GENDER AND SOCIAL ISSUES
For the last few years, among the various issues discussed in the tribal women, gender discrimination has been identified as the major impediment towards the process of women’s empowerment. During the discussions and analysis on the space and situation of women in the family and society, the tribal women realized that several social customs and practices have been the impeding factors from being empowered. Deeper analysis of this understanding has enabled them to direct their thoughts and actions to address them. At the same time they are also making attempts to sustain their beliefs and attitudes developed during this course. The tribal women are able to question the discrimination followed in all age groups in their families and in larger society, it is noticed certain changes by challenging and creating an enabling environment for girls and women. The women are also demanding equal and minimum wages and are able to take timely action by responding to social issues like child marriages, dowry issues. Whenever, they hear any kind of discrimination against women, their response is almost immediate and they are not at all hesitating to approach higher authorities. In addition to all are also able to resolve at their level the family disputes.
In tune with these developments, with financial assistance of SLCW, Switzerland and APMSS, Hyderabad many programmes have been taken up this year. Focus in on the formation and strengthening of Self Help Groups (SHG’s) and Education among tribal women, the capacity building of the newly inducted team for more clarity and increasing awareness on various gender and social issues to enable them facilitate discussions in society.
AWARNESS CAMPS FOR TRIBAL WOMEN ON LEGAL RIGHTS AND GENDER
During this year, major events were held to bring the issue of Legal Rights of the women, Gender inequalities and solutions, Family disputes, Prevent atrocities on women etc. These included a series of one-day Awareness campaigns organized at our target villages. Villagers both Women and Men were participated in these campaigns, in which both sides presented their problems, struggles, and views, at which representatives from local caste and government panchayats were invited to speak about their roles in addressing the problems of domestic violence and Legal Rights of the women. Large rallies were also held in all our target villages in which women marched together, shouting slogans against Legal Rights of the women and domestic violence against women.
The impact of above programme can be summarized as follows:
- Greater personal and economic independence and self-confidence for women
- Increased acceptance by women and men of women as community decision-makers
- Increased women’s involvement in personal, family or community development
- New, more visible and more effective women’s organizations
- More women in education and training programmes
- Improved health of women and children
- Improvements in women’s legal status
- A decline in violence against women
- Increased women’s control over their fertility
- Reduced institutional discrimination and bias against women
PRI’S TRAINING PROGRAMME:
In order to give wider propagation on self good governance. Organized one day training programs at Panchayath level to disseminate information on local governance not only to elected women representatives but also to the SHG’s. This is in view to equip them to understand their role in demanding accountability from the panchayat whenever there is a problem. SHG’s women felt that this would enable them to evolve as pressure groups. To address this need, the resource persons have given complete information to the members.
The training programme has also covered the following issues as follows:
- Right to vote
- Process of nomination
- Eligibility criteria
- 73rd constitutional amendment
This training have given an opportunity to the elected women representatives to perceive their position not just as a constitutional right, but to recognize and value their role as a panchayat member, the necessity to perform their duties and dispel the sense of self doubt. These trainings have also become platform to bring awareness on the role of women in governance and also helped in fostering cordial relations between men and women among the elected representatives.
FORMATION AND STRENGTHENING OF SELF HELP GROUPS
Economic independence constitutes a central element of the struggle for women’s empowerment. It provides women with the capacity to address their own needs and to contribute to those of their family, thereby increasing their independence and strengthening their standing at the household level. In support of this Holy Cross is engaged in forming and strengthening savings and credit Self-Help Groups (SHGs).
Through participation in SHGs women engage in regular saving and credit activities, which enable them to build up their own financial resources and to access small loans without recourse to usurious moneylenders. During this year, efforts were directed towards systematizing existing SHGs and strengthening them along financial lines and redefining them as women’s collectives. A key element of this Activity has been capacity building of SHG leaders and members. These trainings were aimed at instilling the concepts of self-help and collective solidarity among group leaders and imparting essential skills to them (including managing group dynamics, maintaining records, and handling bank accounts).
In addition to providing women with an avenue to undertake small-scale saving and credit activities, SHGs provide a platform that enables women to access funds from external institutions, for example, through government schemes and from banks. These funds can be channelled into productive investments that augment the incomes of women members and their families in a sustainable manner. In accordance with this goal, Holy Cross has been involved in promoting a range of IGPs through SHGs by facilitating linkages with banks and government schemes and by providing involved women with technical support. The organization also motivated through trainings to take up the women issues like alcoholism, awareness on HIV/AIDS, T.B and viral fever. The simple techniques also were taught to the SHG members like ORS for the Diarrhea etc. HCSSS has empowering these women members through perception of their role in the economy and decision making. General awareness was created on different issues like gender sensitization, legal rights of women, prevent atrocities on tribal women etc. the SHG members are now developing the concept of women’s group and their role in the villages especially for the women empowerment.
The membership to a SHG has contributed to significant changes in the lives of women. This was revealed by focus group interactions and field visits in the villages. Most of the groups visited could be assessed as successful in social and economic terms. Less than 5% of the SHGs formed under the program can be said to be defunct. The impacts can be looked at as those bringing in economic changes, impact on the social status and political impacts, and the impacts of SHGs on the community.
The impacts can be summarized as follows:
This means a lot to poor tribal women and to those who have been restricted by religious taboo. The visit to the SHG has made women more bold and confident. Earlier, women were more confined to the four walls of the kitchen and some to the work place. They were now found to be able to meet each other, and discuss problems.
This comes from more interactions with other women. Women stated that they are more enthusiastic and positive about their lives. They understand each other’s viewpoints and problems. Interaction with other women has resulted in building congenial relationships and have ensured fewer conflicts. It has also had the multiplier effect of spreading the SHG movement.
Awareness on health related issues—personal hygiene, communicable diseases, effects of malnutrition and sanitation—have increased as a result of training programs. More importantly, awareness of the rights of women—as prescribed by the Constitution and as prescribed by the religious doctrines—has also increased. The membership in the SHGs has allowed many women to come out of boundaries defied by their male companions or relatives.
Changes in decision-making:
Women have stated that they are more involved in decisions that affect their lives and that of their family/household. They have more freedom to decide which of the meetings to attend and how much time they could spend without having to seek permission from the men and worry about the conflicts that might ensue at home as a consequence. Women also felt they have more say in the education of the children, such as to which school children are to be sent. Men involved women involvement in decision-making processes which were purely in the male domain before, such as house repairs and the purchase of a site, non inclusion of women in some major decisions that concern the household, have however continued.
Increase in social security.
Some of the SHGs have been successful in availing facilities like widow pensions, old age pensions, health and life insurance for its members. This has resulted in the women feeling more secure about themselves and their future. Women abuse is said to have reduced and deserted wives have witnessed the husband return home. There are instances where SHGs have pressured men to put an end to violence/beating. Physical violence has reduced in a few cases due to the collective pressure created by the SHGs. The unequal power relations between men and women, with the increasing economic power and social mobility of women is changing. However, many more changes are to be achieved, like achieving the rights of women to property, the reproductive rights and many more.
AWARNESS CAMPAIGNS ON GOVT. WELFARE SCHEMES AND ACTS:
In an attempt to bridge the gap between the poor tribal and government welfare schemes and Acts, Holy Cross has been organizing awareness campaigns in our target villages where the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) is in force.
The Governmental officials were invited for theses awareness programs. The Govt. officials explained to the public about the programmes like National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Right to Information Act, old-age pensions, the Midday Meal Scheme, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission, and Swarna Jayanti Gramin Swarozgar Yojana and other schemes in very simple language. And also explained panchayati raj issues, explaining how people can take up issues through their gram sabhas and use the RTI Act as a monitoring mechanism.
The speeches of resource persons were attracted enormous interest in public. And it was heartening to see many people attend in not merely out of curiosity, but with a specific purpose. The NREGA and RTI evoked the greatest interest among people who displayed a high level of awareness and desire for information.
The results of these awareness Campaigns have been encouraging and we are hoping that the Campaigns will trigger off a continuous process of awareness-building among tribal people.