Project inception year :

2007

Project supported by :

The David and Lucile Packard Foundation

Project area :

Bihar, 4 districts, 10 blocks

Project reach :

Elected Women Representatives (EWRs): 2000 (From all the three Tiers of Panchayat Raj Institute- Gram Panchayat, Panchayat and Zilla Parishad)

Elected Men Representatives (EMRs): 200

Pahel : Women on the move

Goal :

Our aim is to empower EWRs in Bihar by strengthening their voice, participation, leadership, and influence of EWRs within the Panchayati Raj system in order to bring about social change on issues that affect women, particularly family planning/reproductive health (FP/RH) and related issues like girls’ education and age of marriage.

Need :

Women’s presence in political decision making bodies is needed to mainstream gender perspective into policies and programs, however, women’s legitimate and constitutional presence at different levels of governance does not increase their visibility in political decision making. Their entry into the political arena does not guarantee gender equitable social transformation, nor does it transform them into effective leaders. Women candidates for political office still face multiple challenges of not having access to information and lack of experience among newly elected women representatives -- women struggle to understand what constitutes a meeting, how meetings are to be conducted and what is expected of them as elected members. Gender discrimination, poor literacy, restricted mobility, and domestic responsibilities are additional barriers to their functioning. According to a study conducted in Odisha, most of the Elected Women Representatives (EWRs) said they were forced into the elections (rather than having contested on their own free will), and acted as surrogates for their husbands and fathers who could not contest the seats reserved for women.

Our program

Bihar was one of the first states in India to reserve 50% of seats for women in three tiers of the Panchayati Raj Institutions. C3’s program Pahel supports the EWRs in understanding and delivering their role and responsibilities better, but also to help them be leaders in voicing atrocities against women and girls. Our program bridges the gap, and mainstreams EWRs in political and personal decision making processes. We do this by building leadership skills, specifically to strengthen their voice, participation, leadership and influence within the Panchayat, with focus on family planning/reproductive health issues. Further, these EWRs also work on issues of early marriage, low education completion rates as well as poor nutritional status of girls and women. This initiative is based on the belief that enhancing capacities of Elected Women Representatives can pay large dividends and lead to positive social change. Because of this intervention, EWR’s decision making in the Panchayat has increased and they are able to contribute to improved services at village, block, and district levels. Specifically, EWRs monitor the quality of services at the Village Health Sanitation and Nutrition Day (VHSND), Health Sub-Centre (HSC), Primary Health Centre (PHC), and District Hospital (DH), Forum of Panchayat and Gram Sabha (meetings), and raise issues related to delivery and efficacy of health services.

Key Highlights :
  • Through our program, we have mentored three cohorts of EWRs since 2007. Starting from just 200 women representatives, today we are mentoring over 4000 women leaders in Bihar
  • 49% increase in women leaders raising family planning, reproductive health, and girls’ education related issues in panchayats.
  • Two-fold increase in women leaders’ participation in Panchayat meetings.
  • 24% increase in women leaders’ interaction with local health service providers.
#
Case story
Sushila Devi
Ward Member, Ward Number – 12

Sushila Devi won the election of Gram Panchayat for the post of ward member from reserved seat. She can’t read and write but she is very passionate about her work.

One of the community member Kiran Devi from her ward stated that “Didi please ask ANM to visit our village so that we should not suffer in scorching sun to visit Kosut for health check-up / immunization especially during pregnancy.

She met with the ANM and asked her to visit Chakmohbali. However, ANM stated that without MOIC’s permission she can’t do anything. She conducted a meeting with all the community members, drafted an application (with the help of community members) “requesting for ANM’s visit to AWC in Chakmohbali village” duly signed by the community members and submitted it to the MOIC. Now, she awaits a positive result.