Jehanabad: Elected Women Representatives Empowerment
The Hunger Project-India (THP) uses a multi-pronged strategy to strengthen the political leadership and participation of elected women representatives (EWRs) in Gram Panchayats (GPs). The strategies aim to build the capacities of individual EWRs and an enabling environment for them to exercise their leadership effectively. The Hunger Project facilitates the leadership of these women leaders with key interventions in each year of their five year tenures: Year One: Conduct Women's Leadership Workshops (WLW) and follow-up to strengthen skills of women leaders and create bottom-up plans for villages to meet basic needs ; Year Two:Provide technical inputs through need based workshops (NBW) and facilitate the formation of federations at the cluster and block level; Year Three:Foster awareness among the community about their rights and issues within the Panchayats ; Year Four:Focus on strengthening local and state level advocacy to overcome bureaucratic obstacles and ensuring the successful implementation of plans, and; Year Five: Carry out campaigns to encourage participation of women as voters and as candidates in the run-up to elections. The Hunger Project has been working with elected women representatives in the state of Bihar since 2001, having organized a workshop with EWRs and Civil Society Organizations immediately following Panchayat elections. Work with EWRs eventually progressed to Women’s Leadership Workshops, adopting the five-year planned cycle in 2005. The Hunger Project has successfully prevented the implementation of the Two-Child Norm in Panchayats in Bihar. The Two-Child Norm, ostensibly an effort at curbing population growth, is a legal provision that systematically prevents the participation of female representatives with more than two children. Jehanabad is a district in the easter state of Bihar. THP works in 52 Gram Panchayats in three blocks in Jehanabad: Kako, Jehanabad and Makhdumpur. In 2016, 52 SWEEP village meeting workshops took place, engaging 1622 elected women representatives.
The Hunger Project, in partnership with many local civil society organizations, has trained more than 79,000 elected women representatives. Examples of the activities within this strategy include: Empowering Women in Elections: To encourage voter participation among women and nominations of potential women leaders, The Hunger Project conducts intensive pre-election campaigns. SWEEP (Strengthening Women's Empowerment in Electoral Processes) campaigns include meetings, film screenings, street plays, door-to-door contacts, trainings and distribution of posters and pamphlets. Federations for Advocacy and Mutual Empowerment: To empower women leaders and their communities, The Hunger Project supports the formation of federations among their elected leaders to voice their concerns as a collective unit. Mobilizing the Media to Support Women Leaders: To highlight the work of women leaders and Panchayati Raj, The Hunger Project actively engages with the media and annually awards the Sarojini Naidu Prize, showcasing the efforts being made by the elected women and recognizes three journalists reporting on their work in Hindi, English and other Indian language categories.
The Hunger Project has been active in India since 1984 and currently works across seven states, 54 districts, and more than 2000 village clusters (panchayats). In response to the 73rd Amendment to the Indian Constitution that mandated that one-third of all seats in panchayats be reserved for women, The Hunger Project developed its comprehensive strategy, the Panchayati Raj Campaign. The Hunger Project's approach of mobilizing people for self-reliant action, empowering women as key change agents and engaging with local government has provided the solid foundation upon which to expand local development initiatives throughout the seven states of India in which THP is present.
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