there being so many schemes, benefits were actually not reaching the people who needed them. BDO Officer Mr.Kundan Kumar said that the delivery mechanism for most schemes was the Gram Sabha and it is important for the villagers to be able to participate and put forward their issues to the Gram Sabha. And for this he urged the women to come forward to participate in the Gram Sabhas because if the participation of women in Gram Sabhas become nil, then the decision becomes null and void. So he emphasized that participation of women in Gram Sabhas would not only empower women but also strengthen various decisions. Veteran journalist and senior correspondent of Hindustan Times shared his experience that many backward tribal communities have actually not received many of the benefits. The BDO officer explained that a revision of the allotment system was being done; fresh lists of BPL-APL have been prepared on the basis of survey and gradually the ‘pick and choose’ policy was being done away with.

Dr.Arti Bina Ekka, the director of the Krishi Vikas Kendra, proudly explained how women farmers were the real strength behind the agricultural sector. She said that women farmers must avail the government livelihood schemes that is available to them. She urged the women to approach the respective agro-centers like the KVKs for any form of agricutltural and animal husbandry support since it is their right to get those benefits.

Mr.Rakesh Verma, Manager of Bank of India, explained how bank account is a strong tool of self reliance.

What was perhaps the best part about the workshop was the representation of every strata of the society. The worskshop saw an interesting mix of participants like: Sonia Samant (Zilla Parishad Chairperson), Kundan Kumar (Block Development Officer), Murari Sahi (Block Education Officer), Rakesh Kumar (Block Labour Officer), Dr.Arti Bina Ekka (Director, Krishi Vikas Kendra), Rakesh Verma (Manager, Bank of India) etc.from the government and supportive institutions; Media persons like Dr.Prabal Sanatani (Senior Correspondent, Hindustan Times), Md.Parwez (Prabhat Khabar) etc; NGO personnel like Supriti Murmu (Sari Sarjam Baha), Hadi Ram Soren (TEMSECA), Mahua Mahato (Barakhurshi) etc and grass-root people with representatives from different communities like Bongeswari Soren (Santhal tribe), Routram Kudada ( Ho tribe), Malati Sing (Bhumij tribe), Jashoda Mahato (Mahato community), Asma Begum (Muslim community) etc.

The workshop brought forward the fact that the process of strengthening the rights of grass-root people and empowering women is possible with the collaborative effort of the government, the people and the supporting agencies like the NGOs.

Based on the discussions of this workshop and interactions with the participants a follow-up workshop has been planned in the month of September 2014.