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Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
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SAKSHAMAA (empowered woman), the Initiative for What Works, Bihar, aims to bridge the gap by growing robust evidence to inform policy implementation, driving evidence based advocacy through a network of researchers and providing technical support to the Government of Bihar.
In the last decade Bihar has made immense socio-economic progress – female literacy has improved (from 33.6% in 2001 to 51.5% in 2011), maternal mortality is declining (208 in 2013 to 165 in 2016), institutional delivery has increased to 64%. Yet there continue be areas of concern, like women’s limited economic participation and the continued prevalence of child marriage – which require greater attention. Almost 43% of women aged 20-24 years are married before age 18 and only 22.8% women have completed 10 or more years of schooling. 43% of ever-married women have faced spousal violence. Just over a quarter of women have a bank or savings account that they themselves use (26%) and 41% have a mobile phone of their own. The state has the lowest female labour force participation in India - just 9% women are in the workforce (2011-12; (National Sample Survey Office). There has been an increase in government programming and expenditure on gender focused initiatives but it is not being accompanied by an increase in the generation of quality data or use in decision-making, there is limited use of equity-focused evaluation methods and of the evidence created, much of it is disseminated using traditional methods, and use is restricted to a small community of researchers.
Sakshmaa (‘the empowered woman’) focuses on collecting robust and credible data and information in Bihar to drive evidence-based advocacy, enable policy implementation, and provide technical support to the state government – all with the aim of ensuring that the right decisions are made on gender issues. The project works on improving collection, quality, frequency, level of data based on a completed landscape assessment, including indicators like labor force participation, financial literacy and access, digital literacy and access, safety, mobility and transport access. We nurture collaborations with local universities and research institutions, driving advocacy through roundtables, conferences and media outreach, serving as a facilitating platform of implementers-researchers to support policy and programs. With gender issues identified, owned and policy actions initiated by at least three government departments in three years on the basis of strong evidence based public narrative, the project has resulted in positioning Bihar as a model for promoting a culture of evidence based decision making for gender issues.